Can you imagine what Moses felt as he looked into the Promised Land? In Deuteronomy 34, Moses had come to the end of his life. God had already told him that he would not enter the Promised Land because he had disobeyed Him at the waters of Marah and Meribah. But God, in His mercy, invited Moses to the top of the mountain to survey that land before he died.
So, Moses climbed Mount Nebo to a peak called Pisgah. There on top of Pisgah, God personally gave Moses a tour of the land on which he had set his heart forty years. What was Moses thinking when the Lord said: “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there” (Deut 34:4–5)?
This was seeing without proximity. Moses could see a long way and he could see it all—everything he had written about in Genesis 12–50 was right there. Remember, he hadn’t actually seen the land upon which Abraham trod, the wells that Isaac dug, the stone on which Jacob slept at Bethel. But he had written about it, and now, he saw it—from a distance. It was not close enough to touch, to feel, to breathe. The Promised Land was just beyond his reach.
Even more, this represented believing without receiving. He had believed the promise that God had given to Abraham in Genesis 12: he would have a land filled with innumerable offspring that would be the world’s blessing. Moses had led Abraham’s offspring for forty years to the very edge of the Promised Land, to the very cusp of receiving the promises. Yet here he was, waiting to die on top of Pisgah, still believing the promises, but not receiving them.
Thus, this was a kind of hoping without realizing. He had hoped in Yahweh, the God of Israel who had met him at the burning bush, who had worked miraculous plagues, who had thrown horse and rider into the sea, who had fed the people for forty years with manna and quail, and had led them with fire and cloud. Yet now, standing on the mountainside, surely it all seemed in vain.
Was it in vain? We know that it was not. How do we know? We know because Moses actually made it to the real Promised Land: when he died, he met his God face to face, received all that he had been promised, and had his hopes realized. When Jesus shows His glory to His disciples in Matthew 17, who comes with Elijah from the heavenly glory? Moses.
As those who are like Moses, pilgrims looking into the Promised Land, let us remember that all we long to see, all that we believe, all that in which we hope shall come true. Jesus has made it secure. He invites us to stand right now on the verge of Jordan and to peer into that land of rest and delight where we shall dwell forever.