Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain in the Abarim Range and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, for when the community rebelled at the waters in the Desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed my command to honor me as holy before their eyes.” (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Desert of Zin.) – Numbers 27:12-14
Amidst God’s provision at the spring in Meribah (Rephidim) Kadesh the Israelites rebelled and desired to return to Egypt. They quarreled with Moses about the water and how it was not what they wanted or needed. Moses did not stand up for God and trust his provision, but instead deferred to the grumbling Israelites. Moses failed the “Meribah Test” and the consequences are not good for him or the Israelites. Moses gets to look upon the promised land but he does not get to go there. How must Moses have felt to have led the Israelites through the desert and he is essentially told by God here that he did this, not for himself, but for the nation of Israel and for those to come.
This scene reminds me of a scene from Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, one of my favorite authors. The main character, Frodo, is talking to Sam his faithful companion. They have just been to hell and back after successfully taking the “one ring” to Mordor where it could be destroyed. Here is the exchange.“But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”
It must have been heartbreaking for Moses, just as it was for Frodo that after all the hard work they would not be able to partake of the “promised land” that they sacrificed and worked so hard to make possible. I think God has a “promised land” for each of us. It would be easy to think of this promised land as heaven and the kingdom of God that Jesus speaks about, but I think God can provide a “promised land” here on earth for those who follow him faithfully. What does this promised land look like here on earth for Christians?
As I ponder this I realize I have a better sense of what the “promised land ” here on earth does not look like than what it does look like. It does not look like a large house with new cars and lots of money. It does not look like a utopia where everyone gets along and there is no conflict. It does not look like a mega-church with an espresso bar and valet parking. It does not look like a “comfortable” church where everything always happens the same way and no spiritually curious God seekers come seeking God. It does not look like a group of people who all agree and frown on discussion about what it means to follow Christ and share the gospel. It does not look like a group of Christ followers for whom music or worship style is more important than feeding the hungry, finding the lost, and leading people to know and love Christ.
So what does the promised land look like here on earth? I think it looks like a God-filled adventure. We may be called to rappel off cliffs, provide food for the hungry, water for the thirsty, or truth to the lost. The “promised land” here on earth is not a comfortable coffin in which we can await Christ’s return. It is a wild whitewater adventure where we must hang on tight as God steers the boat and we paddle like heck when we are called to do so.
Prayer: Lord help me to keep my eyes on You and the great adventure you have in store for me here on earth.