The Lord shewed him all the land.
I. THE UNREALISED HOPE OF HUMAN LIFE. Every life is a pilgrimage seeking its goal in some Canaan of rest. We picture it, struggle for it, and sometimes seem on the verge of realising it. We "see it with our eyes"; but, in the mysterious providence of life, are "forbidden to go over." Our purposes are broken off, we are disappointed, and resent if faith prevent not. Learn —
1. Success is not the chief nobility of life.
2. The chief blessedness of life is capability of service.
3. It is a blessed thing to die when the work has been so far done that it justifies the worker, demonstrates his character, vindicates his nobleness; so that he is not ashamed to leave it for completion; so that his friends are proud of its unfinished fragments.
4. The formal denial of our hopes may be the means of perfecting our character.
5. If in our service we have sinned against right methods and tempers of service, sinned against Him whom we serve, it is well that His disapproval of our sin should be manifested.
6. The prohibition comes with manifest mitigations.(1) What greater grace wrought in a man than acquiescence in such a mandate?(2) Moses is permitted to prepare for departure.(3) He is permitted to see his successor.
7. God honours His faithful servant by Himself preparing his sepulchre.
8. God fulfilled His promises and the hopes of His servant in a deeper and higher way than he anticipated.
II. THE VISIONS WHICH MAY INSPIRE HUMAN LIFE, its unrealised hopes notwithstanding. To men who live greatly, God gives visions through this very idealism of life, which are glorious inspirations and strength; visions of a great faith and a bright hope; of rest through the toil, of triumph while they fight, of heavenly perfection and blessedness. Many glorious visions had been given to Moses. Who knows, but to his lofty soul Canaan would have been a disenchantment. Many of our realised hopes are. In the better country, no shortcoming, no disappointment. Canaan may suffice for a suggestive prophecy; only God's heaven can be a satisfactory fulfilment. A great thing for faith to climb on heights to survey the heritage of God. And the nearer Jordan, the more glorious the prospect. The goodly land is revealed. All earthly lights pale before the great glory, all things here seem little and unimportant in that great blessedness.
(H. Allon, D. D.)
I. LIFE ENDING IN THE MIDST OF LABOUR. The farmer leaves his field half ploughed; the artist dies with unformed figures on the canvas; the tradesman is cut down in the midst of his merchandise; the statesman is arrested with great political measures on his hand; and ministers depart with many schemes of instructive thought and plans of spiritual usefulness undeveloped.
1. There should be cautiousness as to the work pursued. A sad thing to die in the midst of unholy labour.
2. Earnestness in the prosecution of our calling. Time short.
3. Attention to the moral influence of our labour, both on ourselves and others. We should make our daily labour a means of grace; every secular act should express and strengthen those moral principles over which death has no power. All labour should have but one spirit — the spirit of goodness.
II. LIFE ENDING IN THE MIDST OF EARTHLY PROSPECTS. If men die amidst prospects of good they never realise, then —
1. Human aspirations after the earthly should be moderated.
2. Human aspirations after the spiritual should be supreme.
III. LIFE ENDING IN THE MIDST OF PHYSICAL STRENGTH.
1. Death at any time is painful — painful when the physical machinery has worn itself out; when the senses are deadened, the limbs palsied, and the current of life flows coldly and tardily in the veins. But far more so, when it comes in the midst of manly vigour and a strong zest for a prolonged existence.
2. Does not this view of life — ending in the midst of important labour, bright earthly prospects, and manly strength — predict a higher state of being for humanity beyond the grave?
(H. P. Bowen.)
I. PISGAH'S TOP MAKES A BEAUTIFUL ILLUSTRATION OF SPIRITUAL LIFE. What was Pisgah? It was an eminence in the wilderness from which might be seen the full extent of the salvation of God. When God brought His people out of Egypt, He did so in order to bring them into Canaan; and I believe that Canaan is intended to represent the life of the believer on earth, with all its privileges and all its joys and all its combats too. It is for the child of God to get a full view of the good land into which God brings him, a bird's-eye view of the whole of God's grand salvation. But how is this to be done? This is a most important question. I believe that there are two absolute essentials, and the first is this: if you would see the whole of the land you must get up on to the heights of Scripture. If your Bible is a neglected book you cannot see the whole length and breadth of the land. It is God's Pisgah, and you must get up to the top. One half hour with God and His Book, and the power of the Holy Ghost will give you a grander view of God's salvation than all the experience that you can hear. And the second absolute necessity is solitude with God. Moses did not get the vision when he was in a mob. He got it when he was alone. It is not enough for us to have a critical knowledge of Scripture. "Spiritual wisdom "is needed. I would sooner accept the interpretation of some pauper woman in the workhouse, if she is full of the Holy Ghost, than the interpretation of the ablest critic who has not the "spiritual" wisdom. We need revelation as well as elevation. It is not enough for us simply to be on Pisgah's top. God must do for us what He did for Moses. "And the Lord showed him.
II. Do you not also think that Pisgah may serve as A PROPHECY OF THE DYING HOUR? Moses was lost to the camp. I hear them say one to another, "He is going; he is going. He has got beyond our reach now." They cannot see him. He is high up there. Have you known what it is to stand by the side of a dying one who has got so far that he cannot speak to you? He has become unconscious of all surroundings. As far as you are concerned, he has gone. Yes, and perhaps Israel was saying, "Poor Moses! We pity him in having thus to die"; and whilst they were pitying him he was seeing visions of God. I dare not speak dogmatically, but I do say that there is a consensus of evidence that cannot be put on one side that the dying very often do see far more than the living. We often say of a departing one, "Oh, he is practically dead now, for he is unconscious." Yes, he may be unconscious to those standing round the bedside, but oh, how conscious of God. Oh, how conscious of a spiritual environment! I do not know whether Moses had a thought about the camp which he had left. I do not suppose that he had. He was looking at that which God showed him. The spiritual world is not a mere unsubstantial dream. No, it is real, and round about us all are the hosts of heaven. After all, Pisgah's top was only the starting point for the upward flight. It seems high up to us because we are dwelling down in the plain of Moab. But when Moses was on the top of Pisgah he was only just on the "departure" platform, not the "arrival." From Pisgah's top I view my home, then take my flight. The sight of Canaan did not long linger on his eyes. Lebanon melts away. The Dead Sea becomes a mist. The rolling fields of golden corn become indistinct. Canaan vanishes. Another vision comes; and the man of God is face to face with his Lord. O child of God, so shall it be with thee. If thou diest in the Lord's embrace, thy head on His breast, thou mayest see much in that dying hour. But thou shalt see more afterwards.
(A. G. Brown.)
I. Yes; we are on the frontier, on the threshold, at the very door of a land of promise, and we shall die before entering it. REASON is made for truth, and seeks it; but who is there that knows all he would know? Ignorance has reached this point: in its instinctive regrets it stands still, gazing mournfully upon mysteries which it cannot penetrate, upon depths of knowledge of which it has an. instinctive perception, but which it cannot fathom. Science has reached this point: all science ends in a final effort which it fails to accomplish, in a final secret which it is inefficient to discover, in a final word which it is unable to utter. Unbelief has reached this point. Remember the sceptical astronomer who endeavoured daily to explain the first movement of the planets without admitting that they had been set in motion by a Divine hand, and, who dismissed his pupils day after day, bidding them "come again tomorrow"! Faith, too, has reached this point. Faith which knows that it cannot be changed into sight, and that "no man hath seen God," that "none knoweth the Father but the Son," that "great is the mystery of godliness," that even the angels tremble as they look into it. Yes; reason and faith behold a promised, land stretching out before their eyes, but ever do they hear the stern and mighty voice saying, Thou shalt not go over thither.
II. AND WHAT OF HAPPINESS? Is it not true that we are always on its limits? The desire for happiness is natural; more than this, it is lawful, it is religious. Every individual entertains it, notwithstanding his experience of life. We see it sometimes near, oftener at a distance; but this world is so fashioned that we are unable to cross the border and enter it.
III. WITHOUT PEACE THERE CAN BE NO TRUE HAPPINESS. Who is there that has not dreamed of a life of peace, harmony, and love? But no; the machinery of life seizes upon us; competition lays a barrier across our path; we have rights which we must defend, for the sake of those we love, if not for our own; we must adopt as ours the maxim of Paul: "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men." In the very domain of religion, we are called to defend our faith, to stand out against the calumnies of intolerance; we would gladly pray and communicate with all, but we are repulsed; we long for an asylum of peace and rest, and the terrible voice is heard, "Thou shalt not enter into it!"
IV. THIS STATE OF THINGS INFLUENCES THE WHOLE OF OUR EXISTENCE, the progress of our soul, the entire labour of our life. Where is the man who brings all his enterprises to a successful issue, or realists all his plans? Where is the man who attains a perfect equilibrium in his desires, faculties, sentiments, and duties? Where is the man who, in a moral and Christian sense, realises his ideal? How many unfinished tasks! The world is full of them. Death comes and prevents their completion. When we examine ourselves, how far we are from sanctification! Alas! the perfect fulfilment of the plans of life, and of the progress of the soul, is a promised land, concerning which each of us is told, "Thou shalt not go over thither!" Who is He that, of all the human race, alone has entered His promised land? Who? Jesus. In Jesus Christ we are enabled to march towards the goal, to increase in knowledge and faith, in happiness and peace, to achieve greater works, and to progress on our way until the last stage of the journey be reached — eternity.
I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.
(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
(E. Bersier, D. D.)
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.
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.
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.)
He buried him, but no man knoweth of his sepulchre.I. GOD WILL HAVE NO ONE, LIVING OR DEAD, TO STAND BETWEEN HIS CREATURES AND HIMSELF.
II. GOD WISHES MEN TO SEE SOMETHING MORE LEFT OF HIS SERVANTS THAN THE OUTWARD SHRINE.
III. GOD TAKES THE HONOUR OF HIS SERVANTS INTO HIS OWN KEEPING.
IV. GOD WOULD TEACH MEN THAT HE HAS A RELATION TO HIS SERVANTS WHICH EXTENDS BEYOND THEIR DEATH.
V. GOD WOULD TEACH MEN FROM THE VERY FIRST THAT HIS REGARD IS NOT CONFINED TO ANY CHOSEN SOIL.
VI. THE SEEMING FAILURE IN A TRUE LIFE MAY HAVE AT LAST A COMPLETE COMPENSATION.
(John Ker, D. D.)
(Bp. Joseph Hall.)
(Alexander R. Thompson, D. D.)
So the days of weeping and mourning for Moses wore ended
(D. Wright, M. A.)
Joshua...was full of the spirit of wisdom
1. Joshua is praised as a man admirably well qualified for the work to which he was called.(1) God fitted him for it. Herein he was a type of Christ, in whom are hid the treasures of wisdom.(2) Moses by the Divine appointment had ordained him to it; he had laid his hands upon him, so substituting him to be his successor, and praying to God to qualify him for the service to which He had called him. And this comes in as a reason why God gave him a more than ordinary spirit of wisdom, because his designation to the government was God's own act; and those whom God employs, He will in some measure make fit for the employment. When the bodily presence of Christ withdrew from His Church, He prayed the Father to send another Comforter; and obtained what He prayed for.(3) The people cheerfully owned him, and submitted to him. An interest in the affections of the people is a great advantage, and a great encouragement to those that are called to public trusts of what kind soever. It was also a great mercy to the people, that when Moses was dead they were not as sheep having no shepherd. Moses is praised (vers. 10, 11, 12), and with good reason.(1) He was indeed a very great man upon two accounts among others —(a) His intimacy with the God of nature; God knew him face to face, and so he knew God (Numbers 12:8). He saw more of the glory of God than any (at least) of the Old Testament saints ever did; he had more free and frequent access to God; and was spoken to, not in dreams and visions and slumberings on the bed, but when he was awake, and standing before the cherubims.(b) His interest and power in the kingdom of nature. He was greater than any other of the prophets of the Old Testament; though they were men of great interest in heaven, and great influence upon earth, yet they were none of them to be compared with this great man; none of them either evidenced or executed a commission from heaven so as Moses did.
( Matthew Henry, D. D..).