It's interesting to see how themes come up over the course of a study burst. It gives a view into what the Spirit of God is doing amidst individuals, communities, and cities in ways we don't always have the opportunity to witness.
Many times over the last week, we heard people struggling with transition, processing through grief, and wondering about the future. And then, in space after space, even when it wasn't chosen as the passage to study, Deuteronomy 34 came up as a possibility.
Have you ever thought about how the heading the translators put above a portion of Scripture reveals what they see as the most important? And how that effects how we read it? Most Bibles seem to title Deuteronomy 34, "The Death of Moses." We often add to that heading the subtitle, "When Moses doesn't get into the Promised Land because of one stupid mistake."
How often have we worried about a punitive God who holds mistakes over our heads? I mean, if Moses couldn't succeed, what hope do any of the rest of us have?
One thing that can help with these questions is a careful reading of Numbers 20, and what the "mistake" really was. But, that is another study for another time...
Because here, in this passage, we have other questions we can wonder about, like...
- Why is the Lord calling Moses up on Mount Nebo? What does it say about their relationship that this was a private and intimate moment between them?
- Nebo means "prophecy." What might it mean that God is calling Moses to climb up the mountain of prophecy at this moment in time?
- The 12 tribes have not yet crossed the Jordan River into the Land. They are still in the wilderness. And yet, the Lord is inviting Moses to see Naphtali, Dan, and Judah. How is it possible to see them in Canaan when they are still physically in the wilderness?
- Eventually, Naphtali will settle on north side of the Sea of Galilee, which is not visible from the top of Mount Nebo. What, then, is Moses looking at?
Deuteronomy 34:1, says the "Lord showed Moses," or, in other words, "the Lord causes Moses to see."
There are moments in time when God shows us more than can be seen with our physical eyes. Moses might not have crossed into the Promised Land, but he was given a vision of its future. He saw it, even though he wouldn't see it. In fact, he saw it without having to be the one to lead the people through all the difficulties they would have to go through to get there.
Perhaps the vision was a bigger gift than the land itself would have been.
Plus, the vision wasn't the only gift given on that mountain. After the gift of vision came the intimacy of Presence and the provision for the people.
Moses died "on the mouth of the Lord." The same God who exhaled the breath of life into Adam lovingly inhaled the breath out from Moses. And then, it is the Lord himself who is said to have buried Moses. What does that say about Moses? What does that say about the Lord?
After this, lest we think the people will be left in the lurch, we hear about Joshua. There is time for grief in the loss of Moses, but there is also already a leader who has been prepared, who is ready to help the people do the work that is ahead.
In times of transition and grief and change, how might we see God weaving together vision, intimacy, and provision in our own lives?
That's an easy question to write, but a difficult question to live. It takes wrestling and community to hold the tensions of grief and intimacy, loss and provision, transition and vision. How can we be honest about what is hard while still looking for hope? How can we experience Presence when we feel alone? How can we do the work it takes to transition well while still holding God as the one who holding us?
Scripture Circles have provided a space for me to wrestle with questions like these time and time again. I hope they can be a place for you to do that, too.