Listen closely: God answers prayers in His own way

Published 1:23 am Saturday, April 7, 2018

By R.A. Mathews

A 60-year-old security guard’s lifelong dream came true last week. His paintings now fill an art gallery in Myanmar (Burma), his home country.

The artist, U Phone Myint, works in security to foot the cost of canvas, brushes, and paint. He says art is expensive. His colleagues abandoned their dream, needing to make a living instead.

Yet Jesus says, “All things are possible to him who believes.” Mark 9:23

That’s one of my favorite verses—which worried one of my family members. “You have to be realistic,” she’d say to me.

I remembered her words last week. There’s something I’ve wanted for many years, and I suddenly had this painful realization: “It’s too late. It’s not going to happen.”

I’m easily moved by both happy and sad events. Sunday I wept with joy at the Easter presentation of our children’s choir. Saturday, at a funeral, I wept for my friend’s loss.

Yet the moment I realized my dream was gone, I couldn’t reach my pain. It was too deep. I opened my Bible and found myself reading a familiar passage—Moses’ last wish. His dream.

Obviously, this wasn’t a coincidence. God had something to say to me.

Moses’ great desire was the Promised Land. The Hebrews had left slavery in Egypt, wandered for 40 years, and are now at the Jordan River—the Promised Land within reach.

Moses writes: “I begged [God]…‘Please let me go over and see the good land that is beyond the Jordan.’” Deuteronomy 3:23-24

Why did Moses need to beg God?

Years earlier, the prophet gravely disappointed God. Then and there, God said Moses would never enter the Promised Land. Numbers 20:12, Deuteronomy 32:51

But Moses isn’t willing to give up so easily. Obviously Moses remembers how God decided to kill the Hebrews after the golden-calf incident. But God relented when Moses begged for their lives. In fact, Moses had pleaded with God repeatedly for wrongdoers, and God would yield each time. It’s sort of amazing.

Yet despite Moses’ pleas to cross the Jordan, God refuses. God says, “Enough from you, do not speak to me of this matter again.” Deuteronomy 3:26-27 ESV

It’s heart-wrenching—Moses is old, he’ll soon die, and his dream is lost to a bad mistake.

I’ve failed God so often. It’s easy to think, like Moses’ situation, that I don’t deserve my dream. Perhaps you’ve felt the same.

But wait. The respected World English Bible translates God’s answer differently: “Let this satisfy you. I do not want to hear about this again. Go up to the top of Pisgah…”

Those words are different. It sounds like God has a work-around!

And this proves it: Deuteronomy 34 closes the vastly important first five books of the Bible, also called the Law of Moses, the Pentateuch, and the Torah. Deuteronomy 34 contains a simple description of the Promised Land. If you didn’t know the painful wound between God and Moses, you’d race right past it. But, no. Slow down and see what’s happening here. Scripture says, “And the Lord showed him all the land.”

This is God’s last gift to his beloved prophet.


© 2018 R.A. Mathews The Rev. Mathews is the author of “Reaching to God: Great Truths from the Bible.”