“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Avenge the people of Israel on the Midianites. Afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”” (Numbers 31:1–2 ESV)
What would I do if I knew the exact way and time I was going to die? How would it change the way I live? I’d like to think that I would live more boldly and intentionally. I hope that I would stop doing all the things that waste my time and live like a hyper-efficient super hero, being the perfect husband, father, writer, artist, and pastor. I certainly would like to think that, and maybe I would. But what if I not only knew when and how I would die, but I knew that the very thing my life was being lived for would never be accomplished.
If I knew that my life would end in failure, would I still want to live with zeal and passion? At the end of Moses’ life, he finds himself in this exact situation. Moses, because of striking the rock twice instead of commanding it, was told that he would never enter into the promised land. As they got closer to the land of Canaan, God told him to fight the Midianites and then prepare to die. Moses knew when he would die and that he would die without entering the promise land he had dedicated his life to seeing.
If I were Moses, I would have retired. I would have packed up my camel and found a quiet desert oasis to die in my bitterness. Finishing well is hard. Finishing well in the midst of failure is harder.
There is a reason Moses had the reputation that he did. There are few men who have ever lived who come even close to his character and fortitude. Moses keeps on going without skipping a beat. He knows that his greatest worldly hope will never come true in his life, and he keeps going anyway. He passes on his leadership to Joshua, he speaks to the people the heart of God, he continues his constant devotion with his God, and accepts his fate without complaining.
I think I’ll often times operate under the lie that if I work hard and stay faithful, that I will see the fruit of everything God’s called me to work on. Often times the thing that drives me is the hope that I will see the success of all my labors. But that’s not really a part of God’s promise. God calls us to serve him and obey him regardless of whether or not we see the point of how our lives fit in his plan.
So what was it that kept Moses going? As much as Moses wanted to see the promised land, as heart-broken as he may have been that his life was ending the way it was, Moses had a greater hope. Moses was the only man in the Bible called God’s friend, who talked with God face to face. Moses didn’t need the earthly promise land to have true hope, he knew the promised land of heaven and needed no other motivation.
So what is the art of finishing well? Having a hope a beyond the grave.
Lord Jesus, I pray that we would strive for nothing else but you and your presence. We don’t know when our end will come, but please be enough!