1Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4The LORD said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
5Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. 8The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
9Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses. 10Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. 11He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Reading Scripture to Know:
- What is happening/being said? (Observation)
- Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
- What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
- What does it mean? (Understanding)
- What does it mean for us? (Application)
Reading Scripture to Grow:
- What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
- Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
- How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
- How does this Scripture reveal God?
- How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
- How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
- What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?
Scripture Reads Me:
- This passage makes me feel…
- This passage makes me think about…
- This passage reminds me of…
- This passage teaches me that God is…
- This passages teaches me that I am…
- This passage challenges me to…
Reflection: The LORD said to Moses, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
I have always been somewhat of a dreamer with the ability to develop a vision for what could be. Occasionally, this has led to realizing and experiencing new opportunities. Many other times, it has led to disappointment in not being satisfied with what “is” and in not being able to help others grasp what is available to them through faith and action. Nothing is more frustrating than having a vision of what God can do and wants to do and feeling as if you cannot get there.
I imagine Moses was experiencing that frustration as he stood on the border of the Promised Land, looking over but knowing that he would never get there. There were many factors that prevented Moses from setting foot in the Promised Land. First of all, the Israelites (the people Moses was leading) had lived for forty years in fear of the people who inhabited the land, even though God assured them that God was with them. Even though Moses and a few of the leaders had faith that God would fulfill the divine promises in the face of overwhelming challenges, they couldn’t get very far if the people wouldn’t go with them. Secondly, Moses failed in his leadership to convince the Israelites that there was nothing to fear in moving forward. Thirdly, Moses’s own personal disobedience to God – though he was a man “whom the LORD knew face to face” – prevented his entrance into the Promised Land (Numbers 20). Finally, time simply ran out for the aged Moses, as he was well advanced in years by the time the faithless generation died out and a new generation that trusted in God could be raised up.
However, God still used the life of Moses to advance his promise, even if he did not ultimately use the life of Moses to fulfill his promise. Moses was able to mentor and equip Joshua to take leadership over the next stage of promise fulfillment. Joshua would pass on his leadership as well, all the way down the line until Jesus – the spiritual successor to Moses and Joshua – fulfilled God’s promises to the world.
What does all of this mean for us? Perhaps most of all, it should remind us that God is the God of vision and promise, and God is leading us somewhere and into something. God is NEVER the God of stagnation. It is never too late to catch the vision of God. Secondly, we should be encouraged to know that we are allowed to participate in the enactment of God’s will. Furthermore, even if we do not accomplish all we hoped to accomplish, what we do accomplish for the kingdom of God will advance the cause of the kingdom of God. We might not personally fulfill or participate in every aspect of God’s vision, but we will be empowered by God to bring the world a little closer to experiencing the fulfillment of the overall vision of God.
It is here that we must remember the words of Paul to the church in Corinth: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose” (1 Corinthians 3:5-8). Ultimately, in our passage for this week, Moses planted, Joshua watered, and God brought the fruit of the fulfilled promise.
Catch the vision of what God is accomplishing in this world and then find your place within that vision. But never accept stagnation and never be disappointed with where God takes you. A “Do Not Enter” sign is not necessarily a “Do Not Move Forward” sign! Even if you only get a glimpse of the Promised Land in this life, you will inherit a place in God’s everlasting kingdom in the resurrection to come.
Prayer Focus: Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated.
Today my back aches, my elbow is sore, and I feel like taking a long nap in the middle of this chilly afternoon. And I am only 37! Imagine being 120 years old like Moses, having been through all of the hardships he endured in a life of tense confrontations with his people, long days herding animals in the desert, defying the most powerful ruler in the world, and then leading a group of complaining, unfaithful people through a wilderness for forty years. Do you think you might feel a little run down? We read, though, in our Scripture that he was still a man of vigor! Ask God to restore your spiritual vigor this week. Pray that you will experience what it means when Paul writes that we are “alive together in Christ (Ephesians 2:5 – our bishop’s favorite verse!). Trust God to fill you with abundant life (John 10:10) through the refreshment and invigoration of the Holy Spirit!
Meditation Focus: The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
When Moses, the faithful leader of the Israelites for forty years, died, the people most certainly felt a significantly deep sense of grief. They paused to mourn – not for a moment or two, but for thirty days. They knew that grief only heals when that grief is expressed as deeply as it is felt. And yet, once that period of mourning was completed, they moved on to what God had in store for them next. It was a significant experience – entering into and settling the Promised Land. It could not be done until grief was experienced, and it could not ultimately be halted by grief.
Perhaps you are struggling with a grief that you cannot move past. God might be desiring you to go forward, but you do not think that you can. Maybe you need to grieve, to mourn in the presence of the God who mourns with us. Remember that the depth at which we grieve is congruent to the depth at which we loved. Perhaps you have not allowed yourself to go to those depths and tried to move on too soon. Or maybe you are stuck in the depths, not able to make that step of faith out into the new land of promise awaiting you. Know that God is with you, willing to descend to the depths to be with you in your darkest hour and powerful enough to lift you out of despair and into hope. Grieve and trust – when practiced together, you experience healing.
Journaling Focus: Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command.
We might bristle just a little at the end of this verse. Did Moses really die at the command of God? What do you think this might mean? Job declares the following to God: “A mortal, born of woman, few of days and full of trouble, comes up like a flower and withers, flees like a shadow and does not last. Their days are determined, and the number of their months is known to you, and you have appointed the bounds that they cannot pass” (Job 14:1-2, 5). How do you understand this? What does this mean for your life? Consider that it is a blessing to know that your days are finite. Such a reality encourages us to make the most of the time we have. How might you use the time you have left in this mortal life to serve and follow God? How might your life be enriched by being intentionally mindful of your mortality?
Write out a blessing for someone over whom you have influence or authority: an employee, a child/grandchild, someone who looks to you as a mentor, etc. Think about what you would like them to “inherit” from you as your “successor” in life. Pray this blessing over them, and (if you feel so led) share with them in their presence.
Breath Prayer: Father, open the doors to your promises.