The old man stood and gazed down upon the people – his people, his burden, his torment, his disappointment, the ones he had come to love so very, very much. He knew that this was the last time he would ever talk to them like this, and his heart was heavy with the longing for them to understand, to finally grasp who their God was and take hold of Him by faith. Some of them understood of course, and he looked at his young Lieutenant Joshua with a fond smile. Not that Joshua was young now either, his youth and his middle years had been taken from him by the harsh silence of the desert, the clamour of the cattle, the unending demands of these people, who always seemed to want the impossible, and a little bit more besides.
He told them their story again: the one they must pass on to their children and their children’s children; the story that gave them an identity, but, far more importantly, showed them who their God was, and what they must do to stay sealed to Him in unique and glorious covenant. For their story was nothing less than the revelation of God Himself, the God who redeemed His people and called them apart from all the nations of the earth to walk in His ways, and receive the promised blessing. To turn away from that story was to turn away from God.
He paused and looked out across the multitude, this nation, the promised seed of Abraham, and, his sight so clear in the presence of God and the nearness of death, he prophesied over them, tribe by tribe, as they stood ranked in their families and clans: Reuben, Judah, Levi... he named them and he blessed them in the words which he was given, seeing what lay before them and the encouragement they would need. He gathered them all in with his words, looking down the long years towards what would be. He saw their struggles, their to-ing and fro-ing between the God who had called them and the easy, sensual ways of the surrounding nations. They would enter the Promised Land, they would leave the Promised Land, they would enter it again. They would know glory and shame, plenty and dearth. What encouragement could he leave for the faithful, for the remnant that would always cling to their God, through the whirling years? They would have to be able to see beyond the outward show of things, to know, with rock-solid certainty, what lay underneath.