I’m scared to watch the news lately. As if my refusal to watch will stop the reality of a world ripping itself apart at the seams. As if the unthinkable terrorist attacks and mass shootings, each new evil trying to outdo the evil before it, won’t happen if I simply don’t turn on the TV. If I go live in a bubble, will innocent people stop dying for no apparent reason?
I tried to find solace in the Bible, but my studies have me neck-deep in the Old Testament right now. The pages are filled with more of the same misery. The whole earth destroyed by flood, except for one family. Entire nations being conquered and burned to the ground in the name of God – women, children, and all. Slavery, plagues, rape…has the world made any progress at all?
I flipped to the New Testament, hungry for stories of joy, peace, and love. Instead, I found a world so lost that they scourged Joy, crowned Peace with thorns, and nailed Love to a cross while laughing about it. And I found a God who allowed all of it to happen.
Cries of unfairness tore through my bones. My soul joined in the wails of Lamentations. The pleas of King David. The whining of the Israelites. The anger of King Solomon as he realized this world he had given everything to holds none of the joy he was chasing.
That last complaint reminded me – this world doesn’t hold the joy, it rejects it. Our citizenship is in heaven. But I’ve heard that before. As the latest evil flashed across the news screen, I wanted to keep pouting. God had other ideas. He nudged me toward the story of Moses.
I didn’t get it at first. It felt like one more example of unfairness. Moses was God’s faithful servant, trusting God in the face of Pharaoh, leading millions of unruly people through the desert. Wandering through challenge after challenge in hopes of a promised land – a promised land he wouldn’t even get to enjoy.
Why can’t he enjoy it? He worked so hard and gave up everything for God’s promises. But then he made one little mistake. He didn’t follow instructions exactly and didn’t treat God as holy in front of the people. And that was it. He could see the promised land, but he wasn’t getting in. All his good efforts erased with one bad day. UNFAIR!
If someone as righteous as Moses gets cut out of the promised land over one misstep, what chance do I have at citizenship in heaven? I may as well go watch the world destroy itself on the news.
Instead, I resorted to trolling Facebook. In the middle of even more stories of evil, rants about ridiculous politics, and arguments over guns, one of those inspirational quotes popped up in my feed. Something about faith and trust and how we don’t know the whole picture but our loving Father does. Honestly, it made me want to scream louder. WHY?! Why can’t we just see the whole picture so we can understand!?
Why God puts up with my temper tantrums with a love I don’t deserve, I cannot comprehend. But He persistently sends guidance until I hear Him loud and clear. Yesterday, He hit me with the reason why He wanted me to focus on Moses. I was watching a First 5 weekend wrap-up video, and the leader of the study was brought to tears over the “whole picture” of Moses. Wait. There’s more? Yes. Enough to overwhelm someone to tears of joy? YES.
You see, the Old Testament isn’t the end of the story. And it’s not an irrelevant part of a bigger picture we never get to see. Moses’ story doesn’t end with his death on the fringes of the promised land. We see him again in the New Testament, in Matthew 17:1-8, during the Transfiguration of Jesus. “Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
Not only is Moses very much a part of the ongoing story, he got to see so much more than the promised land! He was witnessing the living promise of Jesus over a thousand years later! And God spoke to him, using the same methods Moses was familiar with, “…a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said…” Moses messed up and was punished for it, but he is clearly a citizen of heaven!
So maybe I can give my whining about unfairness a rest. God has given us a glimpse of the whole picture through Moses. I’m clearly a child who can’t handle more than that right now. I still struggle to “get it” completely. I still wrestle with why there is so much suffering on the way to joy.
But I don’t have to get it to accept it. Jesus accepted it. He showed us how it works, all the way through death and resurrection and ascension to life in heaven. So maybe I can stop blaming God for allowing humans to freely choose evil and start praising Him for allowing a way to freely choose a promised land.
After Moses was told he wasn’t getting what he hoped for, he didn’t give up and stop following God. He didn’t scream “unfair” and just walk away defeated. He finished out God’s will in obedience. He submitted to the God who does what He says He will, even when his children don’t like it.
And so will I. This world isn’t what I hoped it would be. But that’s okay because it’s not the end of the story. God isn’t unfair. He’s infinitely fair. He can be trusted to follow through, because He’s proven He doesn’t play favorites. He held true to His word even when the one who messed up was Moses. This gives me hope, not despair. If even Moses didn’t get out of his punishment, neither will the evil that is so bent on destroying us. If even Moses was rewarded with a better promised land by repenting and obeying God, then so will the rest of us loyal people who repent after our bad days.
I’m not ready to turn the news back on yet. I’m definitely not ready to troll Facebook again. But I am ready to keep reading His true story. I’m ready to keep fighting in my “war room” every day – on my knees begging for humanity to choose love over terror, on my blog sharing His truth, and in my life leading by example. I have to accept that God may allow evil to brutally take me off this planet while I’m simply at the movie theater, knowing that I don’t belong here anyway.
I will keep following Jesus to the real promised land – to one day claim my citizenship in heaven.