What a view!

September 29th, 2017

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Wow! What a view! Have you ever said those words? I wonder if Moses said them when he climbed Mount Pisgah and looked out at the promised land. Most of us have taken in beautiful vistas from on high. I remember a winter ski trip to Colorado I took with my family. Besides the exciting skiing and the beautiful white snow, there were absolutely gorgeous views of the snow-covered Rocky Mountains. Another trip my wife and I took was to the wilds of Alaska. Again we had opportunities to see beautiful landscapes and wondrous mountains. Maybe you have been at the top of a skyscraper and looked out over a city. Perhaps you have been flying and looked out the window at the amazing view below.

Still, I wonder if Moses was filled with awe by what he saw. Did Moses see the green and fertile land around the flowing river Jordan? Did he see the Dead Sea and the hills that surround it? Did he see the towns and villages of the people the children of Israel were about to displace? Were there roads and pathways connecting one village to another? Did he see the smoke from distant fires?

Besides wondering what Moses saw when he climbed that mountain, what was he feeling? The Scriptures are void of Moses’ personal emotions and feelings. I wonder if Moses felt sad and disappointed when he climbed Mount Pisgah and looked out over the promised land. He had been through so much with these people: wandering around in the wilderness for forty years, listening to their complaining and bickering, defending them before God. Moses had seen the mighty hand of God work miracles in their midst. He had experienced God’s anger when they were disobedient and went astray. Now, having come all this way, Moses would be allowed only to view the promised land from the top of this mountain, but he would not be allowed to enter it.

It seems so unfair. Moses hadn’t asked for this job and actually did all in his power to say no to God’s call to go to Egypt and bring God’s people out. Yet we see God’s tender mercies in the fact that God was on the mountain with Moses when he viewed the promised land and when he died. We are told that God buried him in a place no one has ever known. He allowed Moses to live for 120 years, and “his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated” (Deuteronomy 34:7).

I wonder if Moses was angry as he looked out over the land. We know that there was definitely an angry streak in his personality; he had, after all, committed murder. Perhaps as Moses looked out over the land, he was angry with the children of Israel for their lack of faith and disobedience. When the spies returned from visiting the promised land, why didn’t they listen to the good report of Caleb and Joshua? These two men encouraged the people to have faith in the power of God to conquer the people of this land. But the people listened to the report of the ten spies who feared they could not penetrate the well-fortified cities or defeat the “giants” (Numbers 13:33 KJV) they saw.

The children of Israel rebelled against God and were punished. They were made to roam in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day the spies spent in the promised land. If only they had been faithful, they could have been enjoying the fruits of the land by now. Perhaps Moses was also angry with God for not allowing him to enter the land. Hadn’t he done all God had asked of him? Hadn’t he been patient and loving to these people who wanted to replace him and who questioned his authority?

Then again, maybe Moses felt a sense of relief. It had been a long forty years wandering about the desert. The children of Israel were a difficult bunch. The Bible tells us that they were stubborn and stiff-necked. Perhaps Moses was not looking forward to a prolonged fight to conquer the people of the promised land. He could imagine how they would complain when they lost a battle or when things weren’t going their way. Maybe Moses was happy to have the younger Joshua lead this people into battle.

As I thought about Moses and the promised land, I recognized that we all have our own promised land that we are trying to enter. We all have goals and dreams that we pursue. Perhaps our goals are academic, to attain certain degrees or achieve academic status. Maybe our goals are to have a great marriage and a wonderful family. Perhaps our goal is to be healthy or to get in great shape or to attain our perfect weight. Maybe our dream is that perfect job or that perfect house. Like Moses, we might find ourselves seeing these dreams and goals from afar but we may not be able to attain them. There are times when we have to give up our dreams or lower our goals. How does this make us feel? Do we become sad and disappointed? Do we get angry with God, ourselves, or others? Are we relieved that we don’t have to carry that burden of achievement anymore? Wherever you may be and whatever you may be facing, know this: God is with you, just as God was with Moses. 

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