Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.” And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. Deuteronomy 34:1-8
Deuteronomy 34 opens with a community thrown into grief. Their beloved leader is gone. He has been more than just a leader. He has represented the connection between God and the people. This was not the original plan, but the experience of hearing from God had so terrified the people that they had asked Moses to act as a go between. Occasionally he had gone up to a mountain top to hear from God and to bring his commands to the people. In our text today there is this starkness to Moses’ death. This time he goes up to the mountain top and does not come back! The question hovers over the text; ‘when he is gone, is the connection gone too?’ Are they still God’s people?
A similar question can hover over a community when a pastor or leader leaves. We can become so reliant on our spiritual leaders that we question what life looks like without them! The New Testament writers take seriously the idea we are a royal priesthood, each with an intimate connection to the Father through what Jesus has done, but the grief and loss is real! We value their wisdom in our lives and we might just wonder, ‘will we ever have it so good again?’
Individually, we are experiencing loss this year. Some on the following list are more significant than others but each represents a change, and change means losing something, and loss is something to grieve. We may have lost loved ones. We may have lost landmark events like graduations and weddings. We may have lost relationships. We may have lost jobs or financial stability. We may have lost business. We may have seen a dream come to an end.
Lament is a spiritual discipline and lament is tough! Perhaps that’s why they call them disciplines, because they are hard to do! Lament is a passionate expression of grief. It takes our grief seriously. It acknowledges the good thing and mourns the loss of it! The pain of lament can lead us to avoid it, or skip over it, but our encouragement is to take it seriously. It is ok to not be ok!
What good thing have you lost this year? Choose to lament its absence.
By Alex Walton