So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, as the LORD had said.
I. GOD WILL HAVE NO ONE, LIVING OR DEAD, TO STAND BETWEEN HIS CREATURES AND HIMSELF. "He dies apart, and is buried in secret, where his grave can be dishonored by no pilgrimage, and where no false veneration can rear altars to his memory."
II. GOD WISHES MEN TO SEE SOMETHING MORE LEFT OF HIS SERVANTS THAN THE OUTWARD SHRINE. They had the life and words of Moses, which his shrine might have obscured. It was expedient that even Jesus should go away, that his spiritual presence and the spiritual significance of his work might be fully realized (John 16:7).
III. GOD TAKES THE HONOR OF HIS SERVANTS INTO HIS OWN KEEPING.
IV. GOD WOULD TEACH MEN THAT HE HAS A RELATION TO HIS SERVANTS WHICH EXTENDS BEYOND DEATH. "Can the Maker put so disproportionate an estimate upon his own handiwork, as carefully to store up the casket and throw away the precious jewel which it held?"
V. GOD WOULD TEACH MEN THAT HIS REGARD IS NOT CONFINED TO ANY CHOSEN SOIL. "In a valley in the land of Moab." We have one more lesson from the New Testament -
VI. THAT THE SEEMING FAILURE IN A TRUE LIFE MAY AT LAST HAVE A COMPLETE COMPENSATION. Moses did at last, with Elias, tread the soil of Palestine, and there see "the King in his beauty" (Matthew 17:3). (Dr. John Ker.) - J.O.
So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died. -
Preacher's Monthly.I. THE GREATEST OF MEN ARE BUT INSTRUMENTS IN GOD'S HANDS, and He can afford to lay them aside when He chooses. Let this thought —
1. Dispel fears for future of Church of God.
2. Abate personal pride.
3. Calm fears for loved ones.
II. THE TIME AND MANNER OF EACH MAN'S REMOVAL FROM EARTH ARE FIXED BY GOD.
III. WHEN GOD REMOVES HIS SERVANTS FROM EARTH IT IS THAT HE MAY TAKE THEM TO HEAVEN.
IV. UNTIL GOD CALLS US AWAY, LET US BE DILIGENT IN DOING GOOD.
V. GOD FREQUENTLY GIVES INTIMATION TO MEN THAT HE IS ABOUT TO CALL THEM TO HIMSELF.
VI. GOD WILL REMOVE ALL DIFFICULTIES IN OUR HEAVENWARD JOURNEY.
II. III. IV. V. (R. A. Griffin.)
III. IV. V. (R. A. Griffin.)
IV. V. (R. A. Griffin.)
V. (R. A. Griffin.)
(R. A. Griffin.)
I. THE PERILS OF A CALL TO SERVICE.
1. There are perils in its graces. Godly men will transgress just where they seem most secure, will yield to the temptations against which they seem to be best armed. In a moment the old nature flashes up; the sin of a moment startles out of the self-complacency of many years.
2. There are perils belonging to the gifts of a high calling. Those are not to be envied who are most richly endowed, and can do most for men. They have to be constantly warned against pride and self-sufficiency; to be often chastened and humiliated for relying on their gifts instead of on the Giver.
3. There are perils incident to the fulfilment of a high calling.
II. GOD'S EARNESTNESS IN THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS WILL. Was Moses startled after he had spoken his rash words to the people, and smitten the rock in his anger? shocked to think that he had been so easily led into sin, and that his sin was great in that he had not sanctified God in the eyes of the children of Israel? If so, the words in which the Lord rebuked him must have fallen blessedly upon his ears. Our first foolish thought is the wish to bide our sin from God; our second wiser thought is to rejoice that He has seen and marked it, for He alone can put our sins away. Our first foolish impulse is to offer our excuses and plead that we be not chastised; our second wiser impulse is that of the spiritual man within us, which welcomes all the fatherly discipline by which we may be purged. Our first foolish thought is to blame the responsibilities of our position, and even to desire to be relieved of them; our second wiser persuasion is that responsibilities are the honours of heaven, and that it is cause of gratitude when God will make us worthy to fulfil them.
(A. Mackennal, D. D.)
I. IN THE DEATH OF MOSES WE HAVE WITNESS TO THE SEVERITY OF GOD. "God is love." That is His nature, but it is qualified by justice, righteousness, and faithfulness. "Behold," says Paul, "the goodness and severity of God." He is Father, and in all His ways most fatherly. But He is also King, and IS most kingly too. God is not to be trifled with. His laws cannot be disregarded with impunity. Sin ever is, and must be, punished. Bless His name, there is forgiveness with Him. Our sins may not shut us out of heaven. They may not prevent us from enjoying the life to be, with its unsullied glory. But they do hinder the enjoyment of the present. They haunt us like an ugly dream. The scars they have left are ever painful. You cannot sin with impunity. Sin is what clings to a man and curses him. It is not like a coat you can put on and take off at your pleasure. It is poison which, if it don't kill, will pain you for years. Or it will act in the same way in which it acted in relation to Moses. It prevented him from entering Canaan, and so there is many a sweet land, many a happy experience we might enter upon, but our sin — in imprudent act or speech — prevents.
II. IN THE DEATH OF MOSES THERE IS WITNESS TO GOD'S DESIRE THAT MEN SHOULD PUT THEIR TRUST, NOT IN MAN, BUT IN HIM. The book from which our text is taken ends as no other does, either in the Old Testament or in the New. It closes with a high eulogium upon Moses. We do not know whose hand wrote the eulogium; but we doubt not it expressed the universal feeling of Israel after his death. If he had been spared to bring them into the land, there might have been the temptation to enthrone the creature in place of the Creator, and to their great peril they might have placed in the man that trust which ought to be put in God and in Him alone. This they could not do without inflicting great self-injury. Let them do it, and they would be sure to reap vexation, disappointment, and misery. But by the removal of Moses just at the very time when they probably felt they could so ill spare him, they were taught the salutary lesson that their trust should not be put in man, but in God. It is only the confidence that clings to God which is, without fail, rewarded. The mind of God is set upon men finding this out for themselves, and as it is for their eternal interest so to do, by many a painful providence He works out His will.
III. IN THE DEATH OF MOSES THERE IS WITNESS TO THE KINDNESS OF GOD. The Lord declared that Moses should not enter the land, and He strictly kept His word. But He tempered His severity with kindness. He would not tread the land, but he would be permitted to see it. How very fatherly this was. Your child forfeits a certain privilege. You won't break your word and give it him. But in your fatherly relentings you substitute some other privilege for it. Thus in His kindness dealt the Lord with Moses. And if we project our minds into the future, his removal seems to be all of kindness. He was now an old man, and his life bad been hard, disappointing, and sad. Surely it was kind to call him home, to rest and to blessedness beyond his utmost hopes, and to joys unspeakable and full of glory. Death was to him not the call to destruction, but to a higher and better life. As his Lord the Most High declared, he must die; as his Father, He "gathered" him unto his people. There was another thing in connection with his death that expressed the kindness, or the kindliness, of the Lord. We know we must die, and, knowing this, we have the wish to die among our own; to be tended in our last moments by our dearest ones on earth; and when all is over to be laid beside our kindred.
"As if the quiet bones were blest
Among familiar names to rest."
And whilst this is true, it is also as true we have a wish that, should any of out household be "sick unto death," they should die with us. If you should hear of your absent child being dangerously ill, your first thought would be to get him home, and if too ill to be removed, you would then arrange to go to him and nurse him, wherever he might be, until death relieved you of your sad but loved charge. I heard a daughter say, not long since, speaking of her mother's long and fatal illness, "I am so thankful I was able to nurse her, and do everything for her with my own hands all the way through to the end." And when she spoke the words it was quite evident the facts she stated gave her the deepest satisfaction and joy. So Moses was well eared for in his death, for God, as a comforting mother, took him into His own care, and laid him down to rest.
IV. IN THE DEATH OF MOSES WE HAVE WITNESS TO THE GLORY OF THE GRACE OF GOD. Shakespeare says of one of his characters: —
"Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it";
and with truth we might say the same of Moses. At the last he was at his best. The forty years in Midian were doubtless all needed to prepare him for his work on earth; the forty years of hard service and discipline in the wilderness were as surely necessary to meeten him for the higher life and service of heaven. But now, when they had come and gone, he was quite ready, through God's grace, and thus his death, so beautiful in its spirit of entire self-abnegation, was a witness to the glory of that wonder-working grace. This morning I went into my garden. The seeds sown a few weeks ago were showing themselves in new life and form above the ground, "This," said I, "is the sun's doing. How wonderful is the power of the sun! But I looked forward. There should come a day when the plants around me should be ripe and ready for the use of my family. The sun should thus do greater things — by augmented heat and power it should perfect the life it had quickened. So is it with the grace of God. It diminishes not, but increases as it shines upon the heart it has quickened until perfection is reached; and so the end is better than the beginning.
(Adam Scott.)Hebrews 3:5). Having been faithful to the death, he went to receive the crown of life. The memory of the just is blessed.
I. HOW THE WILL OF GOD IS CONCERNED IN OUR DEATH.
2. Death receives its peculiar commission from God. It cannot strike but by His order or permission. Life and death are in His hand.
3. The time is fixed by His will. All the care and skill of man cannot prolong life for a moment.
4. The place where is fixed by His will. Some die by sea, others on land; everyone in his place according to the will of God.
5. The means of death, natural, violent, or casual, are all under His direction. What appears chance or accident to us is all certain and determined with Him.
6. The manner and circumstances of our death are all determined by the will of God. Some are taken away suddenly, and by surprise, others slowly and by degrees; some with strong pain, others with great ease.
II. WHAT SORT OF OBEDIENCE WE OUGHT TO YIELD TO THE WILL OF GOD IN DYING.
1. There are many things not inconsistent with this obedience to the will of God.(1) Everyone's life is a charge committed by God to him, and he must account for his care in preserving it. Therefore he is bound by all lawful means to cherish and support it.(2) Conditional requests for sparing mercy are not inconsistent with obedience to the will of God (Luke 22:42; Psalm 39:13).(3) A due care in settling our worldly affairs before we die is consistent with our obedience to the will of God in taking us away. It was the command of God Himself to Hezekiah (Isaiah 38:1).(4) A zealous pursuit of religious concerns to the last well consists with our obedience to the will of God in dying.(5) The strugglings of nature against the bitterness of death may consist with our obedience in dying.
2. Having seen what is not inconsistent with the obedience here exemplified, let us next consider what it implies —(1) A quiet expecting and waiting for God's call. The circumstances of a person's life may be so tormenting that he would be glad to find the grave and seek refuge in death. Here God cuts out work for patience, and this being the last trial patience may here find its perfect work.(2) An humble bearing of God's fatherly displeasure, if there should be any tokens of it upon us in our death.(3) A final farewell to the world, and particularly to those things that render a stay in it most desirable.(4) A quitting this mortal flesh in hopes of a happy resurrection.(5) A willing surrender of our soul into His hands from whom it originally came.(6) An awful and serious preparation to give an account of ourselves unto God.(7) A thankful entertainment Of our dismission from the body as a real privilege.(8) A vigorous exercise of faith with respect to an unseen state, when God is leading us on to it (Hebrews 11:8).
III. WHY WE OUGHT TO YIELD THE OBEDIENCE THAT HAS BEEN EXPLAINED.
1. God is our supreme and absolute Lord, who hath an indisputable right to our obedience, and we hold our life by no other tenure but His will.
2. Consider we are His servants, and contradict our own profession if we die not according to His will.
3. Consider the example that our Lord hath given us in this. Should a believer in Christ be backward to follow Him, or seek another road to heaven than that which He hath taken?
4. Another reason why we should yield obedience to the will of God in dying is, that God's time is the fittest and best.
5. This is the finishing act of our obedience to God in this world; it is but holding out a little longer, and then our work goes with us, and our reward is before us (Revelation 14:13).
6. Dying with resignation to the good will of God will have the greatest influence on those we leave behind us.
7. This is an act of obedience from which the chiefest favourites of heaven are not exempted. Abraham is dead. Moses and the prophets are dead. We are not better than our fathers who are dead.APPLICATION —
1. If it be our duty to be obedient even unto death, how much more to submit to all those evils that precede it!
2. If dying according to the will of God is so necessary an act of obedience, it is an act of great goodness in God to spare us; to allow time to prepare those who are not ready.
3. Here we may see that they finish a good life with an honourable death who die in obedience to the will of God, and leave a grateful remembrance behind them. Let us then be exhorted —(1) To make death familiar to our minds by frequent forethought.(2) To look upon all the enjoyments of life with a holy indifference, and respect them no further than as mere conveniences appointed by God to help us on in our work and way to a better world.(3) To live upon the death of Christ as the only foundation of our hope.
(W. Beat.)I. THE SOVEREIGN OF THE WORLD CAN CARRY ON HIS PURPOSES IN IT WITHOUT THE HELP OF MAN. Moses was taken away from Israel just at the time when he seemed most necessary to them. How mysterious was this dispensation! And yet the occurrences of every day are involved in almost equal mystery. Do we ask why He acts thus? To teach us our nothingness and His greatness; to show the world that although He is pleased to employ human instruments, He does not need them; to let His creatures see that, even if the hosts of heaven should cease to obey His word, He could form other hands to do His work, or accomplish His purposes without any instrument at all.
II. SIN IS EXCEEDINGLY HATEFUL IN THE SIGHT OF GOD, AND HE WILL MARK IT WITH HIS DISPLEASURE EVEN IN HIS MOST BELOVED SERVANTS. Remember that one transgression excluded the faithful Moses from Canaan; what then will be your doom, laden as you are with so many sins, and so hardened in guilt?
III. THE AFFLICTED SERVANT OF GOD IS GENERALLY ENABLED TO SUBMIT WITH RESIGNATION TO THE CHASTISEMENTS OF HIS HEAVENLY FATHER. It is not indeed wrong to feel the smart of afflictions. Insensibility under them is not only unnatural, but sinful, for it subverts the purposes for which they were sent to us. Moses felt sorrow and pain when he was forbidden to enter Canaan; and a greater than Moses had His soul troubled at the thought of approaching suffering. Neither is it wrong to beseech the Almighty to withdraw from us the chastisements with which He has visited us. Moses besought the Lord that he might be allowed to go over Jordan; and what was the language of the suffering Jesus? (Matthew 26:39.) We see no insensibility here, no despising of the chastening of the Lord. We see, on the contrary, the liveliest, the deepest feeling. But then this feeling is attended with a spirit of entire submission.
IV. THE DEATH OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD, WITH ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES CONNECTED WITH IT, IS ORDERED BY THE LORD. Our Bibles tell us that He disposes of the meanest and smallest concerns of our life; how much more then of life itself!
V. THE PEOPLE OF GOD MAY CONFIDENTLY EXPECT FROM HIM SUPPORT AND COMFORT IN THE HOUR OF DEATH. In such an hour, flesh and heart must fail; the soul must need support; and they who fear the Lord shall find all the grace and help they need. He who was with Moses will be with them, as "the strength of their heart and their portion forever."
(C. Bradley, M. A.)
1. All his life Moses had been a solitary man, alone in the world, with no one to share his great thought and responsibilities. He had lived alone with God; it was fitting that he should die alone with God.
2. His had been an utterly humble, unselfish life; he had always sacrificed himself for the good of the people; he left his greatness to join his countrymen in their degrading servitude; he forgot himself to avenge their wrongs.
3. Of every other great leader of Israel we read that "he was buried with his fathers" — with loving, reverent hands laid in the sepulchre of his fathers — and that a tomb was raised over him which recalled the memory of his greatness through long generations. Moses, the greatest of them all — warrior, statesman, poet — was buried far away from his brethren. No loving human hands laid him in his last abode; the very place of it was unknown.
4. Moses is the noblest example of unselfish religion — of unselfish love to God and man — to be found in the Bible, nay, I believe, in the whole history of man. Such self-forgetfulness and unselfishness is never sad and disappointed. Such a soul does not seek happiness; it finds happiness. It is morbidness, it is self-introspection, which makes men melancholy and disappointed. God and love are heaven.
(E. J. Rose, M. A.)
I. HE WOULD BE UNWILLING TO DIE because —
1. He had nearly, but not quite, accomplished a great work. Many a patriot, many a philanthropist, many a leader of thought, has felt that life was of value to him only as it enabled him to carry to completion, or to place on a secure footing, the one work of his life.
2. He was still in the possession of health and vigour. The work he had in hand was of the noblest order. He seemed to be the only man capable of doing it. And he felt himself still adequate to its demands.
3. Think, too, of the prospect that lay stretched out before him, and judge what death must have seemed to him at such a moment. Never had he seen this earth so fair or so glorious. After all the toils and perils of the wilderness, is he not to grasp the prize, the hope of which had so much strengthened him to bear them?
4. Still more unwelcome would the summons be to quit the world thus early, because it was a sign of God's displeasure with him (Numbers 20:10-12; Deuteronomy 32:48-52). "The sting of death is sin." Moses knew that but for the displeasure of God he might have continued to live, and might have died long hence under happier auspices.
5. He had to die alone.
II. THINGS THAT WOULD GO FAR TO RECONCILE HIM TO DEATH.
1. He had the favour and presence of God. His fault was forgiven. Moreover, the presence of God was granted him.
2. His work, unfinished as it seemed, was really done. His successor was already named and consecrated.
3. He is leaving all sorrow, especially all sin, behind him. To die was, to him, gain.
4. He is about to enter a brighter world than that which he is leaving.
(B. P. Pratten, B. A.)I. A LONELY DEATH. All death to a great extent must necessarily be so. There is only one Friend who can go through the death valley, and if He is with us we may make it ring with the voice of triumph.
II. A PEACEFUL DEATH. Death always may be encountered without dread when heaven can be anticipated without fear.
III. PROBABLY A SUDDEN DEATH. To the worldly man there is something peculiarly shocking in sudden death; to the Christian it is often the reverse. How much is he spared! Korniloff, the Russian general, who fell at the capture of Sebastopol, said it was a pleasant thing to die when the conscience was quiet. But that can alone be through the blood of Jesus.
IV. A DEATH PRECEDED BY PISGAH GLANCES. This is often the case with the truly good man. Says Dr. Payson, when approaching the end of life: "The celestial city is full in view. Its glories beam upon me; its breezes fan me; its odours are wafted to me; its sounds strike upon my ears; and its spirit is breathed into my heart. Nothing separates me from it but the river of death, which now appears as an insignificant rill that may be crossed at a single step when God gives permission. The Sun of Righteousness is gradually drawing nearer, appearing larger and brighter as He approaches; and now He fills the whole hemisphere, pouring forth a flood of glory in which I seem to float like an insect in His beams; exulting, yet almost trembling whilst I gaze on this excessive brightness, and wonder with unutterable wonder why God should thus deign to shine on a sinful worm."
(G. Short, B. A.)I. ACCORDING TO THE WARNING OF THE LORD.
1. His death was long foreseen. Have not we also had many warnings?
2. It was exceedingly disappointing. Are we ready to say as to our most cherished hope, "Thy will be done"? Are we holding our life's dearest purpose with a loose hand? It will be our wisdom so to do.
3. Apparently it was a severe chastisement. God will be sanctified in them that come near to Him.
4. It seemed a great calamity. He had been tutored by a long experience, chastened by a marvellous discipline, and elevated by a sublime intercourse with God; and yet must he die.
5. It was a sentence not to be averted by prayer.
II. ACCORDING TO THE DIVINE APPOINTMENT.
1. All the details of the death of Moses had been ordered by the Lord.
2. According to an appointment which is very general amongst God's people. Most men have to sow that others may reap. Let us be content to do our part in laying the foundation.
3. For a deep dispensational reason. The law may bring us to the borders of the promise, but only Joshua or Jesus can bring us into grace and truth. We also shall in life and death answer some gracious purpose of the Lord. Are we not glad to have it so?
III. ACCORDING TO THE LOVING WISDOM OF THE LORD.
1. By so doing he preserved his identity with the people for whom he had cared. For their sakes he had forsaken a princedom in Egypt, and now for their sakes he loses a home in Palestine. are not we satisfied to take our lot with the holy men and women who already sleep in Jesus?
2. He was thus released from all further trial. Do you grieve that the battle is fought, and the victory is won forever? We also in our deaths shall find the end of toil and labour, and the rest will be glorious.
3. He was relieved from a fresh strain upon him, which would have been involved in the conquest of Canaan. He would have crossed the Jordan not to enjoy the country but to fight for it: was he not well out of so severe a struggle? You think of the clusters of Eshcol, but I am thinking of the sieges and the battles. Was it so very desirable to be there? Would Moses really have desired that dreadful fray
IV. The way in which he died abundantly displays THE GRACE OF GOD.
1. After Moses had been well assured that he must die, you never hear a complaint of it, nor even a prayer against it.
2. Most fitly the old man called forth all his energies to finish his work. Is not this a fine fruit of grace? Oh, that we may bear it!
3. He did all that remained to be done, and then went willingly to his end. As flowers before they shed their leaves pour out all their perfumes, so let us pour out our souls unto the Lord.
V. ACCORDING TO THE DIVINE FAVOUR. His death leaves nothing to regret; neither is any desirable thing lacking. Failing to pass over Jordan seems a mere pin's prick, in presence of the honours which surrounded his departing hours. He now saw that he had fulfilled his destiny, and was not as a pillar broken short.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. ENTIRE RESIGNATION TO THE WILL OF GOD. We are making the voyage of life like passengers in a ship Sleeping or waking, they are proceeding towards their destined port; and will soon reach it, whether they shall have crossed a calm or a stormy ocean. The zealous servant of his God and Saviour will be occupied in his post of duty, committing the period of his removal to the appointment of that providence which allows not a hair of his head to fall unnoticed to the ground.
II. THE FULL EXERCISE OF FAITH AND HOPE. Sinking nature, indeed, will tremble at the prospect of dissolution, although faith may feel the support of the everlasting arms: as he who stands upon a lofty tower may shudder at the depths below him, although the battlements effectually prevent his fall. But if that God and Saviour, whom by a deliberate act of faith he has chosen as his heritage, be with him, he will feel no evil, though he walk through the valley of the shadow of death. The higher the sun rises above the earth the more perfectly does it scatter the clouds and darkness which have usurped the sky. And the more firmly the hope of the Gospel is established within the soul, the more surely will it be submissive to that decree which comes to remove it into the awful realities of the invisible world — the more effectually will it triumph over the last assault, in that confidence of hope which the grace of faith can alone bestow.
III. A resignation thus arising from faith and hope ENABLED MOSES TO ASCEND MOUNT NEBO, AND TO DIE IN PEACE AND COMFORT. He who passes a life of faith, and usefulness, and holiness, like Hooker, will usually be permitted to adopt his language at the approach of death. "I have long been preparing to leave this world, and gathering comfort for the dreadful hour of making my account with God, which I now apprehend to be near, and though I have by His grace loved Him in my youth, and feared Him in my age, and laboured to have a conscience void of offence to Him and to all men, yet, if Thou, O Lord, be extreme to mark what I have done amiss, who can abide it? And therefore where I have failed, Lord show mercy unto me; for I plead not my righteousness, but the forgiveness of my unrighteousness, for His merits who died to purchase a pardon for penitent sinners. I am at peace with all men, and God is at peace with me; from which blessed assurance I feel an inward joy which this world can neither give nor take away."
IV. The dying moments of Moses were distinguished by EARNEST ZEAL FOR THE WELFARE OF ISRAEL AND THE GLORY OF GOD.
(R. P. Buddicom, M. A.)
I. HIS ABSOLUTE SOLITUDE IN DEATH. He dies in the very midst of robustness and vigour, and so consciously feels the ties of life all breaking; and, with the sense of separation from all that was seen and familiar, steps consciously into the unseen and the unknown.
II. THE REAL SOLITARINESS IN EVERY DEATH. In death men are, and ever must be, alone; because of —
1. The senses that are lost. Dim eye, dull car, numbed touch, inarticulate tongue, distance the dying from all around, however faithful and loving.
2. The faculties gained keenness of intuition. There is an elevation in the death of many a Christly one that as much separates them from the living, as does the dimming of the senses by which they were wont to commune with them.Lessons —
1. Learn in life by occasional solitude to be independent of men. Then, when in dying, human help is gone, there will be no sudden terrible surprise.
2. Seek in life companionship with God in solitude. Then, having often been alone with God before, loneliness with Him in death will be no terrifying experience, but the repetition and consummation of some of the best experiences of life.
(U. R. Thomas.)
1. They go to death. Not driven or dragged. Feel it to be a call from God to go and meet Him, and, being prepared, go forth willingly and with joy.
2. They go up to death. Not a leap in the dark. They spring up into life and light, holiness and heaven.
3. They go up alone to death. Have to leave nearest and dearest earthly friends behind.
I. WHAT WOULD THE CLOSING SCENE IN THE LIFE OF MOSES TEACH HIM?
1. That his life, though faulty, had not been a failure. God accepted it, and admitted him to the rest and recompense of the skies.
2. That though he had incurred the Divine displeasure, yet he had not forfeited the Divine favour. We may suffer disadvantage all through life, and loss at close of it by wrong-doing; but if we repent of the wrong, and are restored to God's favour, and retained in His service, He will still lead us on, and take us by the hand at last, and give us an abundant entrance into His everlasting joy.
3. That amid all his fears and anxieties he need not dread entering upon the solemn and nearing future.
II. WHAT DOES THE CLOSING SCENE IN THE LIFE OF MOSES TEACH US?
1. The incompleteness of human life.
2. The illusiveness of human life. We go in quest of rest and reward, and we know we shall secure them if we are firm and faithful; but how the goal we are seeking seems frequently to recede from us, and the prize we would secure seems to elude our grasp!
3. The inscrutableness of human life. The unexpected and apparently untimely departure of good and useful men fills us with wonder and dismay. We looked for continuation and completion of service; but lo, we have seen, instead, the deserted post and the vacant chair.
(F. W. Brown.)I. CLIMBING THE MOUNTAIN. Slowly he ascends the mountain, climbing alone, while the tear-dimmed eyes of Israel watch his ascent. Up! Up! Up! he goes. Every step takes him from those he loves. Every step carries him into a region of divinest mysteries. But what thoughts surge and rush in his mind as he upward toils? He is leaving Israel, the nation whose cradle he has tended, whose ill-humours and impetuosities he has borne. Only God knows what he has suffered for those people through these forty long years. If I ask any mother or father here about the children they have lost, I shall be told that the child for whom they lost most rest — the child for whom they sacrificed the most — was the one that got most about their heart strings. So Moses finds, it is awful to tear himself away at that Divine behest and leave them there, while he goes up yonder to die. He is leaving his life work. It is an awful thing to feel that your life work is done! How does Moses feel as he climbs those slopes? Someone else is stepping into his place that now is his no more. God has superannuated him! Of course, there are people who are not concerned about all this. They belong to the regiment of the lazies! and a tremendously strong regiment it is. They know nothing about these troubles. They know not the agony of leaving a Sunday school class, or of being compelled to abandon preaching. Such people cannot enter into the feelings of Moses at this time.
II. VIEWING THE LAND.
III. THE OPENED EYES. Instead of dusky Arabs, he sees a company of white-robed angels, and his ear begins to catch the music of their song. And old Jericho, which had seemed common place enough, now seems larger, brighter than before. Its walls are sparkling with jewels; its gates gleam pearly white; and the amethystine glory comes streaming over its turrets. The land seems full of light, and joy, and bliss. The angel band is swelling in numbers. The distant hills are radiant with eternal light. The glory heightens. God is opening his eyes, and the transient things of earth are giving way to the things which are eternal. There stands the "city whose Builder and Maker is God." His soul flutters as a caged bird that struggles to get flee. And God is releasing that noble soul. The physical senses are being supported by the spiritual. Insensibly God carries him over the border. He knows not the moment when he ceases to be mortal, and becomes like the angels of God. All the horror of the thing, which makes the heart sick, he misses. He enters, at God's bidding, a larger and more satisfying life, by a path that is glorious with the Divine presence. With Him conversing, he forgets that this is death.
IV. IN MEMORIAM. Moses has gone, but in every generation God keeps up the succession of His saints, who minister to Him here awhile in our sight, and then pass to the higher ministries of Jerusalem above.
1. Note, then, the vision to the dying leader of the unattained country, which had been his goal in all his work. How wistful and long would be the gaze! The sublime and rigid self-repression of his life would not desert him at the last; and we may well believe that regret at his own exclusion would be swallowed up in thankfulness that the prize was so near and so rich. "Now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation," would be the voice of his heart. God did not show him the land to tantalise him with the vision of what he had missed for himself, but to cheer him with the assurance of what he had won for his people. Moses had his portion when he saw the land, and was satisfied. That Pisgah sight has become the type of the large visions of the future which God often gives to solace His faithful servants at last. "There must be wisdom with great death," and when the dust of conflict is laid the prospect widens, and the cleared eye sees the goodly land to which the devious marches have been leading more hopefully and truly than while yet busied in looking to the dangers of the present, and picking firm ground for the next step. All epoch-making men have the fate of Moses. They spend their lives in leading rebellious and reluctant feet towards some fair ideal, and die when apparently on the verge of realising it. In our own little lives the same law holds good. "One soweth, and another reapeth." Rarely does any man complete his life's purpose.
2. Note the solitary death and hidden grave. The lawgiver, whose message was "The wages of sin are death," does himself, in the very manner of his own death, exemplify its two characteristics which smite most upon the heart, — its mystery and its solitude. And the same lessons are taught by that hidden grave. As, Thomas Fuller says somewhere, "God first buried him, and then buried his grave." Some say that the intention was to prevent idolatrous reverence by the Israelites; but there is no sign that, amid all their aberrations, they ever had any tendency that way. The graves of the patriarchs at Hebron and of the kings at Jerusalem were left undistinguished, and apparently little regarded. Some have thought that the mystery of his sepulchre points to his resurrection, or translation, and have found confirmation in the story of his appearance with Elijah at the transfiguration. But that is pure imagination. Was the hiding of the grave a purpose of God's, or simply a result of his being laid to rest outside the promised land, which had no further intention? He was not to enter it, not even in death. The bones of Joseph were carried up thither, but Moses was to lie where he died, amid foreigners, of course; then, years passed before Israel could again venture into Moab; and even if any had ever known the spot, the knowledge would not be transmitted. That lonely and forgotten grave among the savage cliffs was in keeping with the whole character and work of him who lay there. Contrast that grave with the sepulchre in the garden where Jesus lay, close by a city wall, guarded by foes, haunted by troops of weeping friends, visited by a great light of angel faces. The one was hidden and solitary, as teaching the loneliness of death; the other revealed light in the darkness, and companionship in the loneliness. The one faded from men's memory because it was nothing to any man; no impulses, nor hopes, nor gifts could come from it. The other forever draws hearts and memories, because in it was wrought out the victory in which all our hopes are rooted.
3. Note how soon the place of the leader is filled. A month finishes the mourning. The new generation could not be expected to feel to him as to men of their own time. To them his death would seem natural, and not difficult to bear. He had lingered long, like some harder peak which survives the weathering that crumbles softer rock around. But, none the less, the young life round him would feel that he belonged to the past. It is the fate of all who outlast their generation. New work called for new men. We cannot fancy the, lawgiver wielding the commander's sword, any more than Joshua grasping Moses rod. Smaller, rougher instruments were best for the fresh phase of service. A plain soldier, true and keen as his own sword, but incapable of the large revelations which the spirit of the legislator had been capacious enough to receive, was the man wanted now. So Moses goes home and takes his wages, and Joshua steps into his place. The smaller man completes the mighty torso which the greater man left half hewn. God has all sorts of tools in His great tool chest. Each is good for one bit of the work, and is put away when that is done, and all are wanted before it is finished. The greatest has his limitations and his period of service. There is but one name which endures forever. Moses dies on Pisgah, and Aaron on Her; but Christ lives forever, and is able to lead all generations, and finish God's work.
4. Note that, after all, the place of the great leader remains empty. We do not know when the last words of Deuteronomy were written; but the lower down they are brought, the more significant is their witness to the unapproachable superiority of Moses. After-ages looked back to him as the high-water mark of God's communications to men, and found none in all the long series of kings, priests, psalmists, or even prophets who had stood so close to God, or heard such messages from Him, or wrought such deeds by Him. Others had but developed his teachings or restored his law.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
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