‘Moses, the finish’.
All Age Worship Homily, the Last Sunday of Trinity, October 29th 2017.
Main passage, Deuteronomy 34.
Also Matthew 22:v34-end
Our Old Testament reading is a beautiful final chapter of the Deuteronomy and of the Pentateuch. The words about Moses last actions, his death and his life.
We read of Moses’ obedience one final time.
As he climbs the mountain – 120 years of age – 40 years since his calling by that burning bush. His strength as great as in the past – unlike David who the start of 1 Kings 1 shows his physical decline, the Hebrew language used in these verses, (v7) is of Moses, still vigorous as he was 40 years before, even 80 years before, when he was a prince of Egypt.
Throughout these set of speeches to the Israelities, recorded in Deuteronomy, as they prepared to go across the Jordan, he has been preparing them – not just for their next step as a nation, for the changes that will come, the traditions that will change or be left behind – he has been preparing them for his death and for the new leadership to come under Joshua.
I feel as I read this, it is a beautiful chapter perhaps for the small things, what it shows of God’s relationship with Moses and Moses relationship with God. This is shown through the grace of vision, the act of burial and the depth of relationship.
The Grace of Vision
‘There the Lord showed him the whole land.’ He is on the mountain’s highest peak. It has been suggested on a clear day that Moses could see what is described. But many note, that the hills on the otherside of the Jordan would have blocked the view described down to the Dead Sea. You could only see what he saw if you ascended into the sky.
It suggests, that the Lord through a miraculous vision shows him the whole land. He cannot enter the land due to his rebellion at the waters of Meribah. The Lord could have taken him up the mountain, and he would simply die there. Yet he shows him the land, the Lord goes that extra step. Lord chooses to show him. Grace. The land is shown, where the people he has formed will live. The land he promised to Abraham that his descendants would inherit. The land, to which the fourth generation after Abraham, would be brought. The Lord shows it – grace – and in it, perhaps for Moses, a message that the calling shared 40 years, is now done – as if the message is : ‘the job is done my good and faithful servant.’ In ministry often there is no real ending, there is always something more to be done. Yet here Moses sees, a chapter has come to an end, a new one begins. We saw the beginning – the Lord showed Abraham the land – Genesis 15 – as the promise was given, now Moses sees the land, as the promise is to be fulfilled.
The Act of Burial
And Moses died there. Alone. But not alone. In one way a picture of our lives, also no Christian dies alone in one sense, as the Lord by his Spirit is present until the last moment of life.
Yet when we read the passage, this is something more intimate. It recalls those days when Moses and Yahweh spoke by the bush, and they spoke on Mount Sinai and now, they are together again, the two of them. And he dies. And ‘he buried him’ – the Hebrew is unclear yet the context how no one knows, points to the Lord doing it. The Lord God, creator of all, buried him. When I was in Kenya, and it was similar with funerals I was involved in within the UK with families from Caribbean or Africa, the family would bury the loved one. Not professionals. The family. It is something very intimate. Here the Lord buries him. No one knows, so it cannot be a shrine or a pilgrimage point, and instead it is his memory honoured, his example followed. But pause. God buries him. The one he spoke to face to face, the one who had interceded for his people, the one who had initially not wanted to do this work raising different issues at the bush. The Lord buries his friend.
And our scripture does not end there. Deliberately we read of Joshua, the newly commissioned leader, to one Moses had laid his hands on and who had the Spirit upon him.,
life goes on, the land must be entered,
conquered, changes to come, traditions to change.
The Depth of Relationship
But the final words about Moses. The servant of the Lord. No other prophet arose like him. Joshua succeeded him but he was not to be compared to Moses.
Moses was said that the Lord knew him face to face. In Exodus that God would speak to him face to face as one speaks to a friend. That the Lord would speak with Moses, and he would leave and yet have to cover his face with a veil because the Lord’s glory shown from his face so intensely the people could not bear it. Yet the Lord also told Moses, that he could not see his face and he could only be shown his back. The language seems to say – that Moses did have the most direct clearest contact of all prophets or any person in the OT.
And so he knew the Lord clearest. And he loved the Lord’s people – despite the difficulties and challenges he not only loved God with everything but also loved his neighbours, the people around him – the 12 tribes of Israel. He was someone who was with the Lord and was sent by the Lord – to do signs and wonders which had never been seen before or since.
Yet Moses looked to a day when a prophet would come like him. Deut 18. Fulfilled in the one who was teaching in the temple courts as we heard.
Like Moses, Jesus performs signs and wonders, greater ones such as the raising of the dead and controlling of creation.
Like Moses, Jesus preached and pointed to the word of God. But while Moses shared the word of God, Jesus was the Word, who came to fulfil the Law of Moses.
And when Jesus approached his exodus, his departure, on the Mount of Transfiguration, it was Moses and Elijah who spoke with him.
Moses life and relationship with Yahweh. Yahweh’s relationship with Moses.