SINAI SUMMER WILDERNESS ADVENTURES
SO CLOSE AND YET SO FAR
July 29, 2018
My favorite summer movie of all-time is the 1983 comedy classic National Lampoon’s Vacation, starring Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, John Candy, Imogene Coca, to name a few. It chronicles the zany, over-the-top exploits of Clark Griswold as he leads his family on a cross-country expedition from Chicago to that holy grail – California’s famed, fictitious theme park Walley World.
One of the most hilarious scenes in the flick happens when Clark and family finally arrive at the amusement park after a most arduous journey. They leap out of the car and begin racing across the vast parking lot to the entrance while the theme to Chariots of Fire plays in their minds and hearts.
They are totally oblivious that the cavernous parking lot surrounding them is completely empty of cars.
When they arrive at the main entrance, they are greeted by a locked gate and Walley the talking, animatronic moose who informs them that the park is closed for 2 weeks for repairs.
Clark goes berserk. He punches the goofy moose in the nose, caving in its cheesy snout, and then proceeds to throw an absolute cussing hissy fit. This can’t be happening after all they have went through to get there! They are so very close, yet still so very far from reaching their glorious vacation destination! Can anyone relate?
Moses certainly can! After 40 torturous, tedious years of leading the rebellious children of God thru the Sinai Wilderness, this old man now stands at the brink of the Promised Land, gazing longingly across the grand vista beyond the Jordan River. Check this out…
34 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, 2 all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, 3 the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. 4 The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.”
What!!! Moses has journeyed all this way, and God will not permit him to cross the finish line! This has to be some cruel joke on God’s part!
And yet, Moses doesn’t whine, curse nor protest. He accepts. He remembers his act of disobedience a few years prior at a place in the wilderness called Meribah. Many of the original grumbling, murmuring Israelites had died, and a new generation of grumbling, murmuring Israelites had taken their place. There was little potable water. God told Moses to speak to the rock, and water would gush forth, demonstrating God’s power and concern for his people.
Well, after nearly 40 years of listening to this constant bellyaching, Moses had reached a breaking point. He took his staff and whacked the rock twice. Water gushed out. Moses took credit for the miracle. And God was not pleased.
Moses was supposed to be the leader and model of faithfulness for the community. Instead, he let his emotions get the best of him. He dishonored and disrespected God. And such action carried a very harsh consequence. Moses would not get to live in the land he had strived to reach for 40 long years. See Numbers 20:1-12
Let’s read a bit further in this closing chapter of Deuteronomy…hear these words of exalting commendation God has for Moses:
5 Then Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, at the Lord’s command. 6 He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. 7 Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his strength had not abated. 8 The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.
9 Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the Lord had commanded Moses.
10 Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, 12 and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.
Yes, death comes to this elderly servant of the Lord, just as it comes to us all. God receives him into the arms of eternity.
There is no elaborate tomb to mark his burial site, no lofty words of epitaph. But make no mistake—Moses will never, ever be forgotten. He leaves behind a legacy that will influence countless lives of millions down through the ages of time.
Yes, God would have us to remember Moses’…
LEGACY OF FAITHFULNESS
It is said of Moses that the Lord knew him face to face. Moses lived very close to God. There were times when he sought to run from God. There were times he when he argued with God. But in the end, Moses was always obedient to God’s call upon his life.
And because he lived close to God, Moses was filled with compassion and patience for God’s people. The Israelite folk were rebellious, ungrateful brats. They were always igniting God’s wrath. But Moses would plead with God to show mercy, and God always did.
The ancient Greeks had a race in their Olympic games that was unique. The winter was not the runner who crossed the finish line first. Instead, it was the runner who finished with his torch still lit.
Moses crossed the finish line with his torch still lit. His strength had not abated. He had remained faithful to God throughout his 120 years upon this earth.
Will the same be said of you and me?
Fred Craddock, a well-known preacher and professor of homiletics, once commented upon the average Christian’s struggle to remain faithful to the Lord: “To give my life for Christ appears glorious. To pour myself out for others, to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom—I’ll do it. I’m ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory.”
He continues: “We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table—‘Here’s my life, Jesus, I’m giving it all.’ But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash that $1,000 bill for a whole bag full of quarters.”
“We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there—Listening to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of telling him to get lost; coaching a Little League team, baking a cake for an elderly woman’s birthday who has no relative nearby; serving on the local rescue squad, giving a cup of cold water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.”
“Yes, being faithful to God isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of sacrificial love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory. It’s much, much harder to live the Christian life coin-by-coin, day-by-day, over the long haul.”
Indeed, it is hard to remain faithful in the little things, to share God’s compassion with others on a daily basis. Moses left behind such a legacy of faithfulness, faithfulness that we are called to strive for in our own lives yet today.
And God would also have us to remember Moses’…
LEGACY OF VISION
Moses left behind a tremendous legacy of vision. He saw the forest when others saw only the trees. He saw what could be rather than only what was. He discerned God’s ultimate purposes while the rest of the Israelites were consumed with filling their bellies. He led his people forward, out of slavery, through the sea, through the wilderness—finally, to the brink of the Promised Land.
It was no understatement that, at Moses’ funeral, the Deuteronomist recorded that Moses’ sight was unimpaired. He was a man of extreme vision, willing to risk and struggle to attain the dream God had filled his heart with.
How is your vision–spiritually, that is? Is it unimpaired? Konrad Adenauer once stated quite profoundly, “We all live under the same sky, but we all do not have the same horizon.”
It is amazing how being a person of vision can help you realize your dreams. It happened just like it does in our homes today—Mom and Dad absorbed with the after-supper chores and losing track of time. It was a full moon and some of the light seeped in through the windows. Then Mom glanced at the clock and panicked—“Jimmy, it’s past your bedtime! Go up and get in your bed, right now! We’ll be up later to settle you in.”
To Mom and Dad’s surprise, Jimmy did not protest as usual. When they came up an hour or so later, they found, to their astonishment, their son with elbows propped up on the window sill, staring quietly out his window at the moonlit scenery. “What are you doing, Jimmy?” “I’m looking at the moon.” “Well, it’s time to go to bed now.”
As one reluctant seven-year-old boy snuggled underneath his covers, he said quite matter-of-factly, “Mommy, Daddy, you know one day I’m going to walk on that moon.”
Who could have known that the boy in whom that dream was planted that night would survive a near fatal motorcycle crash that would break nearly every bone in his body? Who could have known this same boy would bring his dream to fruition 32 years later when he, Apollo astronaut James Irwin, would step out of the Lunar Module onto the moon’s surface, one of just 12 representatives of the human race to ever accomplish such a mind-boggling feat?
You’ve got to have vision, or you never reach your dreams. You simply play it safe—you wither and die.
Consider the fate of the Puritans some 350 years ago. Fleeing persecution, hoping for a better life, they landed on the northeastern coast of America after a long, treacherous voyage. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.
In the fourth year the people tried to impeach the town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?
Now, get this—here was a group of people who had the vision to see 3,000 miles across a vast ocean and to overcome great, great hardship to get to the New World. But in just in a few short years they were not able to see even five miles past the town limits! They had completely lost their pioneering vision!
Sadly, that is a commentary that rings true today. So many times we fail to act upon what will have positive influence and impact upon our community and church because our vision has become clouded over by a gigantic, pathetic cataract of self-centeredness. It becomes all about me, rather than the purposes God desires for those around me.
Where are the Moses-like folk today?
- Where are the folk of unimpaired vision of the soul?
- Where are the folk who keep looking and reaching and moving forward in God’s will till the day they die?
- Where are the folk who dare to believe tomorrow can be better than today, because God holds the keys to that tomorrow?
- Where are the folk who desire to leave an imprint of faith on this community for generations to come?
Where are the Moses-like folk today?
Are there any among us?
I once heard of an 88-year-old gentleman named Ernest who was out in his back yard one Saturday morning planting a peach tree. His next door neighbor of about half his age, Mark, saw him out working and came over to assist.
After they got the tree in the ground, Mark could not help but ask his older friend, “Ernest, tell me something….why in the world are you planting this peach tree?”
Ernest replied, “I know, my good neighbor, you probably think my belt no longer makes it through all the loops—me planting this tree when I’ll never live long enough to eat any peaches from it. But, you see, all my life I’ve enjoyed delicious peaches, apples, pears and other fruit from trees that someone else planted before I came along. So, I figure I’m just doing my part to return the favor for the next generation!”
What a very noble gesture from a very noble man.
Moses certainly planted some peach trees for future generations. In spite of his own shortcomings, he left behind a God-given legacy of faithfulness and vision that endures even to this day.
In concluding our Sinai Summer Wilderness Adventures, may we ponder a couple of questions as we leave this place of worship today:
What legacy am I striving to allow God to write with my life?
What peach trees am I planting for the benefit of future generations to come?