Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the headland of Pisgah which faces Jericho, and Our God showed him all the land – Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negev, and the stretch of valley of Jericho, the city of palms, and as far as Zoar. Then Our God said to Moses, “This is the land I swore to Sarah and Abraham, to Rebecca and Isaac, to Leah, Rachel and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you will not cross over.”
So there in the land of Moab, Moses the servant of God died as Our God decreed, and he was buried in the valley opposite Beth Peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the exact burial place. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyesight was strong and he was still quite vigorous.
In all of the scriptures, for me, this is the most haunting passage. Moses, the liberator of the captive and lawgiver to a free people, dies short of his goal. One need not be queer to be acquainted with such sorrow. Goals that slip through our fingers, destinations that elude us, plans that never seem to fruit, dreams delayed.
My father to his dying day said he loved me. But it was a love that nestled within it his hope that one day I would "come to my senses" and return to the straight fold. He loved me as his prodigal son. I yearned to be loved as his gay son.
I didn’t push the conversation we knew we were dancing around. I figured some day when we’re ready… Then my father died in a car accident. In that moment “someday” died as well. My dream of reconciliation delayed. Wandering the desert of our estrangement I longed for the Promised Land. Now I would be satisfied with an oasis.
This passage is a tender one with God and Moses meeting as old friends. Even the narrator’s description of Moses as robust and strong in his abnormal age is a reverent tribute to this giant of a faith ancestor.
I wonder if Moses was satisfied with just seeing the land for which he yearned. Or was he melancholy, knowing that he would never live in it. Never enjoy the fruits of its trees. Never know the coolness of its streams.
We who are queer deal with delayed dreams in many different areas of our lives – family, friends, jobs, society. Another dream delayed is another drop of water in the torture chair for many of us. Each drop cutting into the fibers of our nerves, until we scream from the insanity of it all.
I identify with this passage because I identify with its sorrow: fulfillment so close, yet so far way. I do not know if God’s tour of the Promised Land helped to sooth Moses’ anxiety and pain, but I suspect that God’s presence was of great comfort and joy.