March 19, 2012

The Death of Moses and the Life of Jesus

I finished reading the books of Moses this morning – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And, as you might guess, with the end of the books of Moses comes the end of the life of Moses. He died in Deuteronomy 34. And when I read that final chapter of his books, a I felt a strange sense of nostalgia come over me. I began to feel that I might just miss Moses a little bit. Strange indeed!

On the one hand, of course, I have never met Moses. He lived and died thousands of years ago. And yet, on the other hand, I feel like I have walked by his side these last three months. The events of Exodus-Deuteronomy – 137 Bible chapters, over 10% of the entire Bible – all took place within his lifetime. And, though those books are not biographical, Moses appears in nearly every scene – sometimes in great courage and leadership; other times in personal anger and foibles – but always there, walking with God like no one had done before (and only One has done since!).

There are several unique facts about Moses, mentioned in his burial chapter (Deuteronomy 34); several bits of his story that make me marvel at this man. The first is that, while Moses led the people of God for all those years, he was not allowed to enter the land of promise with them. He saw it from a distance, yes. He could almost smell its produce. But he was not allowed to cross the Jordan (vv.1-4). A sad end, in many ways. And yet the author of Hebrews tells us that Moses had an even greater Promised Land to look forward to – “the city … whose architect and builder is God.” Are you looking to that city, even if you should never see the mightiest blessings of God in this life? Am I?

Moses was also unique in that he lived for 120 years, yet when he died, “his eye was not dim” (v.7), “nor his vigor abated.” He was fresh and ready to serve the Lord even in his old age! Now again, Moses was unique in his health. Most of us will have great bodily struggle when we get old – a result of the fall. But shouldn’t our spirits, in old age, be as fervent as that of Moses?

Perhaps most unique to Moses are the fact that (v.6) God Himself buried him, and at a site that no one knows to this day; and that Joshua (or whoever finished Deuteronomy with the details of Moses’ death) could write that: “Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (v.10). Isn’t that an awesome statement? There was no one like Moses! No one walked with God like he did! That could still be said years after his death, when Deuteronomy was completed. Indeed, it could still be said when Malachi penned the final words of the Old Testament. Looking back at the end of all Old Testament history, readers of Deuteronomy could still say: “Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses”!

And yet, didn’t Moses himself say that, one day, there would arise a prophet “like” him (Deuteronomy 18.15)? He did! And so it was inevitable that the statement in Deuteronomy 34.10 would not always hold true! Indeed, a prophet has come – one who knows God face to face; one who was not only buried, like Moses, but who is risen! The great Prophet (capital ‘P’) has arisen; the one who outshines Moses like the sun outshines the moon!

Here is what Arthur Pink said about the two men:
The history of Moses was remarkable from beginning to end. The hand of providence preserved him as a babe, and the hand of God dug his grave at the finish. Between these termi he passed through the strangest and most contrastive vicissitudes which, surely, any mortal has ever experienced. The honours conferred upon him by God were much greater than any bestowed upon any other man, before or since. During the most memorable portion of their history, all of God’s dealings with Israel were transacted through him. His position of nearness to Jehovah was remarkable, awesome, unique. He was in his own person prophet, priest and king. Through him the whole of the Levitical economy was instituted. By him the Tabernacle was built. Thus we can well understand the high esteem in which the Jews held this favoured man of God. 
Yet great as Moses was, the Holy Spirit … calls upon us to consider One who so far excelled him as the heavens are above the earth. First, Christ was the immeasurable superior of Moses in His own person: Moses was a man of God, Christ was God Himself. Moses was the fallen descendant of Adam, conceived and shapen in iniquity; Christ was sinless, impeccable, holy. Again; Christ was the immeasurable superior of Moses in His Offices. Moses was a prophet, through whom God spake; Christ was Himself “Truth,” revealing perfectly the whole mind, will, and heart of God. Moses executed priestly functions (Exodus 24.6; 32.11); but Christ is the “great High Priest.” Moses was “king in Jeshurun” (Deuteronomy 33.5); Christ is “King of kings.” To mention only one other comparison, Christ was the immeasurable superior of Moses in His work. Moses delivered Israel from Egypt, Christ delivers His people from the everlasting burnings. Moses built an earthly tabernacle, Christ is now preparing a place for us on High. Moses led Israel across the wilderness but not into Canaan itself; Christ will actually bring many sons “unto glory.”*
So yes, as I close his books and move on into the book of Joshua, I am going to miss Moses. But I praise God that, as I read on, I will come to the One who walked with God even more profoundly than Moses did … and who is still alive so that He can walk with me, too.

*Arthur Pink. An Exposition of Hebrews. 21st Printing. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006. Pages 152-153.

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