And I sought the LORD at that time, saying,…
Here Moses teacheth us how to pray. He beginneth first and telleth God that He hath begun to show him favour; and well might Moses so say, for he was no sooner born but the Lord began to show him His greatness, in saving him when he was cast into the river, etc. If all that the Lord hath done for him till this time be considered he had great cause to say, "O Lord, Thou hast begun to show Thy servant Thy greatness." Herein Moses in some part showeth himself thankful for that he had received, trusting thereby to entreat God to continue His benefits and loving kindness towards him, which is a thing which pleaseth God. He is not like one who sitteth in his door and sooth one day by day come by him and salute him, and yet taketh no acquaintance, so that if he stand in need of him, either he knoweth not where he dwelleth; or else, because he is not acquainted with him, he is abashed to ask anything of him. Moses is not such a one, but he is acquainted with the Lord, who so often passed by him; and therefore lie now saith, "Thou hast begun," etc. Next, Moses challengeth all the idol gods, and telleth them, that amongst them all there is not one of them that can do like his God. So God, when He is opposed and set against His enemies, is then most glorious, and confoundeth them all (Psalm 89:6). Now, Moses proceedeth in his prayer, saying, "I pray Thee, let me go over," etc. Here Moses prayeth like one of us, who are always craving, but never hath respect to the will of God, to say, "Thy will be done." What is this mountain Lebanon? Surely Moses meaneth the place where the temple should be built, and God honoured; for after that Joshua had quietly possessed the land of Canaan, he only builded a tabernacle (Joshua 18:1) wherein to call upon the Lord. Now it followeth in the text, "But the Lord was angry with me," etc. So soon as Moses changed his prayer God turneth from him, and will not hear him; so soon we make God to forsake us, if we do not according to His will. Moses showeth the cause why God would not hear him; although he were a great man, and in high authority, yet he is not ashamed to confess his fault. So we see that where sin is, there prayer is not effectual; so that if we will hope to receive by prayer anything at God's hands, we must first remove and take away the cause of our hindrance, which is sin, before we can receive the thing we pray for. God, when Moses had prayed, did not grant his request, but was angry with him; but lest Moses should be quite discouraged, He straightways mitigated His anger, and biddeth him be content and speak no more unto Him of that matter. God doth not bid him that he should not pray any more unto Him, but that he should pray no more for that thing. First, God biddeth him to be content; as if He should hat e said, Although thou mayest not enter into the land, yet I will content thee otherways. Thus God would have us, in what estate soever we be, to be content with our calling, for it is His appointment. God is so merciful that, though we are not able to pray aright, yet He considereth our prayers, and turneth all to the best for our good; not granting our request many times, but a better thing than we do desire of Him. Who, then, will offend so merciful and loving a Father? Let us, seeing God is so merciful unto us, take heed that we abuse not His mercies, lest in so doing we provoke Him unto judgment. Now, God hath told Moses that he shall not go into the land, He beginneth to teach him how he shall do to see it, and biddeth him go up into the top of Pisgah, and cast his eyes eastward, and westward, and northward, and southward, and behold it, etc. As a bird stayed with a little string, or a strong man in swimming held back by a small twig, so a little sin stayeth this great captain, that he cannot come within the land of Canaan. First, God is angry with him, and envies him altogether, as though he were not worth so much as go up to the mount. Thus we may see how one of the least sins is able to turn from us all the goodness and all the favour which God beareth to us. After, God commands Moses to go up to the mount. Here, Moses obeyeth God's commandment; but if he had been like many a murmuring man he would have denied to go up to the mount, saying, What banquet is this to me, but a dainty dish set before one forbidden to eat? But Moses had rather die than anger the Lord again when He had bid him be content. This we may learn of Moses, to be content with our calling, whether we have little or much; for God contented Moses as well with the sight of Canaan as those who possessed it. So when God hath not ordained us to see great substance, as He hath some of our brethren, yet because we should not be discontent He will give us as much pleasure at the sight of them in others as though we ourselves enjoyed them. Many things might Moses have objected which might have hindered him from going up the mount; for surely it must needs be a grief to him, when he considered that great pain which he had taken in bringing them through the wilderness, and conducting them forty years together; and now, when he had no farther to go, but even over Jordan, to be taken away then; and another, which never took any pains, possess all his labours: this, I say, must be a great and intolerable thing to flesh and blood; for when one hath laid a foundation and another comes and builds upon it, surely he will think himself hardly dealt withal. Such is our nature; and yet, notwithstanding all this, Moses is content. He knoweth that God doth him no wrong, but is just and merciful also. He blesseth all alike, as Jacob's children were blessed (Genesis 49). Moses, so long as he was upon the plain ground, could not see the type of heaven; but when he was upon the mount he saw it before he came to heaven itself. So let us even now scale the mount as Moses did, that we may see and consider those joys; which thing shall serve to reclaim our hearts from earthly matters. As Peter went up the mount to see Christ's glory, and Moses went up the mount to see the land of promise, so let us ascend from these earthly things to the contemplation of heavenly. Now, Moses is in his prospect as David was in his tower. Here he must prepare himself to die, while he is looking upon the land which so long he hath been in coming to. Who would not have grieved at this, that, after so long as forty years' travel in hope to possess it, he should now in the end be content with a sight of it, and so vanish away! Yet Moses, for all this murmureth not, but, like Job, taketh it patiently. And as he was upon the mount where God vanished, so here he is upon the mount and vanisheth away himself; as it appeareth (Job 24:6). So good rulers are taken away in a time when death is least suspected. As Lot was taken away before the people of Sodom knew, as is showed (Genesis 19:10); so we see that when our time is come, and our glass run out, that neither our riches, nor our wits, nor our friends, nor anything that we have in this world, can carry us any further. No, no more than Moses could go over this Jordan.
Parallel VersesKJV: And I besought the LORD at that time, saying,