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Wandering In The Desert, Part 5: If We Never Get There…

The Lord showed [Moses] the whole land…and said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.   (Deuteronomy 34: 1,4, excerpted)

Look ahead.

You cannot finish the task.

Neither are you permitted to lay it down.

–The Talmud

Perhaps most of us cherish a vision of the Promised Land, the Kingdom of God. Not, (for us, at least) a new land, but a new order lived out in our land: an order that is just and sustainable, faithful and loving. The details of our visions may differ. Our longing for those visions to be made real can give us focus, perseverance, courage, and strength.

That longing can also lead to heartbreaking disappointment when we realize that our best efforts do not seem to bring it much closer to fruition. We look at the people or groups who seem to have thwarted our efforts, and we are tempted to hate them. We look at our own inadequacies and mixed motives and are tempted to despair of ourselves.

But the journey is worthwhile, even if we never reach the Promised Land. Though Moses and many of those who followed him out of Egypt never reached the land they longed for, much was given to them. They were set free from slavery. They were given a new law and covenant to live by, binding them in faithfulness to God, their neighbors, and the land. They were given the signs of God’s presence, the pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire, and Moses spoke to God face to face. In later years when they were exiled from their land, they still had the new covenant to bind them as a people, to give them coherence and purpose.

May we not despair when the journey seems endless. May we keep the new covenant. May we remain aware of and grateful for God’s guidance and God’s presence on the way.

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