During the Summer we had a series of sermons of Hills of the Bible. Here’s a summary of Fr Chris’ sermon on Mt Nebo:
“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land” (Deuteronomy 34.1)
Mount Nebo stands in what today is the country of Jordan. It’s slightly to the north of the capital, Amman. From it you look down at the river Jordan and see the spot at which Jesus was baptised by John, and then you look further and you see on the other side of the Jordan the land of Israel.
We know the history which preceded this glimpse of the “whole land” – the promise of God to Abraham to be given a land flowing with milk and honey, yet that promise seems to be broken.
There had been the time of slavery in Egypt – a time when the Jews began to think that God had forsaken them. Then along comes Moses. Moses the champion, hidden as a baby in the bulrushes, and who challenges Pharaoh’s rule and leads the Israelites out of slavery towards the Promised Land.
The concept of the Promised Land is for some the physical, temporal land of Israel. But it needs also to be seen as a place where God reigns with his people – where righteousness, justice and peace are in abundance.
God grants to Moses a glimpse of this physical and metaphorical land and then Moses dies.
The arrival in the land seen from Nebo isn’t got to easily. There is the escape from Egypt and then years in the wilderness, and a time of feeling that God had forsaken them.
In Matthew’s Gospel the disciples, after Jesus rose from the dead, ascend a mountain to be given authority and instruction to baptise people.
As the baptised people of God we too stand on Nebo looking out on a life with Jesus. A life of full abundance as St John puts it.
In fleeing from Egypt the Israelites passed through the Red Sea. We too pass through water –in Baptism we die to sin, we are restored and received as a child of a loving God, we enter our promised Land – we enter the Kingdom of God.