Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 26 2019 - Deuteronomy 32:48-33:1, 33:26-34:12 – The death of Moses

The last of our readings in Deuteronomy tells us of the death of Moses. He, like his brother Aaron, was not permitted to enter the Promised Land because, God says, "you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites" (32:51). But he will be permitted to climb a mountain from which he can view the land. Before doing so, he declares God's blessing over the Israelites.

A few days ago we read of how Balak, king of Moab, took the prophet Balaam up a mountain to survey the Israelites and curse them for him. Balak did not succeed since he could not curse those whom God had blessed. Now we have Moses uttering a blessing over the Israelites – and they will be blessed and will become a blessing since this is God's declared purpose.

Our reading has included the last few verses of Moses' blessing, beginning with the words, "There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you" (33:26). "Jeshurun" is a poetic name for Israel (and apart from its occurrence in Deuteronomy, occurs in Isaiah 44:2 where it is used of the Lord's servant). Moses is declaring that there is no-one quite like Yahweh, the Lord God of Israel. Israel's safety and security (33:28) is guaranteed because the Living God has committed himself to care for this people:

The eternal God is your refuge,
    and underneath are the everlasting arms…
Blessed are you, Israel!
    Who is like you,
    a people saved by the LORD? (33:27 & 29)

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo, saw the Promised Land, heard God repeat his promises to his people before he died and, it seems, was buried by the Lord himself. The Israelites mourned over the death of Moses. Although they had been provided with a new leader in Joshua, no one could truly replace Moses:

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 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.  For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. (34:10-12).

Moses was a truly great man but he was sinful man, like us. Nor was he a self-made man; he was great because God made him great. God called him and equipped him with his Spirit to be the one who would lead the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt. Moses was not their saviour, it was the Lord who saved and who protected his people Israel.

The Lord Jesus Christ is far greater than Moses (see Hebrews 3:1-6). He is our Saviour who has brought us out of slavery to sin and who will lead us into the inheritance God has promised his people. Unlike Moses, Jesus was without sin and has entered into his promised inheritance on our behalf. We who have come to trust in the Lord Jesus can take to ourselves the promise of blessing which Moses declared over Israel and can assure ourselves, "The eternal God is [our] refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." We are held in the safekeeping of the living God himself, and nothing and no-one can pluck us from his nail-pierced hands.

Father God, we thank you for our Lord Jesus who has secured for us your blessing and who holds us safely in his hands. Thank you that though he also faced death, he rose triumphant from the dead and will never again face death; he lives for ever as our hope, our help and our salvation. Thank you that in him we also have eternal life. Bless us and make us a blessing.

Peter Misselbrook