I wonder what Moses saw. After wandering with a rag tag group of refugees recently liberated from slavery, Moses stood atop a mountain and was given a view of the Promised Land, the land that God was giving to this people, the land which he spent so long looking for. But it was also a land which Moses knew that he would never step one foot into that land which was lush and fertile, a land that scripture tells us that “flows with milk and honey” (Numbers 13:27, NRSV).
Moses was very old and close to death. It would only be natural that he would be in a time of looking back at his life and considering whether it was worthwhile and meaningful. Moses set off to lead a people to a new land, but he would never be there to lead them into that land. He was charged with leading a people who did not want to be led, to bring to faith an unfaithful people, to teach a people who were not interested in being taught.
Perhaps Moses wondered whether it was all worth it; perhaps Moses wondered whether any of it really matters. So what does God do? God brings him to a mountain where he could see the land that he had spent much of his life journeying toward, yet would never enter.
Me? I would likely have been disappointed. Looking for meaning, and all that is given is a view of some property. But I wonder what Moses saw.
From the mountain he had a broad view of the land that laid before them, the land that would become their home, the land which would become a tangible sign of God’s favor, of God’s promise. What was before him, then, was land — but it was also much more than that.
I can imagine that Moses must have had a great imagination. Simply to stay with those people for so long would require a great imagination — not only to live with what is, but to imagine what could be. This is the essence of hope: not simply wishful thinking, but to imagine God’s future and our role in it.
John Calvin writes beautifully about vision when he likens scripture as new spectacles that allow us to see the world in new and different ways. What we look at has not changed, what we see is different.
Thousands of years later and on the other side of the world, I stand on a chancel and look out. I am certainly not Moses, but I do lead my own rag tag group of people who are seeking to follow God. There are people who are hurting, people with cancer, people who have had friends and family who have recently die. I look out at people of great faith, and I look out at people who would dance around a golden calf without thinking twice.
But my desire is not only to see what is there, but to see what I ought to see. Anyone can look at what is there, but it takes a special perspective to truly see. If there is nothing more to see than what is, then there is no hope. Hope is dependent on truly seeing, not just observing.
I wonder what Moses saw, and I wonder what I ought to see. I am pretty sure that Moses looked at trees, bushes, dirt, water, and roads. I am also pretty sure that Moses saw something much greater and much deeper.
For me, it is easy to see the “not yet” but is so hard to see the “already”. The best I can pray for is vision to see and not just observe.
What, dear reader, do you need to actually see in your life?