Moses is one of those characters who gives us a glimpse as to what true faithfulness really looks like. Spoiler alert: it's not all roses and blessings like we'd hoped.
Most of us figure that if we're faithful, God will reward us along the way. He'll give us a sign that shows us that we're on the right track. He'll leave little blessings around to encourage us. He'll somehow, in some way, spur us on with all those good things He tells us about, all those good things He promises us. If we are faithful, we'll know it because God will be smiling down on us.
And in that same vein, most of us are unwilling to move if we're not sure God is blessing it. We actually wait on God to do these things for us, believing that if He doesn't, then we must not be on the right track. If He doesn't, we've missed something somewhere. If He doesn't, we should stop and wait for further instructions instead of just plowing ahead.
Even if we know that God sent us here in the first place.
Moses reminds us that we don't always get constant reassurance, and we don't always reach the place where we'll know for sure.
It is one of the most difficult passages of Scripture, if you're paying attention and know how the story goes, but it's one that we who would be faithful ourselves cannot afford to miss. It's the moment that God first tells Moses what He's up to and sends the man to lead the people.
Like most of us, Moses asks for all kinds of signs that God is who He says He is and that He is really sending Moses the way that He's sending him. God gives Moses the sign of the burning bush, but that's not quite enough. He gives Moses the sign of the staff that turns into the snake, but that's not quite enough. He tells him to put his hand in his cloak and gives him leprosy, then heals him when he puts his hand back. Even this is not enough. They are cool signs, Lord, but how will I know?
Then, God gives Moses the answer that none of us wants to hear: you'll know when you get there. God plainly says that Moses will know without a doubt that all of this was real, that all of this was holy, that all of this was totally legit...when he enters into the Promised Land after leading the people out of Egypt.
That's a long way away. Even on a good day for Israel. When you think about all the things Moses will have to endure even if Israel is faithful all the way - appearance after appearance before Pharaoh, all the plagues and signs and wonders, the doubts and hesitations of the people. He's got a lot of work to do before the people even get out of Egypt and then he still has to lead them through the desert to the Promised Land. Even as a straight shot, it takes more than one day.
And we know the story doesn't go that smoothly. Israel rebels multiple times along the way, causing her journey to be longer and longer and longer still until she spends forty years wandering in the wilderness between here and there.
Think about that. God told Moses that he won't know for sure until he gets there, that he won't have perfect assurance until he's in the Promised Land. Only then will he know that the Lord is God and it is the Lord who sent him. Only then will he know this is what God planned all along. Only when he gets there will he understand how he got there. Until then, he can only trust. And now, because of the people's sin, Moses spends more than forty years not knowing. Unable to know. Far away from being sure.
Yet, he leads them nonetheless. He remains faithful, always looking ahead to that day when he will see.
It's an example, and a question, for all of us who would be faithful. What if you couldn't know? What if all you had was a calling or a sending and you couldn't know for sure until you got there? What if you don't get reassurances along the way? What if you don't get motivators and encouragers and little reminders that you're on the right track?
What if life takes you through the wilderness where there are no markers, but only smoke and fire? Will you go? Will you lead? Will you be faithful?
Can you live looking forward to the day when you will see and trusting in that?