Read Deuteronomy 34
The Death of Moses
34 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, 3 the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar.4 Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
5 And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
9 Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.
10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lordknew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land.12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
No one was like Moses. No one could do “all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do….and no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”
But he couldn’t cross into the Promised Land because of his failure to exactly follow God’s commands. In Numbers 20, the Israelites complained to Moses and Aaron because they didn’t have any water. God told Moses to command water from a rock in the presence of the Israelites, but Moses instead struck the rock with his staff. Because of his disobedience, God told Moses that he would not be allowed to enter the promised land with his people. Keep in mind, we also know from Exodus 17 that God had previously commanded Moses to strike a rock for water when the people were thirsty, so Moses was doing what God had instructed him to do on a different occasion.
The punishment seems a little harsh when we consider all that Moses had done and the eulogy that he earned at the end of his life. So, why was God so upset with Moses’s misstep? The answer seems to be found in the recounting of this same story in Numbers 20.
While on the top of the mountain, God told Moses to gather the people and “tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water.” He wanted Moses to use his words only. However, Moses assembled the Israelites and with Aaron said to them “…shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” and then struck the rock twice. Moses made it about himself–he didn’t rely on God’s power. Instead, he asked the people if “we” should bring forth the water. In Exodus, Moses pointed the people to God. In Numbers, he tried to control the situation himself.
Encouragingly, however, we see the loving and merciful nature of God abound despite the discipline He gives Moses. First, Numbers 20:11 tells us that when Moses struck the rock, “water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank…” Despite Moses’s disobedience, God loved His people enough to supply their needs anyway. Second, despite Moses’s disobedience, God loved him enough to forgive him and eternally preserve his legacy as the only prophet whom the Lord knew face to face and worthy of the tribute in the final verses of Deuteronomy 34.
Today’s reading shows us that God’s plans are not thwarted by our disobedience, even if we might have to suffer the consequences of our actions. He will always provide. It also shows us that God’s love for us is not stifled by our sin. He will always forgive us and desire to know us face to face for eternity.
- Can you think of a time where you don’t feel like you obeyed God exactly as He directed you?
- Take a moment and contemplate how gracious God is for not allowing our missteps to affect His love or provision for us.
- Is there anything you need to do today in response to this reading? If so, tell someone and ask them to hold you accountable to following through with that prompting.
If authorship of Deuteronomy is commonly attributed to Moses and Moses died in the final chapter, then who wrote Deuteronomy 34? Check out this article from The Gospel Coalition about the possible author of this final chapter.
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1 thought on “Deuteronomy 34”
What a wild ride of a life Moses had! From his humble beginnings, at a time when Pharaoh decreed all male Hebrew infants be drowned, Moses was the beloved baby in the basket placed in the Nile River by his mother, only to be rescued and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter. The liberator of the Jews would be raised as an Egyptian prince! He would encounter God in a burning bush experience, rescue his people out of Egypt with signs & wonders, receive the Ten Commandments, and lead the people to the edge of the promised land. Yet he was human and sinned just like the rest of us and received God’s discipline. Through a tumultuous and glorious life, Moses trusted in the greatness of his all powerful God. V10 says, “There has never been another prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” Much, much later one greater than Moses would appear—Jesus, who would perfectly fulfill the law and the prophets and provide a new covenant.