Reaching into the archives this morning and dusting off some thoughts from 2009. Found chewing again on the tension found in Moses’ death helpful as we continue to deal with the reality of sojourning without her.
Wrapped up Deuteronomy this morning. And I’m not quite sure all that should be concluded by the death of Moses. Moses, the prophet of God, unlike any prophet before or after him, save for Christ Himself. Moses, the man whom “the Lord knew face to face” (Deut. 34:10). Moses, the only man (at least that I can think of) who was buried by God Himself (34:6). Moses, the man who came up short of the promise but received the prize. So what’s the application?
Moses is still in the prime of life . . . well, mostly. Yeah, he’s 120 years old (imagine the candles on that cake) but, the Scriptures say, “His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated” (34:7). It’s not just that he still had 20/20 vision, the Hebrew word apparently has reference to mental qualities, as well. In other words, at 120, Moses was still as sharp as a tack. He still had it all together. He could have led quite ably for a number of more years. And it’s not just that his mind was in tact, he was still as strong as ever. Literally the translation is, “nor had his moisture fled.” This wasn’t some hunched over, wrinkled up old dude. His vitality was also still in tact. Maybe not quite Charleton Heston like, but could have been. The point is, Moses did not die of “natural causes.”
No, Moses died there . . . on Mount Nebo . . . in the land of Moab . . . on the edge of the Promised Land . . . because it was “according to the word of the Lord.” (34:5) Years earlier God had informed Moses that while Moses would lead the people to the edge of the promised land, he himself would not enter because of disobedience. Dying on Mount Nebo in “his prime” was the consequence of a transgression. I understand it, but I’m not sure I fully get it.
And while there’s a certain sense of sadness in Moses coming up short of the promise land, I can’t help but think that if it comes down to the Promised Land or Paradise, Moses ended up with the better end of the deal. The last thing Moses sees on earth is the land that he has dedicated his life to bringing God’s people to. And the last “person” Moses encounters on earth is the glorious God of heaven and earth. He then closes his eyes on Mount Nebo and immediately opens them in heaven itself. He leaves the desert, he arrives in glory. He says goodbye to the people who have been his burden for 80 years, and says hello to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and a host of others. So while you kind of feel sorry for Moses not being able to enter the promise land, you’re left not feeling THAT sorry.
To say that I’m confused by it all, probably isn’t accurate. To say that I don’t have it all figured out–all the whys and wherefores of God’s final dealings with Moses–that’s probably true.
The conflict, if I can call it that, is in the tension created by two desires. The desire for living out our earthly calling vs. the desire to experience the promised heavenly blessing.
And I’m kind of thinking that God has wired believers with both desires to drive the Christian experience. We embrace life. We seek to serve Him and to fulfill His purposes for us here on earth, to live life to the full for His glory. Yet we also realize that this “world is not my home.” We labor here with one eye on heaven. Not fixated on death itself, but on the glory to be revealed when we leave this body, knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. “So,” Paul writes to the Corinthians, “whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.” (2Cor. 5:8-9)
I guess the other thing about not completely understanding God’s final dealings with Moses is that I don’t have to. At the end of the day (and at the beginning of the day), what I do know is that God’s plans are perfect, that His ways are right. Paul reminded me of that this morning in his wrap up to his letter to the Romans,
Now to Him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ . . . to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
(Romans 16:25a, 27 ESV)
God is wisdom. He defines what wisdom is . . . His purposes are always right . . . His ways, though often past knowing, can always be trusted.
I don’t think Moses grimaced as God removed the breath of life. While he may have been sorry to not have possessed the land, I don’t think he was sad. I think that though he knew he had come up just short of the promise, he also knew he was about to inherit the prize. This one who had asked to see God’s glory and had encountered it in part as he hid in the cleft of the rock and beheld God’s back (Ex. 33:18-23), would now encounter God’s glory face to face. Or, perhaps, face to ground.
Father, I don’t fully understand all your final dealings with Moses here on earth . . . but I do know that You are God alone wise . . . and trust that Your ways are perfect . . . be glorified my God . . . amen!