Book of Deuteronomy Chapter Thirty-Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
The Death Of Moses
Verses 1-3: "Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar." Moab was east of the Jordan River, as was Nebo, a mountain named for a false "god" of the Babylonians. Mount Pisgah, where Moses stood at the moment, is northeast of the shore of the Dead Sea, also seen in Deuteronomy 3:17, as the Lord revealed His promise to Moses for the people of Israel. Jericho was five miles west of the Jordan River and seven miles north of the Dead Sea. Gilead was a land east of the Jordan River, extending from the lower end of the Sea of Galilee to the northern end of the Dead Sea. The Lord was showing Moses all of this and more at the moment, including His intention for the various tribes, such as Dan, Napthali, Ephraim, Manasseh and Judah. and this was to be the last vision Moses would see in this life. Also seen in this gift from the Lord was the Negev ("dry") desert to the south, and Zoar. Most of this had been encountered before, seen in such places as Deuteronomy 3, but this was special. It was God's promise to the man that even though he would not enter the land, God would keep His promise to the nation. Moses the man was tired and though he had mixed feelings, he was ready to leave. God is never tired, His intentions are perfect and His promises are always fulfilled.
Verse 4: "Then the Lord said to him, 'This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.'" It appears that Moses went up to Mount Nebo alone, unaccompanied by Joshua, probably the writer who recorded this last experience of Moses on earth. "You shall not go over there," likely includes the interesting reality that Moses did not return to Joshua to report any of this. How did it become part of the Book of Deuteronomy? We do know that "all Scripture" (including Deuteronomy 34) "is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). And we look to Verse 9 of this chapter, finding that Joshua was "FILLED" with the same Spirit that filled Moses. That is, he was given God's Holy Spirit, who provided the vision that Moses saw, and also told Joshua what was shown to Moses. The man Joshua, inspired by that same Holy Spirit, wrote the words seen here in Verse 4 and the rest of this last chapter in Deuteronomy.
Verses 5-6: "So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day." As King Solomon would observe in the future from the moment of these verses, there is "a time to be born, and a time to die" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). We tend to desperately hang on to life, which is good in those times when God wants us to be here, and people also tend to want everything they can get out of life. Moses had a life beyond the dreams of most of us, but he made mistakes as we all do, such as the events in Numbers 20:8,11,12, when God told him to "Speak to the rock." Instead, in his anger, Moses "struck the rock twice with his rod." God intended a visual parable through the action of Moses, and Moses sent the wrong message, so God said, "Because you did not believe Me... therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land..." But God is full of mercy, forgiveness, and love, so in Matthew 17:1-4, we find both Moses and Elijah, in the company of Jesus Christ, within the land Moses previously could not enter. If doors seem closed to you, BELIEVE in the Lord, and the door will open, if not in this life, then certainly everything will be open in eternity. He really loves you and me. And He has infinite patience for those times when we miss the mark. Also as Verse 6 states, "no man knows his burial place," but God knows—he knows everything about Moses, about you and about me. There is the added footnote in Jude 9, that "Michael the archangel... disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses," reminding us that much more is happening in and around humanity than we see and understand.
Verse 7: "Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated." 120 is old by our present standards, but not unheard of—I read about a lady who recently died at 116. But she was deeply affected by the aging process, whereas Moses was not. God is utterly in charge of your body and mine. We age at a certain rate, carefully designed for each one, and then we leave this place at just the right time—God's time, if "time" even remotely describes the nature of things that happen. The Lord will give you precisely the ability to accomplish His purpose for your life. You need not feel threatened if you are called by Him to do something that seems beyond your ability. Everything IS beyond us, except He gives us the strength to do it. As we grow older, our conversations take on a medical tone, as we increasingly share and compare our physical and mental losses with one another. It's time to delight in whatever limitations we might have or think we have because our declining abilities show us our need of God.
Verse 8: "So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end." The official time of mourning for Moses lasted 30-days, but he is still missed by his people. We all come to experience the grief that comes from the loss of someone special. The death of a father, mother, spouse, child or other close relative can practically unhinge those who survive such losses. But God carefully orchestrates both the arrivals of "significant others" into our lives, and also their departure. Israel would learn that it is not Moses they needed, but God, who came to them and everybody else in the Person of Jesus Christ, who would die for our sins and bring us to God. Also note how important you and I can be to others. We may feel depressed, as Moses sometimes was, but life isn't just about us. We affect others by our time to be born, and we are not to choose our means and time of departure. God who loves us all, knows what to do and when to do it.
Verse 9: "Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses." Isn't it interesting that one ordinary person can, at the direction of the Lord, lay hands on someone and they receive the same Holy Spirit that is bestowed upon all who have faith? The "spirit of wisdom" named here, IS God's Holy Spirit. Notice throughout what is called the "Old Testament" that His Holy Spirit would fall upon one or two, or perhaps a few in a generation, for the benefit of many. But then something even more amazing was to happen—in places like Acts 2:4, "they were ALL filled with the Holy Spirit," those willing to have faith in the Lord, the Son of God. What was given to a few, like Moses and Joshua, is now open to all who believe—the many are gifted for the benefit of all.
Verses 10-12: "Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel." You can hear the author's wistful sadness in the words of these verses. We have the advantage of hindsight, to see that within the decades and centuries that followed, many prophets would be sent to that land to comfort and warn the people. And then, at just the right time in history, the Messiah, the Christ was sent from eternity into the hearts and lives of all who would have faith in Him. Lest we feel lonely today, Jesus shared this with His disciples and with us: "I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him or knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:16-18).
If you have faith in the Lord, has it occurred to you that you are utterly, eternally SAFE? Are you discovering that the Lord Himself is your constant companion? Have you found the joy of the Lord? Trust in Him who gives peace, safety, healing, acceptance, adoption, the Holy Spirit, and fellowship with God. By God's grace, operative through faith in the Lord, you are redeemed; SAFE in Him.
Lord, I am Yours. Thank You for forgiveness, restoration and the Gift of Your Holy Spirit. You are blessedly my Savior who has brought me into the promise. I praise Your Holy Name. In Jesus Name. Amen.