Monday, August 3, 2015

Deuteronomy 34: The End Of Moses?

Moses occupies a central place in the pantheon of biblical heroes, and is indisputably one of the main characters within Judaism.  His scriptural epitaph reads, "Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.  He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel" (vs. 10-12).  Moses certainly left an impression, along with awfully big sandals for Joshua to fill.

Yet there remain a couple of intriguing notes to mention about Moses here at his end.  He dies in Moab, having never set foot in the Promised Land himself.  Allowed to spy it out from the heights of Mount Nebo (vs. 1-4), Moses was barred from entering Canaan because of his sin at Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin (Deuteronomy 32:51).

Many people feel bad for Moses for this slight.  "You mean he served God his whole life, went before Pharaoh, led His people out, journeyed for 40 years in the wilderness - and because of a single moment of indiscretion, he lost the opportunity to receive the inheritance for himself?"  The seeming injustice of the way Moses was treated is a common concern.

To this, one can only advise that we must never underestimate the ugliness of even a single thoughtless sin.  It may have been strict "zero tolerance policy", but God was within His right to enforce His rules.  The more important and visible the leader, the more essential that he or she be held to a standard of righteousness. Ultimately, God's plan for Moses came to an end at this point in Israel's story; it is Joshua who God had in mind to lead the people in.

Moses apparently died on the mountain itself (Deuteronomy 32:50), and then was buried in a valley in Moab (vs. 6).  The location was kept secret, and no one knew or recorded where Moses' gravesite is.  Perhaps this was to keep his final resting place from becoming a shrine or even an object of worship?

Yet this isn't the final time we read of Moses in scripture.  Being such an important figure, he is referred to throughout both Testaments.  And he even makes a personal return during the life of Jesus!  Along with the prophet Elijah, Moses appears upon the Mount of Transfiguration in the Gospels, helping to prepare Jesus for the journey to the cross.  Thus it is that perhaps Moses made it to the Promised Land after all!

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