Recorded in the very first book of the Bible is the sad account of man’s fall into sin. Our first parents yielded to Satan’s temptation and partook of the forbidden fruit: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Gen. 3: 6-7).
One of the tragic results of the Fall was the mortality of the human race. Besides labouring upon the earth which would now bring forth “thorns … and thistles” (Gen. 3: 18), every man would face physical death because of Adam’s sin: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3: 19).
Man’s mortality is a subject that is often highlighted in Scriptures. Moses expressed his thoughts on life’s brevity in Psalm 90: “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” (v 10).
Man is a frail, helpless creature whose earthly existence is but for a time. Like the green grass that flourishes in the morning and soon withers, a man’s physical body declines with age (vv 5-6). As the years pass us by, there will come a day when our time in this world will be no more. Soon enough, and often without warning, our earthly life will end in death – “for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (v 10c).
Because of the Fall, the whole human race comes under the sentence of death – “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9: 27a). Death is therefore an appointment that everyone born into this world has to keep.
Death is no respecter of persons. All men, rich or poor, young or old, must tread this unavoidable path. Death is something unseen, unknown and, to many, a fearsome prospect. How can we prepare ourselves for this dreaded appointment?
o Lessons from Moses
As we consider this sobering issue, let us look at the example of Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt towards the Promised Land. What lessons can we learn from this faithful servant of God in his response to God’s announcement of his impending death?
Although he was a hundred and twenty years old, Moses was still able-bodied and in good health – “his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated” (Deut. 34: 7b). But God had forewarned His faithful servant on a few occasions that he would soon be facing death: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die” (Deut. 31: 14a); “And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers” (Deut. 31: 16a); “And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel. 13 And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered” (Num. 27: 12-13 cf. Deut. 32: 49-50).
As he faced his own death, Moses’ chief concern was not for himself but for God’s people:
1. He prayed for God’s blessings upon the tribes of Israel (Deut. 33: 1-29).
“He pronounces a blessing upon each tribe, which is both a prayer for and a prophecy of their felicity. … He pronounces them all in general blessed upon the account of what God would be to them, and do for them if they were obedient” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible).
2. He appointed Joshua as his successor and leader of the people: “And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him; 19 And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight. … And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation: 23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses” (Num. 27: 18-19, 22-23).
3. He reminded them of God’s mercies that had preserved them – “is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?” (Deut. 32: 6b). He also warned them not to provoke the Lord “to jealousy with strange gods” lest He inflict them with great and grievous judgments (vv 22-26). (… to be continued)