Today was the final day of my JUC field study to Jordan. It was spent exploring the ancient land of Moab.
Last night we stayed in the guest house of Karak, which is directly across the crusader castle of Karak. It was here that Suleiman broke the crusaders and began the slow process of driving them out of the land. Before this city was called Karak it was known as Kheir Hareseth. This is one of the cities of Moab which belonged to Mesha (2 Kings 3). From reading the Biblical account it sounds as though Mesha was holed up here and it was at this city that he sacrificed his first-born son upon the walls in an appeal to his god for help (v.23). Then “The fury against Israel was great, and they returned to their own cities.” So, Moab was not utterly destroyed.
It is this land that Ruth and her sister Orpah came from. The land of Moab is very much like the land surrounding Bethlehem from which Elimelek and Naomi. It makes sense that when a famine hit, they would migrate to this land. The people and the land on both sides of the Rift Valley are very similar, almost the same. However, throughout history, since Jacob stole Esau’s birthright, these peoples have been divided. They are brothers and yet they are enemies. Both insist that they know best and continually step on one another’s toes. Or, in more modern times, fire missiles at one another.
Our trip continued at Dibon, Mesha’s capital city. Here we talked about the swinging-door-iness of the Medeba Plateau between Ammon, Moab, and Israel. No one, except Sihon, has ever tried to base a kingdom on the Plateau. And, he did not last long once Moses came after him. It was here at Dibon that Mesha’s Stele was discovered.
Next was the city of Medeba, where we saw the Medeba Map. It was from this map, which is a mosaic on the floor of a Byzantine church, that we know what the land of Israel and its cities looked like in the second century AD.
The last stop of the last field study was at Mt. Nebo. After defeating Og, king of Bashan, the Israelites encamped in the plains of Moab between Mt. Nebo and the Jordan. In this location, they cannot see anything. They are surrounded by mountains. This area looks like the region of Sinai which they had just left. Where is the Promised Land?
It is here that Moses must prepare them to enter into the land God promised their ancestors. He stands before them and preaches much of the book of Deuteronomy. After that, he climbs Mt. Nebo and God shows him all of the land which He promised to the Patriarchs.
Could Moses really see the whole land from atop Mt. Nebo? This was only possible if Nebo has eroded a few hundred feet in the last three thousand years. So what did happen? Some suggest God gave Moses a vision of the Land. Another possibility is that Moses had already been able to look across the land from different sites in Transjordan as he moved up and down the east side of the Rift Valley conquering different kings. Whatever the case may be, Moses was not simply imagining things. What he saw was rooted in the past and the future. God brought him up to the mountaintop so that Moses could see time set before him. He saw the land the Patriarchs had lived in, where the story had begun. And, he saw the land where the children of God would live again. The Israelites in the plains below could see none of this. All they knew was what they could see at that moment, which was not very “promising”.
We are often in the same place. We cannot see anymore than where we are right now, and sometimes we cannot even truly see that! Only God can see the big picture of our past, present and future. He has rooted us in good soil and given us good seed to plant. It is up to us to plant it. Whatever it is we sow, we will also reap. If we plant good seed, the Gardener will cause it to flourish within us and spill over to those around us. He is good. He will give what He has promised. Even though we cannot see beyond our surroundings, He knows every senonian chalk valley and cenomanian outcropping along the path we must tread so that we might become more one with Him.