And I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, Your eyes have seen all that the LORD your God has done to these two kings…
In the full career of triumph, Moses has inward presentiment, and external announcement, that his end was near. Nature has a greater repugnance to death when we are enveloped in the bright sunshine of prosperity. The contrast is more marked. Decay and disease are natural forerunners of dissolution; but in Moses these were wanting. With him, the grave men of the trial was that his life-work was incomplete. The closer we approach to the final stroke of an undertaking, the deeper becomes our anxiety for a successful issue. "How am I straitened till it be accomplished!"
I. WE HAVE HERE SAGACIOUS PROVISION TO CONSUMMATE HIS WORK. In the judgment of a good man, the perpetuation of his work by others is vastly more important than the continuance of his own life. Individuals pass away, but the progress of the race continues. Up to this point in Israel's pilgrimage, Moses had been unequalled as a leader; no one among the tribes could have filled his place. But now, a military general, rather than a legislator, is needed, and Joshua has been gradually molded by a Divine hand for this work. We may safely trust human interests with God.
1. The experience of age conveys its lessons to youth. Joshua was scarcely a young man, as we reckon years; yet, compared with Moses, he was juvenile and inexperienced in governing men. Age is a relative quality. The lesson was directly to the point - straight at the bull's-eye of the target. "Fear not." Courage, just then, was the "one thing needful."
2. The command was founded on the most solid reasons, viz. the irresistible might of Jehovah, and the unchangeableness of his purposes. What he had done, he could yet do. What he had done was a revelation of what he designed to do. Observation of God's deeds and methods fosters valorous faith. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."
II. PRAYER THAT LIFE MAY YET BE PROLONGED, It savors of submissive meekness to the Divine will that Moses first provided for the nation's welfare, in view of the contingency of death, and then prays that the stroke may be delayed. The latter is secondary.
1. The prayer was earnest. "I besought the Lord." There is indication that it was oft repeated and long continued.
2. The prayer was inspired by noble motive. An unusual display of God's greatness had been made in the defeat of the two kings, and Moses longed to see further unfoldings of God's might. Still, his prayer was, "I pray thee show me thy glory!" God had only begun to act; Moses yearned to see the final consummation.
3. Yet this prayer was refused. Unerring wisdom perceived that it was best to refuse - best, perhaps, for Moses himself - and best for Israel It is better for a man to present an unsuccessful prayer, than not to pray at all. Some blessing is the fruit.
4. The denial was a vicarious chastisement. We have, in God's kingdom, vicarious blessing and vicarious suffering. For Joseph's sake, the house of Potiphar was blessed. For David's sake, Solomon finished his reign in peace. For Paul's sake, the crew of the doomed vessel escaped. On the other side, God was wroth with Moses for the Hebrews' sake. Present chastisement better far than final banishment.
5. Divine tenderness is displayed even in refusal. The refusal was not wholly from anger; there was a large admixture of kindness. Anger for the sin; kindness for the man. It is as if God had said, "It pains me sore to impose this chastisement; nevertheless, it must be done, and you will add to my pain by seeking an escape." God beseeches him to urge no further. Up to this point, prayer was fitting; beyond this, prayer would have been fresh guilt.
6. Yet compensation for the loss is granted. Prayer is never wholly unsuccessful. A gracious concession is made. Moses had asked to see the land; he shall see it, although his foot shall not tread it. The eye and the heart of the man of God shall be gladdened. Without doubt, Moses' natural eyesight had been preserved for this selfsame occasion, and special power of vision also was vouchsafed in that eventful hour, when Moses stood on Pisgah's peak. He shall see it without the toil of travel, without the peril of the conflict.
7. A crowning kindness is shown in confirming the succession to Joshua. Though the workman is to be removed, the work shall advance. It was a sweet solace to the mind of Moses that Joshua should have been accepted in his stead. His cherished purpose shall be accomplished, although by other hands. The spirit of Moses would survive in Joshua. "Being dead," Moses would still speak and act. The body may dissolve, but the moral courage and heroic valor are transmitted to another. Rest is the reward of toil, and the cradle of new exertion. "So we abode in the valley." The valley of Beth-peor was the preparation for Pisgah's peak. Humiliation before exaltation. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I commanded Joshua at that time, saying, Thine eyes have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto these two kings: so shall the LORD do unto all the kingdoms whither thou passest.