Deuteronomy 33–34 Moses’ Last Words

 

Deuteronomy 32 ended with a restatement of God’s refusal to allow Moses to enter the Promised Land with the Israelites. Chapter 33 begins with Moses blessing the people and this act by him, among several other things, is what qualifies Moses to be called “a man of God,” a phrase is seen here in Scripture for the first time. When God denied Moses’ requests to accompany the people into the Promised Land, Moses could have said, “If, after forty years, this is the thanks I get; if, after I’ve given my life for these people and lead them through the wilderness to the best of my ability, I’m disqualified because of one mistake, I’m outta here.” But he didn’t. Rather than running away and licking his wounds, Moses blessed the people.

Someone said, “Greatness is found in what a man does within the boundaries placed around him.”  We often look at our circumstances and think, “I won’t do this unless I’m in charge,” or, “I’m not about to do that…” Not Moses. He shows us the way to being great by God’s standard—by doing what God called for him to do (despite tremendous disappointment) and blessing the people to whom he was called to serve.

The final blessing Moses bestowed on his people is saturated with grace and mercy. It’s quite a contrast to the “blessing” Jacob gave his sons before he died (Genesis 49), revealing the boy’s hidden character and exposing sin. On his deathbed Jacob only blesses Joseph. Moses; blessings to the individual tribes, in contrast, are consistently redeeming and promissory. They promised continued existence (v. 6), priestly prerogatives (v. 10), safety (v. 11), choice gifts (vv. 13–16), affluence (vv. 18–19), reward of land (vv. 20–21), possession (v. 23), prosperity and strength (vv. 24–25). Moses, the great leader, leaves the people encouraged.

In the concluding verses of the chapter Moses states, “The eternal God is your refuge. And underneath are the everlasting arms; He will thrust out the enemy before you.” In a few words, Moses outlines the Lord’s goodness to His people. The God of creation is their dwelling place and His arms are there to protect and guide them. He’s also their protector and Moses assures them that they have nothing to fear.

Chapter 34 opens with a dramatic panorama for Moses. He climbs Mount Nebo and sees the Promised Land, perhaps as far as the Mediterranean Sea. This was God’s immeasurable gift of grace to Moses. Though he could not set foot in the Promised Land, God allowed him to see it. Standing on the peak of Nebo on the collection of Mountains called Pisgah, Moses stood on what is the modern nation of Jordan, looking towards the Promised Land and hears the Lord say, “This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…and I will give it to your descendants.” What a moment that must have been for Moses. Old Testament Professor Earl S. Kalland wrote, “What drama! What pathos! What inward pain! What sense of accomplishment mixed with disappointment must have been in Moses’ mind as he looked over the land the Lord had promised to Israel!”[1]

After this emotional moment, Moses dies and is buried. The Bible says, “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there.” That was Moses’ epitaph. He was a true servant leader of his people and the Lord. Some Jewish traditions say that Moses died as God took away his soul with a kiss. However, it happened, the death of Moses was probably an affectionate moment between Him and the God he so faithfully served. Charles H. Spurgeon said, “As a mother takes her child and kisses it, and then lays it down to sleep in its own bed; so, did the Lord kiss the soul of Moses away to be with him forever, and then he [God] hid his body we know not where.”[2]

The people mourned for a time and then the torch is passed to a new leader and God’s work continues with Joshua.

Moses had a unique legacy. The Bible says, “since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” He was a man of great achievement. He was a man of character with a profound love for God and the people. He was a man of prayer and his enthusiasm, compassion, and sound judgment inspired the people of Israel to dream the impossible dream and see it come to pass.

Moses was also a man of revelation. He was the first person to proclaim the Word of God to people.

Lastly, Moses did what God called him to do. “All the signs and wonders with the Lord sent him to do.” Sometimes he questioned, but he acted on God’s instructions and His will for the people. He didn’t succumb to crowd-pleasing compromise, difficult circumstances, or the creeping idol worshipping cultures that surrounded him. Again, quoting Spurgeon, “Moses was peculiarly a man of God and God’s man; chosen of God, inspired of God, honoured [sic] of God, and faithful to God in all his house, he well deserved the name which is given him.”[3]

OBSERVATIONS

  1. The victorious Christian life means living up to our standing through faith in the power of God.
    • Watchman Nee, “The Christian life from start to finish is based upon this principle of utter dependence upon the Lord Jesus. There is no limit to the grace God is willing to bestow upon us. He will give us everything, but we can receive none of it except as we rest in Him.”[4]
  2. The believer is never homeless.  We have our home in Him, and home should be a place where we rest, where we can be ourselves, where love and happiness dominate. All this should mark our relationship with God.
    • Fr. Henry J. Charles, “The way Jesus put this is to tell us that we have to make our home in him. Make your home in me. Our home is not simply our physical address, it is all our familiar associations, it is where we trust, what we love, whom we love, where we are comfortable, where we let ourselves down, where we relax. That is what Jesus means. Who do you think I am—where is your one—where is your heart. Where your heart is, there is your treasure.”[5]
  3. Moses said that because lion-like Gad was willing to do what was necessary, he would get the best of the land. And the same is true for us.
    • Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “Your threat means nothing to us. If you throw us in the fire, the God we serve can rescue us from your roaring furnace and anything else you might cook up, O king. But even if he doesn’t, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, O king. We still wouldn’t serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:16–18 The Message)

 

[1]Earl S. Kalland, “Deuteronomy,” in Frank E. Gaebelein, ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 vols. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1976–1992), 229.

[2]Charles H. Spurgeon, The Complete Works of C.H. Spurgeon, Vol. 33, Sermons 1938 to 2000, (Delmarva Publications, Inc, 2013), e-book edition

[3]Charles H. Spurgeon, Treasury of David, (Grand Rapids, MI, Kregel Publications, 1968, 1976), 376

[4]Watchman Nee, The Finest of Wheat, Vol. 2, (New York, Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc., 1993), 526

[5]Fr. Henry J. Charles, Ongoing Conversation: From Good to Better, (Xlibris, LLC, 2014), 161

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Trust is the winsome wedding of faith and hope.

Brennan Manning

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