At that time I commanded Joshua: “You have seen with your own eyes all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. The Lord will do the same to all the kingdoms over there where you are going. Do not be afraid of them; the Lord your God himself will fight for you.” At that time I pleaded with the Lord : “Sovereign Lord , you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.” But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. “That is enough,” the Lord said. “Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah and look west and north and south and east. Look at the land with your own eyes, since you are not going to cross this Jordan. But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see.” So we stayed in the valley near Beth Peor. – Deuteronomy 3:21-29
It’s not my fault…Han Solo says to Princess Leia in Star Wars. The hyperdrive is still not working and Han Solo does not think it is his fault. There is a hint of the same desperation here as Moses pleads with God to let him go across the Jordan into the promised land. I can almost hear Moses saying to God “it’s not my fault these Israelites are such a rebellious and grumbly lot, but you God are awesome…can’t I please go with them across the Jordan?” God again says no and seems to be getting a little tired of Moses asking…”that is enough”! You can’t blame Moses for trying I suppose. It is a hard thing to be this close to and be told you don’t get to go.
Moses pleads with God in the hope that He will relent and let him go with the Israelites into the Promised Land. What I find a little surprising and puzzling about the conversation between Moses and God is Moses’ statement that God had begun to show him his strong hand. It seems to me that events like the plagues in Egypt, manna in the desert, water from rock, and parting the Red Sea should have made an indelible impression on Moses about God’s strength.
So why the selective amnesia for Moses? Why was he having difficulty remembering? I am not sure I have a good answer except to admit that I am guilty of similar selective amnesia at times. Why do I sometimes fail to remember? How can I get better at remembering? The only remedy seems to be to erect monuments, standing stones, often to make sure we do not forget. I think it also helps to remind each other about the amazing things God does in our lives. This is best done in community with other Christians.
Perhaps Moses lacked these ways of remembering. Other than Aaron it does not seem like Moses had many people in his community he could enlist to help him remember. It might also be problematic to devise some sort of mobile standing stone, although it seems that is partly the role of the tent of meeting. God does an even harder thing after telling Moses he can’t go across the Jordan — he is asked to train his replacement.
In asking Moses to commission Joshua and encourage and strengthen him God was asking Moses to train his replacement. I suspect if one has to train their replacement for a job it might not be so bad as long as you were moving on to a different job. In this case Moses is not moving on to a different job, God is forcing him into retirement. I am confident that God has amazing things planned for Moses in “retirement”, even though he is not allowing him to pass into the Promised Land. I believe God has amazing things in store for all those who follow Him, it just may not always be obvious while we are here on earth.
In a way Christians are called to train their replacements through the process of discipleship and faithful following. The disciples who were with Jesus trained many followers, but only saw some of the fruits of the work they were putting in to disciple them. I would venture to say that most Christians do not expect Jesus to come back while they are alive on this earth. So on one level we are all in the same position as Moses.
We may not see the ultimate promised land while we are on earth, and just like Moses we are called to train our replacements to help lead others after we are gone from this earth. This is a bit like leading a team on an ascent of a high mountain knowing that you will have to tell the team somewhere along the way that you will not make it to the top with them. It can be really hard to maintain a posture and perspective of faithfully following God when from an earthly perspective you very likely will not reach “the summit”. Of course from an eternal perspective all those who have placed their trust in Jesus are at the summit already, but that does not always make it easier to take that next step up the mountain.
Prayer: God help us to faithfully train our replacements through discipleship so that we may all find the top of the mountain when you return.