Can't Cross The River
“The Lord said to him, ‘This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there’” (Deut. 34:4 NRSV).
From the very beginning of the biblical story, water plays a vital role in the story. We find the Spirit hovering over the waters as the creation event begins. It is from these waters, over which the wind of the Spirit the blows that all of life emerges (Genesis 1:1-2). We get to watch as Moses leads the people of Israel to freedom through the Sea (Exodus 14). And Jesus is baptized in the waters of the Jordan, commencing his ministry, while John the Revelator shares God’s invitation to drink from the spring of the water of life. Whether it is a sea or river or lake, water serves as boundary that must be crossed if we are to fulfill our callings in life.
Although Moses led the people of Israel through the Sea and across Sinai, he did not get to cross the Jordan. When the people of Israel arrived at the Jordan, God led Moses up Mount Nebo and showed him the Promised Land, but then God told Moses that he wouldn’t get to experience the other side of the river. The Jordan served as a boundary that Moses could not cross. So, someone else would lead the people across the Jordan and into the Promised Land.
Moses was a pioneer. He heard God’s call and answered it. He got the people ready for a journey, led them through a time of trial, and brought them to the river. It must have difficult for Moses to reach the river and not cross over. But that would be his destiny, his calling. He did his part, and those who crossed the river would be his legacy.
We may find ourselves standing at the edge of a river, and discovering that this is one boundary that cannot be crossed. We may find ourselves in Moses’ shoes, having led others to the river, but not get to cross over. If this is true, then we won’t fully enjoy the blessings of the Promised Land, but we will know that we have done our part. Are there not blessings to be experienced, knowing that even if we don’t cross the river, those who do cross it will be our blessing?
Martin Luther King, on the night prior to his assassination spoke of this very mountain that Moses climbed. He shared his vision of the Promised Land, which he knew he would not get to share in. He believed that one day his dreams of a beloved community would bear fruit. He had done his best to lead the people on their journey, so that others could cross the river and enjoy the blessings of the Promised Land. Every justice movement has required people like Moses and Dr. King, who lead the people to the river, but can’t cross over.
Whichever side of the river we find ourselves, can we not hear the call of God on our lives? For those who don’t cross the river, can you rejoice in the lives of those who do enjoy the blessings of the Promised Land? If you are counted among those who do cross the river, can you celebrate the sacrifices made by those who made it possible to gain access to that Promised Land?