Saturday, October 6, 2012

You Can't Always Get What You Want

Scripture Passage: Deuteronomy 3:21-29

Key Verse: "Do not speak to me anymore about this matter. . . . But commission Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he will lead this people across and will cause them to inherit the land that you will see" (Deut. 3:26, 28, NIV).

Anybody remember the Rolling Stones? You ought to. They're still around, currently on their geriatric world tour, I believe. Anyway, a few decades ago they wrote a song called "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

That song pretty much sums up what Moses must have felt as the Jews were preparing to finally enter the Promised Land after their 40-year detour. I can just hear him complaining to God: "Didn't I sacrifice my retirement for this? Didn't I lead them all the way here? Didn't I put up with their belly-aching about manna and birds for the last 40 years? This is what You told me to do, and now You won't let me do it! All because I had one little problem with my temper!?" Then, to add insult to injury, God basically tells Moses to button his yap, and to start training Joshua to do the job that he wanted to do himself.

On top of all that, God tells Moses not only to prepare Joshua for the task, but also to encourage him. Can't you just hear Moses start fuming again? "Encourage him!? Why would I want to do that? He's got my dream job. I'd rather talk him out it, or at least convince him that he'll need my help to get it done."

But God's response doesn't change. "You heard me the first time, Moses."

According to Merriam Webster's 10th edition, to encourage means to inspire, to spur on, or to give help. Trust me—not one of those definitions is easy to live up to when the person you're supposed to encourage has what you want. It goes beyond just petty jealousy. In some ways, it gets down to God giving what you thought was your calling or task to someone else. Just ask the many parents who have watched their dreams of becoming missionaries get sidelined by the all-consuming task of raising a family (and if you ask, they'll tell you that they would do it all over again).

In spite of this, their job, and Moses' job, remains the same: Encourage those who are selected to go and do what you want to go and do. Inspire them. Spur them on. Help them.

The Rolling Stones offered a great truth of the gospel, even if they didn't realize it. Although we can't get the things we want, Mick Jagger and company tell us, we do get the things we need. Although Moses didn't get to enter the Promised Land, he was allowed to see it, and in the end, that was enough.

© 1997 Sean Taylor

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