Moses in the Promised Land
1 April 2012, 16.48
Filed under: Bible Study, Literature, Stories

“Then I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying:

‘O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’

“But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the LORD said to me:

‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter. Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.”

Deuteronomy 3 recounts this exchange between God and Moses, where he is forbidden to cross the river with Israel into the promised land. The story isn’t completed until the last chapter of the book:

“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is across from Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land… as far as the [Mediterranean] Sea, the South, and the plain of the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him,

‘This is the land of which I swore to give Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants.” I have caused you to see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.’

So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day. Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished.”

Between the time Moses is forbidden to cross the Jordan and his death, he teaches Israel a history lesson, accounting for most of the book. In Deuteronomy 18:15, however, Moses looks ahead with this prophesy about Jesus:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”

Moses is the original mountain man. He expresses his affinity for mountains, and they mark significant events in his life, including his calling at the burning bush on Horeb, the “mountain of God” (Ex. 3:1), the receiving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:20), and his death on Mount Nebo. When his Messianic prophecy is fulfilled over a thousand years after God Himself buries Moses’s body, it’s on another mountain – within the promised land – that Moses meets with the very Prophet of whom he had prophesied. From Luke 9:

“Now it came to pass… that [Jesus] took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening. And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

The next day, Jesus gives a perplexing response to a man pleading for his only son, who is demon-possessed:

“Then Jesus answered and said,

‘O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?'”

This is a break from His characteristically compassionate reception of those in need, yet it’s terribly reminiscent of the reaction to which God was so often provoked by the people of Israel while wandering with Moses in the wilderness. It would seem that the conversation Moses shared with Jesus about His crucifixion left Jesus understandably on edge. Nevertheless, the child is healed by Jesus with notably little ado, as His heart is clearly elsewhere:

“Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the majesty of God. But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples,

‘Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.'”

The disciples, instead of understanding or inquiring about what Jesus meant, proceeded to dispute among themselves which would be greatest. Instead of growing impatient with their wrangling, Jesus – having just healed one child – brought another close and capitalized on a teaching moment:

“Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.”

Had Moses, the most humble man on earth (Num. 12:3), entered the argument, he probably would have repeated to the disciples the same thing God prophesied to their forefathers through him:

“I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.”

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