Moses spoke to Israel when he was 120 years of age (Deut 31:2). He was at the close of a most remarkable life that began in Exodus 2:1: “And there went a man of the house of Levi and took to wife a daughter of Levi.” A seemingly normal, everyday event occurred that day, a marriage, but with far reaching consequences into the future. In passing, don’t miss the lesson about choosing a partner in life. Be sure you marry a “Levite,” young brother or sister, “only in the Lord” (1Cor 7:39).
The circumstances were grim for this couple, as the decree went out that all male children of the Jews where to be thrown into the Nile River. What were God’s people to to do? “By faith Moses when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment” (Heb 11; 23). Faith was active in both parents, and not fear of Pharaoh’s cruel edict.
What takes place after this is well known. It is Stephen, standing before the Jewish council, who gives us the division of Moses’ 120 years into three periods of 40 years each (Acts 7:23-44). The first 40 were spent in the palace as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter where he was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. With access to all the pleasures of sin and the palace treasures, he turned his back on it all and sought out his own brethren. This ended in rejection by his own people, when he tried to unite two of his brethren who were at odds with each other.
Moses then fled from Pharaoh, who sought to slay him for the death of the Egyptian Moses had killed. Moses then came to Midian where he defended the daughters of Reuel against the shepherds while trying to draw water for their father’s sheep. Moses moved from the busy activity of the palace to the solitude of Midian where Reuel made him a shepherd and gave him one of his daughters for a wife.
Little is said about the second 40 years until Moses came to the burning bush. There, he entered into the presence of God, who sent him to deliver his people out of bondage. While he was eager at 40 to meet with his people, at 80 years old he was reluctant. Only after God gave miraculous confirmation did he agree to spend the final 40 years delivering God’s people. Following the supernatural plagues in Egypt, Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness, and subsequent events there reveal him to be one of the greatest leaders the world has ever seen. At times the people desired to return to Egypt; they forgot the hard bondage they had once suffered.
He then led Israel to Sinai where the law was given and where the tabernacle was constructed. When they reached the border of Canaan, the 10 spies brought back an evil report of what lay ahead, and again, they wanted to go back. What follows is the 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and the people being strewn along the desert because of their unbelief.
Again the people contended with Moses because there was no water. God had instructed him to take the rod and speak to the rock. But, in anger, Moses struck the rock and the water gushed forth. He failed to glorify God before the people by his words and action, and as a result, he was denied entrance into the Promised Land he so desired to see.
Moses then spoke to Joshua and the Levites in Deuteronomy 31:7-13. His words were to Joshua, to whom he was about to hand over the torch of leadership. He said, “Be strong and of good courage!” The Lord was going before him and would be with him and the Lord would not fail him nor forsake him. An unknown path lay before Joshua, but Moses encouraged the younger man. May we, as senior saints, imitate this man of God and give words to encourage and embolden a future generation of leadership.
To the Levites and the priests he gave the law as he had written it down. Their responsibility was to gather all the people and read the law to them, that they might fear the Lord and obey all the word of the law. This is a key lesson for our spiritual progress and blessing today. There is no substitute for reading, studying and practicing the Word of God daily. It will guide, strengthen, and preserve us. His blessing upon each of the 12 tribes is set forth in Deuteronomy 33, where each one is mentioned with more details given to some than others, but with encouraging words for all.
It was then time to say farewell, as the Lord had indicated to him that he would not enter the land. Instead, he ascended Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah, and from this point the Lord showed him all the land. Moses went up to meet the Lord at the end of his life, just as he had through all the years in the wilderness. Moses, the servant of the Lord, died and was buried there by the Lord in an unknown tomb. As his early days were unique, so were his closing days. The divine eulogy is given in Deuteronomy 34:7: “When he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” God then adds, “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel” (34:10-12). How brief, how beautiful are these words of this senior servant of the Lord.
The Burial of Moses
By Nebo’s lonely mountain,
On this side Jordan’s wave,
In a vale in the land of Moab,
There lies a lonely grave;
But no man built that sepulchre,
And no man saw it e’er;
For the angels of God upturned the sod,
And laid the dead man there.
That was the grandest funeral
That ever passed on earth;
Yet no man heard the trampling,
Or saw the train go forth:
Noiselessly as the daylight
Comes when the night is done,
And the crimson streak on ocean’s cheek
Grows into the great sun.
This was the bravest warrior
That ever buckled sword;
This the most gifted poet
That ever breathed a word;
And never earth’s philosopher
Traced with his golden pen,
On the deathless page, truths half so sage
As he wrote down for men.
O lonely tomb in Moab’s land!
O dark Beth-peor’s hill!
Speak to these curious hearts of ours,
And teach them to be still:
God hath his mysteries of grace,
Ways that we cannot tell,
He hides them deep, like the secret sleep
Of him he loved so well.