God had told Moses, His faithful servant, that he would soon die: “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. And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered. For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin” (Num 27: 12-14).
In our article last week, we learnt that Moses humbly submitted to 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 faithfully for the past forty years in the wilderness, would now perform his final act of obedience in his death. In what other ways did Moses respond to God’s grim announcement of his imminent death?
o With a tender concern for God’s people
When told of his impending death, what was Moses’ chief concern? Was it for himself or his family? We read of his immediate response in Numbers 27: 15-17: “And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying, Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.”
In his prayer, Moses manifested a tender concern for God’s people whom he had led these many years. These stiff-necked, rebellious Jews had given their leader a tough time with their constant murmurings and defiance in their wilderness wanderings. Yet Moses did not hold it against them. In fact, he often interceded for them before the Lord (Ex 32: 11-13; Num 14: 11-20). Now the Israelites were about to enter the Promised Land. How would God’s people survive without a “shepherd”? This question weighed heavily on Moses’ heart. In response to his prayer to “set a man over the congregation”, God graciously acceded to His servant’s request and appointed Joshua as Moses’ successor to lead His people into the land of Canaan (Num 27: 18-23).
Moses showed a tender concern for God’s flock even to the end of his life. May we learn from the patriarch’s example by loving and caring for those under our charge.
o With eyes of faith
Like his brother Aaron before him, Moses would soon “be gathered unto thy people”. Moses was present when Aaron died. He had seen how willingly and cheerfully his elder brother had first put off the priesthood, then the body: “Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there. And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount” (Num 20: 25-28).
Now Moses’ own time to die had come. “Though he lived long before Christ, Moses understood God’s promise in Numbers 27: 13 – ‘thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people’ to mean more than burial in a grave” (Evangelical Times – October 2001).
Upon his death, Moses would enter into the glorious presence of the Lord Whom He had faithfully loved and served. Indeed, his reward would be great in heaven because He had done well in the Lord’s service. Moses’ sin at the waters of Meribah might have barred him from enjoying the Promised Land, but it could not rob him of his eternal reward.
The New Testament tells us that Moses was a man of faith – he was one of the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11. His faith was manifested when he turned his back on “the pleasures of sin” which were only “for a season”; he chose instead to “suffer affliction with the people of God” (v 25). He also rejected “the treasures of Egypt” because he esteemed “the reproach of Christ greater riches” than what the heathen nation could offer him (v 26a). With eyes of faith, Moses “endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (v 27). The expectation of future eternal reward was what made God’s devoted servant forsake the world’s temporal pleasures and riches in exchange for that which was eternal – “for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward” (v 26b).
Despite the ominous pronouncement, Moses’ heart was comforted by thoughts of his future heavenly home. He was not afraid to die because he knew he was going to a far better place where he would find eternal rest in the Lord.
What about us? How would we respond if we were in Moses’ shoes? If we know the Lord, and have served Him well, we will have nothing to fear. Death is a terror to non-believers. But to us who are the redeemed, death will usher us into the glorious presence of our Living Saviour. May we prepare ourselves for that blessed day when we will be “absent from the body, and … present with the Lord” (II Cor 5: 8). Like Moses, let us love and serve the Lord faithfully till we see Him face to face.