Last night as I sat on the floor for evening prayers, I came to the reading in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 34:1-10…
“Then Moses went up to Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab and climbed Pisgah Peak, which is across from Jericho. And the Lord showed him the whole land, from Gilead as far as Dan; all the land of Naphtali; the land of Ephraim and Manasseh; all the land of Judah, extending to the Mediterranean Sea; the Negev; the Jordan Valley with Jericho—the city of palms—as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.”
So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said. The Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor in Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact place. Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever. The people of Israel mourned for Moses on the plains of Moab for thirty days, until the customary period of mourning was over.
Now Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him. So the people of Israel obeyed him, doing just as the Lord had commanded Moses. There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (emphasis mine)
As I read this, I found myself wiping tears away from my eyes, and I had to spend a moment just to collect myself. But before I get to that, here are a few things that stood out to me right away:
For one thing, if you don’t know why Moses didn’t get to “enter the land”, it was because he screwed up. He disobeyed God. If you’re interested and have time, you can read about it in Numbers 20:1-13, and a short explanation in Deuteronomy 32:50-52. So Moses was not perfect. Shocker.
In fact, he was SO VERY human. In Exodus 3 & 4, at his encounter with God in the burning bush, we see his MANY fears and insecurities. We see how they caused him to argue with God and question his plans. Can you imagine hearing the voice of God through a burning bush, and ARGUING with it? Can you imagine making excuses? But hey, I’ve never had that experience so I’m not here to judge.
We also learn in the burning bush incident that Moses had a stammering problem. He would’ve never been picked first for the debate team. Heck, he probably wouldn’t have MADE the debate team as a sub had he gotten up the courage to try out. He was not exactly a stellar candidate as spokesman to a powerful world leader, but God chose him anyway. Imagine that. God chose a royally flawed individual who was insecure, had no charisma, and was the opposite of well-spoken to stand up to a terrifying emperor, free an entire nation from slavery, and then lead that nation for decades. I have a feeling if God were to show up at the strategy meetings of many churches today, his ideas would be soundly laughed out of the room. That should maybe give us pause, by the way.
The second thing that absolutely leaped off the page was this: The Lord buried Moses. THE LORD HIMSELF. SERIOUSLY?!! How do we not PREACH on this more often??!! I find stuff like this in the Bible all the time and ask myself, “Why in the world am I not hearing about this in sermons?” Anyhooo…
As I sat there in tears, I found myself praying from somewhere deep within me…
Oh God, I want to know you like that. I want to know you face to face. I want to walk in your Spirit, so that my life smells of the incense of your presence. I want my face, like Moses, to shine with the glory of being near you. I want my very life to be a ministry because it is so saturated in you.
What would that look like? To have a life so intertwined in God that our very being just radiated that friendship? Well, actually, I think Paul told us what it would look like.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
I think that’s what it would look like. So maybe even though Moses didn’t really have the skills to pay the bills, he was kind and joyful. Maybe even though Moses was a little awkward, he was patient and faithful. Maybe even though Moses did not exude confidence, he exuded peace instead. And maybe even though he wasn’t the guy working the room at a party, he was gentle and good, and he didn’t let his vices get the best of him. If Moses was teaching a Leadership 101 class at a seminary today, I think he’d be spending less time on polished speaking and more on character. I think his teaching on time management would revolve around time spent with God.
In a counseling session many years ago, a wise person said that instead of focusing on what we’d like to change about ourselves—the bad things—it’s much better to focus on what we’d like to become. He suggested meditating on the fruit of the Spirit, and in an effort to follow that advice, I’m going to write a series of posts dedicated to the fruit of the Spirit. (So stay tuned for that.)
Moses was a friend of God. A close, personal friend. You can almost feel God’s tender emotion toward him in the passage above. I think that’s what I couldn’t get over. There was such intimacy, such oneness, such love.
The more we spend time with God, the more we are transformed. Why do you think the “fruit of the Spirit” is called that? It’s because that’s what God is like. He is loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. As we live our lives in God, fully enveloped and defined by the Spirit, that’s what we become. We become more and more like God, displaying his character in an ever-increasing way.
So let’s learn from Moses. May we find time this week to sit in the presence of God, and be changed just by being near him.