Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho…. 5So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day. Deuteronomy 34:1; 5-6
It happened on his 120th birthday. His final encounter with God this side of heaven took place on a lonely mountain just east of Jericho. Forty years of following God through the wilderness brought him to this place. He was close enough to the Promised Land to smell the breeze and see the land, but he would not enter. His own disobedience robbed him of that opportunity.
Moses had come so far and stood so close, but he could go no further. There is a great sadness in this story that is almost overwhelming. Yet, at the same time, there is a sense of awe at the relationship that existed between God and Moses. Moses is standing alone with God on top of yet another mountain. From Pisgah’s lofty height, he would view the land, and there he would die.
But there was more to Moses’ last day than this. Moses’ last day was a busy one. We see its beginning back in Deuteronomy 31:1-2
So Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. 2 And he said to them, “I am a hundred and twenty years old today; I am no longer able to come and go, and the Lord has said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’ Deuteronomy 31:1-2
Moses came to the end of his term of service before the Lord. However, we know that it was not the end of his ability, because in Deuteronomy 34:7 we read: “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.”
This was not the end of Moses’ relationship with the Lord. It was the end of Moses’ relationship with the Lord’s people. Can you imagine the panic that would rip through your heart if on your next birthday, God spoke to you and said, “Happy Birthday! Make the most of it. It will be your last!”
The confidence with which Moses went about his activities is a testimony to the relationship that he had with the Lord. There was no panic. There was no self-pity. Moses simply trusted God. What would you do if tomorrow was the last day of your life? What activities would mark that day for you?
Moses’ Last Day Was Marked by an Act of Worship
14 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, the time for you to die is near; call Joshua, and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, that I may commission him.” So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves at the tent of meeting. 15 The Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the pillar of cloud stood at the doorway of the tent. Deuteronomy 31:14-15
Moses spent part of the last day of his life at the Tent of Meeting. The last forty years of his life were characterized by fellowship with God, so was the last day of his life. On that last day, he and Joshua spent meaningful moments in God’s presence.
With the full knowledge that he was about to die, he took time to visit this gathering place of God’s people. The Bible tells us that Whoever sought the Lord went out to the tent of meeting. Exodus 33:7b Moses sought Him there that day.
What would you be doing if you knew that today was the last day of your life? Would you be seeking the Lord?
Moses didn’t spend that day selfishly. The last day of his life was a day of encouragement. He knew he had little time left to impact the lives of others. For that reason, he turned to Joshua. 7 Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the Lord has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance. 8 The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:7-8
If today was the last day of your life, who would you encourage? What person would you point toward the Lord?
Do you know what else Moses did on his last day? He wrote a song and held a choir practice. 19 “Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel…. 22 So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel.… 30 Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete. Deuteronomy 31:19; 22; 30
The song itself consumes the greater part of Deuteronomy thirty-two. In chapter thirty-three. he sang a song of blessing over God’s people.
Several years ago, I stopped at a little church in Gatlinburg while on vacation. We were only a few words into the pastor’s sermon when I knew he must be leaving. It was, in fact, his last Sunday. He lambasted those people unloading his bitterness on his last day.
Not Moses! It was his last day with the most obstinate group of people a pastor could ever have. Even God said they were obstinate! Moses had been a shepherd for forty years, and then he was a pastor for forty years. Across those years, he determined that sheep had more sense than people. But he did not lambaste them. He blessed them! That says something about his heart.
Across those years, he interceded for them in moments when God was ready to destroy them. He taught them the word of God. And on this day, when he could have spoken his mind, he spoke his heart! The last day of Moses’ life was marked by an act of worship. He blessed the Lord and he blessed the people.
Moses’ Last Day Was Marked by an Act of Obedience
48 The Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, 49 “Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. 50 Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people… Deuteronomy 32:48-50a
It was on Moses’ 120thbirthday that God said, “Go up… and die.”
Turning back now to our main text we read: Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. Deuteronomy 34:1
There is a degree of severity here. The Lord was unbending in His decision. Moses had previously pleaded with God for another opportunity.
25 Let me, I pray, cross over and see the fair land that is beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ 26 But the Lordwas angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the Lord said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter. 27 Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes to the west and north and south and east, and see it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan. Deuteronomy 3:25-27
There is a severity in God’s response. Moses, however, never lost his composure. No man ever faced death with more dignity, more clarity of mind, more active anticipation, more faith than did Moses. When the day comes for him to die, there is no question from the mouth of Moses. There is no complaint. There is no fear. Make no mistake, although Moses’ entrance into Canaan was barred, his entrance into God’s presence was not!
Moses viewed this call to die as a call to go up the mountain and be in God’s presence. And so he did! He went up the mountain. Moses was obedient to God in his final hour.
Will the last day of your life find you living a life of obedience to God? Moses last day was marked by worship and it was marked by obedience.
Moses’ Last Day Was Marked by an Act of Grace
And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” Deuteronomy 34:1b-4
I picture Moses surrounded by swirling mists on top of Pisgah. He was shrouded by the cloud of God’s presence yet afforded the opportunity to see the land of promise with great clarity. God did not owe Moses this opportunity! It was an act of grace!
Imagine what an awesome experience that must have been for Moses to stand on that mountain-top with God. Perhaps God showed him where the temple would one day stand—where the Messiah would one day be born—and Calvary, where He would one day die.
For many years, I thought that God cheated Moses. Moses followed him faithfully for all of those years. Yet Moses was not allowed to even set a foot in the Promised Land? Did that mean that Moses was also shut out of heaven?
No! In fact, God was so gracious as to grant Moses a more awesome mountain-top experience than any he had experienced up to this point. It was yet future. But did we not say that Moses died on this day? He did die! And yet, thousands of years later he reappears. He reappears on a mountain-top in the Promised Land.
It was the Mount of Transfiguration and he came there to stand with Jesus. What an awesome moment. There on that mountain the Bible says that Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus about his coming death. That story is found in the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
On his 120thbirthday, nothing could have been a better gift for Moses than to stand on the holy soil of the Holy Land. But it was not to be. It was the desire of Moses’ heart. It was the prayer of his soul.
But it was not to be. God didn’t grant it. Moses had no greater desire—no higher goal. However, God had something greater for him. God knew the day would come when his feet would stand on the holy soil of the Holy Land on another mountain. And just as it had happened every time in the wilderness—on that day, the cloud of God’s glory descended and Moses and Elijah and Jesus and Peter and James and John stood together on a mountain-top within the land. Moses didn’t know that on his last day. But God knew!
For every saint of God, there is more to life than their last day. There is another part to the story. There are more journeys with God. There are more moments of glory.
You may be standing at an end of one of the chapters of your life—or even in the final chapter. You may be asking for something that God has not granted. You may feel that God has not been fair to you in light of your faithfulness. You may feel disappointment that God has not allowed you to reach your goal. But I suggest God has a better gift, a greater joy, and a higher goal for your life. I challenge you to trust him.
On the last day of Moses’ life, he still trusted God. Will the last day of your life find you trusting God’s wisdom and guidance?
Moses’ Last Day Was Marked by an Act of Love
5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day. Deuteronomy 34:5-6
Do you see what a tender picture that is? God gently laid Moses to rest. God took a personal interest in the burial site of Moses. According to the New Testament, God even sent an angel to protect his body from Satan.
Moses walked with God through life, and now, when it came time to die, God was by his side. God was his only pall-bearer, and God alone knows the cemetery where his body lies. Moses laid his body down, and he and God left there for a Promised Land far fairer than Pharaoh’s palace that was once his home. Moses went to live in the Father’s house.
That day is coming for every true child of God. And whoever you are and whatever your situation—if you are one of God’s children He will be by your side when the time comes for you to die. He will not leave until your funeral is over. And when your family leaves the cemetery, God’s own heart will mark the spot and wait for the day when He can call your body forth from the ground. But according to Scripture, you will not be in the ground, you will be with God until that day.
What a legacy left to us by Moses. Since then no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew fact to face… Deuteronomy 34:10
Tell me about the last day of your life. Is it a day that holds no fear for you? Can you by faith, look forward to that day, and know that you have a home beyond the skies? Only those who walk with God today have the hope that Moses had on his last day. Are you ready for yours?
Photo by Joshua Earle