Are you ever haunted by a particular failure, so much so that you fear that your life will ultimately be by defined it? Maybe you are struggling with an addiction. Maybe you had a marriage that ended in divorce. Maybe one of your kids made poor choices and you feel you are to blame. Maybe you made a major mistake at work and were fired because of it. Maybe you missed an opportunity to share the gospel with a non-believer and they soon passed away. I am sure Moses had the same fear in his last days as recorded in Deuteronomy 34. God had invited him to climb Mount Nebo, and from there, look out over the Promised Land. For a few moments, Moses probably looked out with great awe and wonder at the land the Lord was giving His people. Moses saw the land where the various tribes of Israel would eventually settle; the land he had worked and waited to see all his life.
But then come those soul crushing words from God: “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it (Deut. 34:4b).” I imagine Moses began weeping in that moment as the truth of those words pierced his soul. Because he had failed to obey God in the desert (see Numbers 20:1-13), Moses would never step foot into the Promised Land. Despite Moses’ boldness before Pharaoh, his faith at the Red Sea, and his leadership and intercession in the desert, his tombstone epitaph appeared to be filled with shame: Here lies Moses - Murderer, Faithless Leader, Failure.
And yet, if we read the rest of the story we arrive at these words: “Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” - Deuteronomy 34:10-12
No record of Moses’ capital crime. No record of his disobedience. No record of any failure whatsoever. In fact, this epitaph is filled with praise for who Moses was and what he did. Furthermore, Moses would actually step foot in the Promised Land one day. In Matthew 17 we see Jesus near Jerusalem and as God’s glory shines around him two men appear with him, one of which is Moses! So how did all of Moses’ failures get wiped from his epitaph and only his good works get remembered?
It’s because we serve a God who can remove our failures from our tombstones. God sent His own Son Jesus to die on the cross, so that we could have our sins and failures removed if we trust in Jesus. Furthermore, God imputes Christ’s righteousness to us, so that the perfect life that Jesus lived is credited to our account. In other words, the bad things we have done are paid for and done away with on the cross. And the good things Christ has done are what gets written on our tombstone.
Therefore, regardless of what failures have marked your life up until now, we serve a God who can remove our failures from our tombstones. Believe that. Believe God can remove our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Believe there is now no condemnation for those in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:1). Believe that Christ’s good works have been credited to us (2 Cor. 5:21).
Church, my encouragement to you today is to give God your failure, as well as all the guilt and shame associated with it. Trust that He has paid for it all on the cross. Finally, believe that God is not done writing your story yet. For all of us followers of Jesus, God will remove all our failures from our tombstones. And, in the end, He will replace them with the great works of Jesus. Praise be to God!