Moses was kind of a big deal. He was discovered in the river by Pharoah’s daughter, talked to the burning bush, got Pharoah to “let my people go,” parted the Red Sea, brought the Ten Commandments down the mountain, and got water from a rock. He was bigger than big--a superstar among mortals--so great in fact that he spoke with God face to face. He must have had the patience of Job...if he had lived after Job...
Moses led the Israelites for 40 years through the desert. He put up with their constant whining... “It’s hot,” “I’m thirsty,” “He touched me,” “She was coveting my oxen and my male and female slaves,” “His 401K’s bigger than mine,” “Are we there yet?” ...for 40 years. That’s enough for an entire generation to die and a new one to take their place, yet he never gave up. He spent years telling everyone to chill and that everything would be okay in the end.
Forty years after they left Egypt, having eaten quail and manna every day of it, they finally made it to the edge of the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey--Gilead, The Promised Land. This was the end of the journey and everything was finally okay in the end. And, says the book of Deuteronomy, Moses went up the mountain and saw the Promised Land for the first time--its rivers and pomegranate trees and cedar forests, its abundant possibilities, its farmlands which sang of freedom, and its cities which smelled of triumph. He saw it all and, indeed, it was very good. And God said, “Here is the Promised Land--this is it–you’ve made it! Wilkommen! Oh, but you, Moses, superstar of the Israelites...you can’t come in.
Wait, hang on...what?! Why can’t Moses cross over to the Promised Land? He’s...do you know who this man is? He’s Moses... the Moses.
Yeah, about that...
Remember a few weeks ago in church we heard about Moses getting water from a rock? The Israelites were complaining about how thirsty they were, having not brought their water bottles, and Moses went to God and said, “This is ridiculous, what do we do?” And God said, “Go hit that rock with your staff and you’ll get water.” Well, that story’s in here twice–Exodus and Numbers–and the second time, Moses doesn’t fare so well. It’s almost the same story only the second time it says Moses didn’t think the hitting-a-rock-with-your-staff gambit would work and therefore he could never enter the Promised Land. Which is weird–Moses acts pretty much the same both times: he doesn’t say anything about how well it will work and he does exactly what God says. Plus, what about Aaron making that golden calf for the people to worship the other week, huh? He didn’t even pause–how come he’s okay? This is why Moses is denied entry? Everything is not ending ok.
We can easily read ourselves into the story here–Moses was left behind and we fear we might be, too. We live in uncertain times, this week, perhaps more than others. Bruce, news junkie that he is, tells me that the next few days could go down in history. We await the next blow in the global financial crisis; we wonder not just how we’ll survive but if. The Commerce Department will release this week the 3rd quarter gross domestic product--one of the many numbers we let tell us who and where we are–and it’s not expected to be good. Our investments, our jobs, our retirement all seem to be in flux. We are afraid this is the end–we’re left on the outside looking in. And we see folk much worse off than ourselves losing their homes, swamped by debt, laid off, unable to buy groceries. We fear for them–will they be left behind? And to add to all that, Leighton and I are expecting our first child any week now--it’s terrifying. Not just the labor and delivery part, though that’s scary enough, but the taking care of a new life, not screwing her up, offering her a world that is uncertain and dangerous. What if we can’t provide for her? What if she finds herself in an abusive relationship? What if we use the wrong kind of pacifier or diaper cream?
The Apostle Paul says all of creation is groaning with labor pains, birthing a new world. Sometimes it seems like all we can feel are the labor pains--Moses’ rejection, looming parenthood, possible financial doom, worry over the state of our souls–it’s all one and the same. We fear it’s the end
Here’s the thing–you knew there was a thing, right? It’s not a false promise or a fake smile but our deepest hope in Jesus Christ. Everything will be okay in the end: if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. Labor is not the end of parenthood. A recession is not the end of the world death, even, is not the end of the story. Our Christian hope is that there’s more to the story. Everything will be okay in the end: if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. Our daughter will have a great life and will be well-loved. The scrapes she gets into will be difficult but they’re plot complications, not the end of her story. Our investments could lose staggering amounts, yet our families and relationships will continue–it’s not the end. Moses was mourned by the people for a whole month and he’s remembered through history as unequaled, mighty, and wise. His greatest project–leading the Israelites to the Promised Land–worked. And that’s not the end either--his death marks the end of the Torah (the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures) but the story goes on. There are kings and prophets and psalms and epics yet to come. Some think the Bible and the world end with the fear and destruction of Revelation, yet even that ends with a new creation.
Our fear is not the end. Our Christian hope is everything will be okay in the end: if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. This is not the end.
God is good–all the time. All the time–God is good.
God is good–all the time! All the time–God is good!
God is good–all the time!! All the time–God is good!!