Death is an appointment that all of us, whether young or old, must keep. The day will come when it is our turn to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (Ps. 23: 4).
Man is born to die. The psalmist records the brevity of our years on earth: “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Ps. 90: 10). Death is no respecter of persons. Because it is unseen and unknown, death is often feared by many.
Physical death is described in Scriptures as (1) a yielding up of the breath: “Thou hidest Thy face, they are troubled: Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust” (Ps. 104: 29); (2) a return to our original state of dust: “for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3: 19 cf. Eccl. 12: 7). The American Tract Society Dictionary defines death “as the soul’s laying off the body, its clothing, (II Cor. 5:3-4), or the tent in which it has dwelt (II Cor. 5: 1; II Pet. 1: 13-14). The death of the believer is a departure, a going home, a falling asleep in Jesus (Philp. 1: 23; Matt. 26: 24; Jn. 11: 11).”
But how does one prepare to face death? Let us look at an example in the Bible – a faithful patriarch who was directly told by God that his life would soon end: “And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, 49 Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: 50 And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: 51 Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. 52 Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel” (Deut. 32: 48-52 cf. Num. 27: 12-14).
Moses had been faithfully serving God as the deliverer and leader of His people in the wilderness for nearly forty years. However, at the waters of Meribah, Moses failed the Lord. Instead of heeding God’s instructions to speak to the rock, Moses, in a fit of angry frustration, chided the people and smote the rock twice with his rod (Num. 20: 10-11). God’s judgment came swiftly: “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them” (v. 12). Because of his unbelief and rebellion, Moses would not be allowed to set foot on the Promised Land (Num. 27: 14). The Lord would not overlook this public act of rebellion even in His beloved servant who had served Him so faithfully.
Now Moses was told by the Lord to go up to Mount Nebo for a view of the Promised Land before his death: “… and when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron they brother was gathered” (Num. 27: 13).
Moses had already buried his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron (Num. 20: 1, 28). Now, forbidden by God from entering the Promised Land, he was told that his time to die had come. How did Moses receive God’s grim announcement of his imminent death?
o With humble submission to God’s will
The Bible tells us that despite Moses’ ripe age of 120 years, “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (Deut. 34: 7). With still a sound body and mind (as evidenced in Moses’ farewell speeches in the closing chapters of Deuteronomy), it must have been hard for the patriarch to be told that he would soon die.
“Moses had reason to desire to live a while longer in the world. He was old, it is true, but he had not yet attained to the years of the life of his fathers; his father Amram lived to be 137; his grandfather Kohath 133; his great grandfather Levi 137 (Ex. 6: 16-20). And why must Moses, whose life was more serviceable than any of theirs, die at 120, especially since he felt not the decays of age, but was as fit for service as ever?” (Matthew Henry).
Though Moses might not fully understand God’s purpose in cutting short his life, he humbly accepted God’s will as he climbed to the top of Mount Pisgah to view the Promised Land from afar before his death (Deut. 3: 27). He who had obeyed and served God for the past forty years in the wilderness, would now perform his final act of obedience in his death. Moses faithfully gave his life to do God’s will even till the very end. Let us emulate the example of this devoted servant of God. Like Him, let us yield our lives to obey and serve God till the end of our days. (… to be concluded)