17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.
In 2006 I travelled to Jordan with a group of friends. I had the opportunity of standing atop Mt. Nebo, the highest portion of the mountain range opposite Jericho where Moses stood and surveyed the land of Canaan before he died and was buried in a secret place on that mountain. I gave a short message, looking into the faces of my friends, including my wife and my parents. I told them that we were on a spiritual journey, following in the footsteps of Moses himself.
“Not because we drove from Petra to Nebo, loosely following the route that Israel would have trekked through ancient Moab, but because we’ve been saved from the slavery of sin and guilt, are in a wilderness, and expect to enter a land promised to us—heaven itself.”
After peering through the clouds that hovered over the mountain range that day I asked the group to look down at the ground beneath their feet. “As much as Moses stood here and saw the land of Canaan stretching out before him, from “Beersheba to Dan,” he also saw what you see right now, the earth he lived on, and would die on. That land, on the other side of the Jordan, was still promised to him, but this land is where he would ie. Only a person on a genuine and therefore divine, spiritual journey is able to reconcile those two truths.”
Our Jordanian guide had paid rapt attention, and was visibly moved. He later told me this was the first time he had ever heard a touring pastor speak of the relationship of the two lands—Moab beneath Moses feet, the promised land before his eyes. Most of the time, he told me, religious tourists stand on that spot, on tip toe, leaning forward, cameras on landscape settings, fully zoomed to capture pictures of the city of Jericho, the hills of Judea, and the northernmost tip of the Dead Sea. They are not concerned about the land beneath their feet, but are wholly fixed on the land beyond. I know Moses saw that land, too. I think he must have looked down at some point, too, and seen that reddish, gravelly, loam of Moab beneath his feet. It was land, but not the land he’d spent the past four decades travelling to. He could see that Promised Land, but had been told it was not yet to be his. His heart was over there; he’d spent the past 38 years assuming he’d die there, but the Lord who saved a baby in a wicker basket, a murderer from the law, and a nation from slavery would not save his leader from death outside the land of promise. Moses’ feet would touch that land on another day, in another time, but on that day, he could only see where he would one day live. He died there, in Moab, outside of the land, in the wilderness—along with his stubborn-hearted, troublesome, rebellious, law-breaking, idol worshiping, Moabite-loving people.
We all stand on this lump of clay called earth, and one day we will return to the dust from which we came—the earth will receive our bodies. Our part in God’s great work will be suspended for a season, and then resumed when He awakens us. There will be no immediately discernible difference between those who were blessed with simple longevity of physical life and those who chose to persevere in a life of following Jesus, but upon a closer look you’ll be able to tell those who persevered: Their hands and feet will bear all the marks, grime, and scars of a long wilderness journey, and their eyes will burn with a glow that comes from a lifetime of gazing intently into a distant, but Promised Land.
Father, show me Your favor today–as You already have in saving me in Christ, so continue to save me today from sin and all that would take my eyes off of You, and the wonderful promise of eternal life You have given me. let my actions and words today be the kind that You can confirm as good and righteous, and able to be used by You for Your glory and for the blessing of those around me! Amen.