Moses seemed unwilling to leave his work; but since that was now finished, he showed no unwillingness to die. After he had made an end of blessing Israel, he doubtless took solemn leave of Joshua, Elazar, and the rest of his friends. And then he cheerfully climbed to the top of Pisgah (the highest point or ridge on Mount Nebo). Thus he showed that he was not afraid to die; for those who, by grace, are made acquainted with that better world above do not need to fear leaving this one behind.
God had declared that Moses would not enter Canaan. But He had also promised that His faithful servant would be permitted to have a view of it; and so, according to His promise, He showed him all that good land. Moses saw all this at a distance, just as the Old Testament saints saw the Kingdom of Messiah “afar off.” And in the same way, believers today – through grace – have a sight of the bliss and glory of their future state. The Word and ordinances, to them, are what Mount Pisgah was to Moses; from them, they have comfortable prospects of the glory to be revealed – and they rejoice in the hope of it! Canaan was Immanuel’s land (Isa. 8:8); and so, in viewing it, Moses had a view of the blessings that we enjoy by Christ. The Lord’s children may leave this world with cheerfulness; for they die in the faith of Christ, and in the hope of heaven.
Moses had desired to go over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan, but the Lord had decided otherwise. However, he obeyed this command of God as willingly as any other, even though it seemed harder; and in this, he resembled our Lord Jesus, Who prayed that the cup of suffering might pass from Him, and yet submitted to His Father’s will.
Moses died very easily; he died according to the will of God – or, in the original Hebrew, “at the mouth of the Lord.” When the servants of the Lord have done all their other work, they must die at last, and be willing to go home – whenever their Master sends for them (Acts 21:13). There was no decay in the strength of Moses’ body, nor in the vigor and activity of his mind; his understanding was clear, and his memory was as strong as ever. This was the reward of his service to the Lord, and the effect of his extraordinary meekness.
The place of Moses’ burial was not known, for the Lord buried him in a valley near Beth-peor. However, if the soul is at rest with God, it is of little importance where the body physically rests. Perhaps the reason why the location of Moses’ tomb was to remain a mystery was because the Israelites would have been prone to enshrine and worship his body. When Moses died, the Lord buried him; but when Christ died, the Lord raised Him up! This illustrates how the law of Moses was to come to an end, but not the Gospel of Jesus!
This chapter turns our attention to Joshua, as he began to fill his office as Moses’ successor. Joshua had been well-known before as a faithful follower of the Lord, but not as the leader of the Lord’s people. He was praised as a man who was admirably qualified for the work to which he was called – namely, to bring the Israelites over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Three things concurred to clear Joshua’s call to this great undertaking. First, God Himself had fitted him for it by giving him the spirit of wisdom. Second, Moses (by Divine appointment) had ordained him to this office; and third, the people cheerfully acknowledged him as their leader and submitted to him.
Moses brought Israel to the borders of Canaan, and then died and left them. This teaches us that the law made nothing perfect (Heb. 7:19); it brings people into a wilderness of conviction, but not into the Canaan of rest and settled peace. That honor was reserved for our Lord Jesus, of whom Joshua was only a foreshadow. (Jesus is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew name Joshua.) Christ did for us what the law could never do (Rom. 8:3). Through Him, we enter into the spiritual rest of conscience, and eternal rest in heaven.
Moses was greater than any other prophet of the Old Testament. But our Lord Jesus went far beyond him! Moses was faithful as a servant, but Christ is the Son! It is true that we see a strong resemblance between the redeemer of the children of Israel and the Redeemer of mankind. Moses was sent by God to deliver the Israelites from cruel bondage. He not only became their deliverer, but also their lawgiver; and not only their lawgiver, but also their judge; and finally, he led them to the very border of the land of promise. Similarly, our blessed Savior came to rescue us out of the slavery of the devil, and to restore us to liberty and happiness. He came to confirm every moral precept of the first lawgiver, and to write them – not on tables of stone – but on the tables of our hearts. He came to be our Judge also; for He has appointed a day when He will judge all the secrets of men, and reward or punish accordingly.
The history of Moses leaves him buried in the plains of Moab, with his leadership brought to a close. But the history of Christ leaves Him sitting at the right hand of the Majesty on high; and we are assured that of the increase of His government and peace, there shall be no end! The Apostle to the Hebrews teaches us that this greatness of Christ above Moses is a good reason why we Christians should be obedient and faithful to the holy religion by which we profess to be Christ’s followers. May God, by His grace, make us all so!
Lord, we thank You for the ministry of Your servant Moses, for – in the language of the Apostle – he acted as our schoolmaster to bring us to Jesus! Help us to value his writings as more precious than gold, for they reveal so much of our dear Savior’s Person and work. Amen.
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