Then and there God said to him, “This is the land I promised to your ancestors, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the words ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I’ve let you see it with your own eyes. There it is. But you’re not going to go in.” Deuteronomy 34.4
This line never seemed right to me. Moses, who led the people out of Egypt from slavery with God's guidance, is told that he will not get to dwell in the promised land. He sees it with his own eyes, and he dies. God buries Moses. No one knows where.
It wasn't until I lived in Naples, Italy, that I began to understand this idea. The motto of Naples has long been, "see Naples and die." It sounds morbid. And yet, the sentiment was perhaps best explained by the novelist Alexandre Dumas, who said: "Naples is the flower of paradise. The last adventure of my life." The place was teeming with life. It was maddening. Chaos. Raw. Beautiful. And messy. The ancient sentiment of "see Naples and die" expressed an idea that once one had seen Naples, one could be assured that she had lived a full life, and therefore die having no regrets.
Moses lived a full life. He had opportunities to not live such a full life, of course. He could have ignored the plight of the Hebrews and never gotten so angry at an Egyptian overseer than he took his life. He could have remained a shepherd in Midian, and never worried about those he left behind in slavery in Egypt. But God interrupted his life. But God does that to all of our lives. He responded - even if reluctantly! - to God's call. And I think that even though he never stepped foot in the land promised to his ancestors, he didn't need to. He lived a full and good life, one full of meaning. I can only imagine the emotion that old man would have felt knowing that the newborns born on that Exodus journey were born free of slavery's bondage and would set their feet on a land of freedom.
See you Sunday, and invite a neighbor.