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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...




Nebo

In Jordan today, one can stand where Moses stood

By Ken Horn
March 13, 2011

“Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land” (Deuteronomy 34:1, NIV).

The old man had climbed many mountains in his long lifetime, both real and figurative, but this would be the hardest climb of his life — and it would be his last. He was in remarkable shape for a man more than a century old — 120 years to be precise. “His eyes were not weak nor his strength gone” we are told (v. 7). Still, the years weighed heavily upon him.

What must have gone through the mind of the old prophet, the Law giver of Israel? He had ample time and solitude to mentally trace his history. What man — ever — has had a fuller life?

Born a slave, raised a prince, a fugitive from the law, ignominious self-imposed exile as a shepherd, called by God out of a burning bush, boldly standing before Pharaoh. Then: plagues, the flight of God’s chosen people, pursuit and victory, receiving and giving the Law, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

And those last 40 years, filled with heartache and disappointment, would drop the curtain on his life.

He knew that death awaited him on the mountain, judgment for a rash act of disobedience (Numbers 20:2-12). He also knew he would meet with Someone at the top, Someone he had met before — in the bush and on Mount Sinai. But this meeting would be continued in another place, when Moses would leave his mortal remains behind.

Still, he was grateful for his strong eyesight and strength to climb. He anticipated the vision his eyes would feast upon — a banquet of about-to-be-fulfilled promise. They would take in the broad panorama of the Promised Land — a land he would not be permitted to enter though for 40 years that had been his goal.

And there was the glorious prospect of once again being with his brother Aaron and “his people” who had gone before him (Deuteronomy 32:49,50).

Mount Nebo rose above the land of Moab, east of the Jordan River, in what is today the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, once known as Trans-Jordan (meaning “across the Jordan,” that is, on the east side of the river).

When the weather is clear, this vantage point affords an unmatched view of the Promised Land. And after Moses’ last climb, the weather was clear: “There the Lord showed him the whole land — from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar” (Deuteronomy 34:1-3).

Pisgah is the highest point of Nebo, rising more than 4,000 feet above the nearby Dead Sea. The unequaled view would have made the moment bittersweet. Did tears run down the creases of the prophet’s weathered face as he gazed out over the land he would not be allowed to enter — then?

Somehow, I don’t believe Moses felt he was being cheated — or even punished. The alternative to crossing into the Promised Land was an eternity with the God he had come to know “face to face” (v. 10), entrance into a spiritual realm that the actual “land of milk and honey” only foreshadowed.

John Wesley said of Moses, “When he knew the place of his death he cheerfully mounted a steep hill to come to it. Those who are well-acquainted with another world, are not afraid to leave this.”

Hymn writer William W. Walford poetically echoed this in the closing stanza of his classic 1845 hymn, “Sweet Hour of Prayer”:

Sweet hour of prayer! Sweet hour of prayer!
May I Thy consolation share,
Till, from Mount Pisgah’s lofty height,
I view my home and take my flight.
This robe of flesh I’ll drop, and rise
To seize the everlasting prize,
And shout, while passing through the air,
“Farewell, farewell, sweet hour of prayer!”

Then, Moses was gone. “The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over” (Deuteronomy 34:8).

Someone has said, “It’s OK to lend a helping hand; the challenge is getting people to let go of it.” Now the Children of Israel were forced to let go of the strong hand that had guided them to the brink of fulfillment.

But Moses did not leave them to flounder when his hand was no longer there to hold. He left them everything they needed to continue on to victory. And he left them another well-prepared man of God to lead them — Joshua.

“Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses” (v. 9).

When God’s people find success, they nearly always do so while standing on the shoulders of those who have gone before them. “I knew Moses,” I can imagine some Israelites saying, “and Joshua, you’re no Moses.” That was true. Joshua did not compare to Moses.

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt — to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel” (vv. 10-12).

Talk about a tough act to follow. The good news was God did not expect Joshua to be Moses. He had gifted him to be Joshua.

But it would be inevitable that people would make comparisons. Was this why God himself buried Moses and hid his final resting place? “And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is” (vv. 5,6).

A memorial stone to Moses stands on the mountain today. But its location is simply representative. Israel entered the Promised Land, leaving behind the graves of a generation that died in the wilderness.

After Moses
And when they entered Canaan, the fight was on. Entering the Promised Land did not guarantee peace. Though victory had been promised, an easy victory had not.

This tells us that the Promised Land is not symbolic of heaven, but rather of the Christian life. Christians have all the spiritual bounty of “milk and honey” but, like the Israelites in Canaan, face challenging battles before the final victory is won.

In Jordan today, one can still stand where biblical figures — Old and New Testament — stood, and view the expanses of the lands of the Bible. Standing in such places, like Mount Nebo, helps to make Scripture come alive — and it drives home a powerful reality. Moses had an intimate relationship with God, one all other Israelites could only imagine. Today that opportunity is presented to all who will believe. And one need not climb a mountain, but simply kneel at the Cross.


KEN HORN is editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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