Tonight, we will be finishing up our study of the book of Deuteronomy. Moses has reviewed the Law with the people of Israel, exhorted them to follow it, detailed the blessings of obedience, and warned them of the curses which will come upon them if they disobey it.
There are times I read about the end of Moses' life and feel pretty sad. After all, he lived a long, difficult life that seemed to end with disappointment.
His first 40 years were spent in Egypt, as an Israelite raised in the Pharaoh's palace (Acts 7:23). His next 40 years were spent tending sheep in the Midianite wilderness (Acts 7:30). His last 40 years were spent leading Israel through the wilderness. Each season in his life got progressively more difficult. To top it off, he would not cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. How disappointing!
Somehow, Moses had managed to live the opposite of the American Dream. We expect that life should go from wandering in the wilderness, to getting a job that's maybe difficult, to finally ending up in a palace somewhere. It is supposed to be about progressive accomplishments and fulfilled dreams. But Moses' life seemed to go backward.
Is this then a sad story, that Moses had such a lot in life? I don't believe he would say so. The writer of the book of Hebrews said,
Heb. 11:23-27 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king's edict. By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.
Moses lived his life by faith. And faith doesn't regret missed comforts on earth. Faith looks to the heavenly hope. Again, the writer of Hebrews says,
Heb. 11:13-16 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.
And so Moses would say to us even as Paul did,
Rom. 8:18 ...I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Although Moses isn't going into the Promised Land with the Israelites, God is. And Moses makes sure to point this out - "It's not me who's gotten you this far - it's the Lord. And even though I'm leaving you, He's not." A true man of God makes sure that the people he ministers to are hearing, "It's not me, it's the Lord. It's God who has sustained you and will maintain you."
As you recall from our study of chapter 15, the Year of Remission of debts occurred every seven years. This was when all loans were dropped, a year of financial forgiveness. Every Israelite started over with a clean slate.
Moses said that during this year, it was most important to be reminded of the whole counsel of the Word of God. Why is that? I believe it is because forgiveness without understanding leads to presumption and repetitive sin.
When Jesus was dining at one of the Pharisees' houses, a woman entered weeping, and began anointing Jesus' feet. Simon the Pharisee was mortified. He thought, "If this Jesus guy was a prophet, He would know how sinful this woman is." Jesus responded to his thoughts, and told a story about two men who owed drastically different amounts of money to a lender. Neither could pay, and both had their debts forgiven. Jesus posed the question,
Luke 7:42-43 "When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both. So which of them will love him more?" Simon answered and said, "I suppose the one whom he forgave more." And He said to him, "You have judged correctly."
He went on to explain how much more the woman loved Him than Simon did.
Luke 7:47 "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."
Many Christians take forgiveness for granted. They never come to a knowledge of how truly repulsive their sin is to God, and how much it really cost Him to pay the price of forgiveness. So, while some may say, "Look, I know I'm forgiven, so why should I have to study the Bible?" I say, "Because I'm forgiven, it is vitally important that I do study the Bible!"
Notice too that there was a specific time during that Year of Remission to read the Law: at the Feast of Booths. This feast looked back to the time when God tabernacled among the people in the wilderness. But it also points forward to the Millennial Reign of Christ, when He returns to earth, ruling and reigning from Jerusalem's Temple Mount. As it turns out, this command of Moses becomes a prophecy of that time, because one day, when the Lord tabernacles among us on earth, the eternal Word will be read to us again:
Is. 2:2-3 Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths." For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
The Lord gives Moses two final assignments: 1) Commission Joshua, and 2) write a song. I can just picture Moses here: "Lord, I understand why you want me to commission Joshua, for he is to be my replacement. But I'm not much of a songwriter. Why do you want me to write one?" "Because," the Lord responds, "I know the future, and after you're gone, this rebellious people is going to disregard every command of Mine that you've told them. But if you write a catchy tune that they will sing for years, they'll have no excuse. The song will be proof that they knew my commandments and disregarded them anyway."
There is something very powerful about the Word being put to melody that causes it to bore right into our minds and stay there. I have found that it is by far the most effective method of Scripture memorization for me, and was certainly going to be remembered by these Israelites.
God was not just limited to a song to be a witness against the Israelites' future rebellion. The written Word, the book of the Law, was witness. And so was the spoken Word.
The song which Moses wrote said that when Israel became a people who repaid the Father who bought them with perversity and crookedness, then God would be provoked to anger and spurn them.
Moses' frustration at this point is known intimately by every minister who has a God-inspired message to give to a complacent people. I can't tell you how many times I've wanted to weep and plead with people, saying, "Don't you understand? I'm not just talking to hear my own voice. These words are life if you apply them, and death if you don't!"
And yet, all the man of God can do is follow the command given by Paul:
2Tim. 4:2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
And so with great patience and instruction, I continually say, "This is not an idle word for you - indeed, it is your life. So take the warning to heart."
Moses is told by the Lord that he is going to get to see the land, but not enter it, because he broke faith with God in the wilderness of Tseen. You remember the story:
Num. 20:2-12 There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled themselves against Moses and Aaron. The people thus contended with Moses and spoke, saying, "If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why then have you brought the LORD'S assembly into this wilderness, for us and our beasts to die here? Why have you made us come up from Egypt, to bring us in to this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink." Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to them; and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take the rod; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it may yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for them out of the rock and let the congregation and their beasts drink." So Moses took the rod from before the LORD, just as He had commanded him; and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, "Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?" Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, "Because you have not believed Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them."
This was a grievous sin that prevented Moses from entering the Promised Land.
Moses spoke a blessing over the nation of Israel before he died. The entirety of chapter 33 is that blessing. In it, Moses reminded them that God loved them, and then spoke words of prophecy over each of the tribes. He concludes the blessing by saying,
Deut. 33:29 "Blessed are you, O Israel; Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD..."
Moses died on the mountain, but Israel didn't have a burial service - the Lord Himself buried Moses. Why? I believe it is because Israel was so prone to idolatry, that they would have turned Moses' body into a sacred object to be worshipped.
It is interesting that in the New Testament book of Jude, we find that the devil had a special interest in Moses' body:
Jude 1:9 ...Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!"
It would seem that the devil wanted to turn Moses' body into a sacred object of worship, to cause even devout believers to fall into idolatry.
Moses' epitaph is basically, "We've never had a guy like Moses since Moses."