And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho…
A man's death is in keeping with a man's life. You cannot have a tropical sunset in an arctic zone. It is vain to live the life of the voluptuous, and desire "the death of the righteous." Enoch's death corresponded with Enoch's life. The spirit of Elijah was characterized by heavenly fire: he ruled men with burning words of truth; it was, therefore, meet that he should depart as a king, "in a chariot of flame." Our Lord's whole life was a crucifixion - sublime self-sacrifice; it was fitting, then, that he should die upon a cross. Moses was transcendently great; in native grandeur he towered like a mountain above his brethren. To be in the society of God was his delight; hence there was a propriety that he should die alone, and upon the mount with God.
I. THE DEATH OF A GOOD MAN HAS MANY GRACIOUS MITIGATIONS. It is not un-mingled sorrow. The evil in it is reduced to an infinitesimal point. It is a passing cloud, while the sun in its strength shines on the other side, and often penetrates the thin vapor. It is not the valley of humiliation, but the mount of communion. Visions denied to us before are vouchsafed to us now. God is nearer to us than ever yet; and though earthly friends cannot accompany us along the mystic path, strong angels are at our side to bear us on their wings to the glory-land.
"The chamber where the good man meets his fate
Is privileged above the common walks of life;
Almost upon the very verge of heaven."
II. DEATH OFTEN REVEALS TO US WHAT WE MIGHT HAVE ATTAINED. In the hour of dissolution, Moses saw what he might have enjoyed if he had neglected no opportunity in the past. That faulty past is irrecoverable. We may obtain pardon the most ample and complete; but we cannot regain lost ground. Well for us if, on our deathbeds, we have only one fault to bemoan; and yet one fault may entail immeasurable loss. When we stand face to face with death, we shall see the value of life as we have never seen it yet; we shall lament our negligence's as we have never lamented them before. What illustrious characters we might have acquired! What conquests of good we might have won! What service for God we might have wrought! Alas! some well-meant purpose still remains immature!
III. DEATH TO A GOOD MAN IS NEEDFUL FOR FULL POSSESSION. The land which God had sworn to give to Abraham and his seed, Moses was permitted to see, and in part to possess. Yet, had he gone over Jordan and endured the fatigues of battle and dwelt in the land, his soul would not have been satisfied therewith. As his powers of soul matured and ripened, he would have desired a better inheritance than Canaan could yield. The old yearning would have come back again, "I beseech thee, show me thy glory." The soul yearns for knowledge which earth does not permit. We long to pass the barriers of darkness and tread the plains of everlasting light. Impatiently the spirit beats against the bars of this fleshly cage, and longs to find her proper wings. We must pass through the dark gateway of death ere the soul can enter upon the full "inheritance of the saints."
IV. THE DEATH OF A GOOD MAN IS IN PART THE PROCESS OF NATURAL LAW, IN PART THE PENALTY OF MORAL LAW. So far as man partakes of animal life, so far he is under the law, which rules animal natures. In every animal species we discern the stages of birth, growth, maturity, decay, death. But man is endowed with regal powers, which give him, in some measure, dominion over his animal nature. Yet, as a fact, men die before their physical powers have decayed. In earlier ages of human history, human life reached to centuries, while now barely to four score years. Moses was called to die, but "his eye was not dim, nor had his natural force abated." In his case we are authoritatively informed that his premature decease was due to guilt. The moral conduct of men does operate, then, in modifying the laws of nature. There is an unseen law - a law of God - which interlaces the laws and forces of the visible world, just as the system of nerves interlaces and animates the muscles of human flesh. The time and the mode of the believer's death are not the outcome of natural law; they are fixed by the wisdom and the kindness of our personal God.
V. THE LIFELESS BODIES OF THE SAINTS ARE THE ESPECIAL CARE OF GOD. "God buried him in a valley in the land of Moab." There is a secrecy and a mystery about Moses' burial, which it would be profanity to attempt to penetrate. On a later page of Scripture we read that, respecting this body of Moses, Michael had a serious dispute with the devil. We feel bound to connect this mysterious disposal of Moses' lifeless body with the appearance of the same glorified body on the Mount of Transfiguration. But the point which concerns us at present is this; God has manifested in various ways his tender regard for the mortal remains of his servants. The elementary particles may dissolve, but the personal organization shall survive. "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body." Yet, by the conserving power of Deity, it is a body still, though fitted more completely in the future as a vehicle for perception, intercourse, motion, and free activity. We can be well content to entrust every interest we have in life with him "who counts the very hairs of our head."
VI. THE DEATH OF A GOOD MAN IS AN OCCASION FOR EXTENSIVE SORROW. "The children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days." Although he had often severely censured them, exposed faithfully their faults, and denounced their vices, they knew they had lost a genuine friend. Never would they look upon their noble leader's face again. His fatherly interest in them could never be replaced. Not till he was gone did they learn what a fount of blessing he had been. Had this coming event been steadily kept before them, they would have treated him with more generous esteem, and would have rendered to his counsels a more loyal respect. Now they lash themselves with just remorse. A good man's departure leaves a great vacancy in the Church and in the social circle. Shall we be thus missed when death hath laid us low? Yet the days of mourning even for a good man must cease. There are sterner duties in life demanding unceasing care, and our sorrow for the departed ought to qualify us for future service. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan,