Deuteronomy 31:20 [W]hen they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods.
This is God’s problem. Because he is generous, he wants to bless his people with prosperity. But he knows that his people are so perverse, that when he makes them prosperous, they will turn away from him. Instead of being thankful, and serving him more carefully, they will feel secure enough to go their own way. Even today, few things are more spiritually dangerous than financial prosperity. [It] is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23), said Jesus.
This is why God will often leave some of our needs unmet. The more we need from God, the more likely we are to pray to him. The less we need from God, the more likely we are to ignore him. What seems the best for us is often the worst, and what seems the worst for us is often the best. Instead of complaining about what God has withheld, we ought to praise him for keeping us close to him. What could be worse than having everything we want and turning away from God?
Deuteronomy 33:27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
As Moses prepared to die, he pronounced a blessing on the nation, and reminded them of God’s everlasting arms. God is our heavenly father who carries us close to his heart.
Many years ago I moved to another state and left behind family and friends. I was single at the time, and for about a year, I had little social network. This made me feel like I was falling without a safety net. But as long as we believe in Jesus Christ, the furthest we can fall is into his loving embrace. [U]nderneath are the everlasting arms.
Deuteronomy 34:1 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho.
Some time earlier, God told Moses to get water from a rock by speaking to it. Moses disregarded God’s word, and struck the rock twice with his staff. Instead of giving glory to God, he took the credit for himself. As a consequence, God told Moses that he would not enter the Promised Land (Exodus 20:1-13). Here he is going up a mountain to die.
From this we understand that God does not show favoritism (Romans 2:11). Even his best servants are not exempt from the consequences of their sins. God could have overlooked Moses’ sin, but it was important for the people to see that God’s justice applies to everyone—even Moses.
Deuteronomy 34:4 Then the Lord said to him, This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, I will give it to your descendants. I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.
God showed Moses kindness by letting him see the Promised Land before he died. He could have died on the plain below, but God sent him to the mountaintop (Deuteronomy 32:48-50) where he could see it for himself. What a joy it must have been for Moses to see the Promised Land with his own eyes. In wrath, God also remembered mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).
Deuteronomy 34:5-6 And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is.
By burying Moses himself, God ensured that his grave would not become a shrine. Moses was so greatly used by God, that God’s people might have worshipped at his grave, rather than at the tabernacle. God graciously kept that from happening by burying Moses himself.
Notice also that God buries his workers, but continues his work. Moses was dead, but Joshua would lead God’s people into the Promised Land. Then God raised up judges, kings and prophets to lead his people. Then he sent his Son who commissioned the apostles (Matthew 28:18-20). Then Paul told Timothy to instruct reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2). This has been going on for thousands of years, and the kingdom of God continues to grow. God’s workers come and go, but God himself continues to work.
Deuteronomy 34:7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.
Moses did not die from natural causes, but because God shortened his life. Even at a hundred-twenty years old, he was still strong, and could have served God much longer. But this is not the end of Moses’ story. About fifteen centuries later, he appeared on the mountain of transfiguration, to talk with Jesus Christ about his approaching crucifixion (Matthew 17:1-13).
Imagine the honor this was for Moses. He died because of his sin, but spoke to the one who would die for his salvation. He died outside the Promised Land, but stood inside the Promised Land with Jesus. He led God’s people to an earthly Promised Land, but spoke to the one who would lead us to the Promised Land of heaven. Apart from Jesus Christ, Moses’ story did not end very well. But because of Jesus Christ, his story ends in glory.
Reflection and Review
Why does God leave some of our needs unmet?
Why should Moses’ death concern Christian leaders?
How did God show mercy to Moses, even though he would die?