Conventional expectations—at least the basic ones that we assume to be home truth—fail badly when it comes to God’s way with his people. Neither democracy nor equality are given much space in the biblical narrative, though ironically neither would exist as political principle were it not for the ethical underpinning that Scripture provides them.
At least in the short view of things, life in YHWH’s presence remains distinctly unfair.
This is no more true than when it comes to the uncommon burden of the leader.
But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. Furthermore, the Lord was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. For I must die in this land; I must not go over the Jordan. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land. (Deuteronomy 4:20–22 ESV)
Moses has interceded with YHWH on behalf of his recalcitrant people. He has pled for their lives before their angry God. He has cried, ‘Kill me and let them live!’.
He has suffered because of them. He has suffered on behalf of them. The life of this erstwhile Egyptian prince turned Israel’s rescuer and lawgiver has not produced for him much joy. His has been an insufferable lot.
Now, Moses explains to Israel from the heights of Moab’s plains overlooking the Jericho Valley and the promised land on the other side, you guys will get what’s been promised to you. I’ll die on this side of the water.
The ironies run deep.
The Lord was angry with me because of you. Yet I must die in this land, my feet unmoistened by Jordan’s lapping waters. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land.
There is a manifest unfairness in this dealing, viewed through the lens of conventional expectations. There is an uncommon humility in Moses’ capacity to accept his unjust fate.
We do not lead for what is in it. We lead, truth be told, because we must.
So long as our people cross over, we lie peacefully in our forgotten grave across the water.