Ask a musician, “What is the ultimate prize?” You’ll probably hear a double-platinum album. Ask an actor, “What is the ultimate prize?” You may hear, “An Oscar” or “A Tony”. Ask an athlete, “What is the ultimate prize?” You may hear, “An Olympic Gold Medal.”
Now, ask a Christian, “What is the Ultimate Prize?”
Today’s reading is a continuation of Moses’ intercession on the people’s behalf. There are several really big things to note. But today, I’ll focus on only one. It’s brief but as Believers, it’s imperative that we get this right.
God says that He will send His angel ahead of the people and drive out the various peoples from the land. He says,
“Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey.
But I will not go up with you because you are a stiff-necked people;
otherwise, I might destroy you on the way.”
(Exodus 33:3 CSB)
A few verses later we read,
“If your presence does not go,” Moses responded to him,
“don’t make us go up from here.”
(Exodus 33:15 CSB)
Moses doesn’t want to take the people into the Promised Land without God. After all, he pleads, without God, how will they be different from all of the other nations? And what will all of the nations say about a God Who delivers His people from their Egyptian slavery, but didn’t remain with them? Moses reminds God that His Own reputation is on the line!
Stop for a moment and think about what you consider to be the Ultimate Prize. Where is your focus? People often talk about Heaven being the eternal reward for the Believer. But is it?
Think about your favorite church songs. Think about your favorite Bible topics. Many of our favorite songs — and even an entire genre of church music — focus on either the salvation experience (and how wonderful life is since then) or they focus on reaching Heaven.
God’s deliverance of the Believer from the bondage to sin is no less miraculous than God’s deliverance of the Children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating our freedom from sin’s bondage. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating where we are going when pass across to the other side of eternity. These are two wonderful things to celebrate!
But is that all that the Christian life is about? Is that all there is to celebrate — where we were and where we’re going?
For the Christian, is our destination our Ultimate Prize?
Moses would ask you to think long and hard about your answer. Moses would say that the destination isn’t the Prize. The destination isn’t what Moses emphasized. The destination isn’t what Jesus emphasized. The destination isn’t what Paul emphasized. In fact, throughout the entire Bible, no one pointed to the destination as the Ultimate Prize.
So what did Moses emphasize? What did Jesus emphasize? What did Paul emphasize? What did the New Testament church emphasize? What did they all say is the Ultimate Prize? What is it all about?
This is eternal life:
that they may know you, the only true God,
and the one you have sent—Jesus Christ.
John 17:3 (CSB)
I decided to know nothing among you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
1 Corinthians 2:2 (CSB)
Moses knew that the destination
isn’t the Ultimate Prize.
God is the Ultimate Prize.
Perhaps you think I’m splitting hairs. Perhaps you don’t see the difference. I would warn you that seeing the destination as the Ultimate Prize might just be idolatry.