c. 1452 BC
NUMBERS 27:12 – 23
A Terminal Announcement
12 And the LORD said unto Moses, Get thee up into this mount Abarim, and see the land which I have given unto the children of Israel.
Ever since the LORD first spoke to Moses out of a burning bush in the land of Midian, near Mt. Horeb, there had been constant communication with Him (Ex. 3:1-6). For eighty years the LORD said something to Moses, telling him what to do. Only once did Moses disobey the LORD in a fit of uncontrollable rage, and the LORD never forgot that act of rebellion. Though judgment was delayed, it was not denied. The time came when the LORD instructed Moses to go up into Mount Abarim to view the Land of Promise. He would not go into the Land, but he would be given a glimpse of that which he had worked so hard to obtain.
13 And when thou hast seen it, thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.
Once Moses had viewed the Land of Promise, he was to die, as his elder brother Aaron had died. Aaron (mountain of strength), had been appointed the first high priest of Israel. His death, a year before the entrance of the people into the Land of Promise under Joshua, was spiritually symbolic of the insufficiency of the Aaronic priesthood to bring individuals into their full spiritual possessions. Now, Moses would join his brother in death.
As difficult as it is to say, Moses was going to die the sin unto death. All unrighteousness is sin: and “there is a sin unto death” (1 John 5:16, 17). The sin unto death may vary, but there is a sin unto death. Moses was reminded why he was coming under this ultimate form of Divine discipline.
Dying a Sin Unto Death
14 For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes: that is the water of Meribah in Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.
Zin was the dessert area which the Hebrews crossed on their way to the Land of Promise (Num. 13:21). It included Kadesh-Barnea within its bounds (Num. 20:1; 27:14; 33:36). When the people came to Kadesh-Barnea they were tired, thirsty, and discouraged. In collective frustration the people complained, they murmured, they quarreled with God, which is what Meribah means, and the people blamed Moses for all of their troubles. Exasperated beyond self-control, Moses lashed out at the rock God had promised would bring forth water to meet the needs of the people.
“And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. 12 And the Lord spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them. 13 This is the water of Meribah; because the children of Israel strove with the Lord, and he was sanctified in them” (Num. 20:10-13).
Moses had been told to speak to the rock, not to strike it, but Moses lashed out. The rock was a type of Christ (1 Cor. 10:4).
By striking the rock, Moses not only disobeyed a specific command of the LORD, but he destroyed the symbolism of Christ being smitten once for sin. “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:28).
Submission to the Sovereign
Before he struck the rock, Moses also committed a great sin. He assumed unto himself, and Aaron, divine power which he did not have. And Moses said unto the people of Israel, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” By saying “we”, Moses meant Aaron and himself.
That was going too far for the LORD. Immediately, the LORD passed a death sentence on Aaron and Moses. They would not be allowed to bring the people into the Land of Promise.
It was a harsh penalty for an impetuous act. Nevertheless, the judgment of the LORD is just. Moses knew he had done wrong. Moses knew he was guilty, and so there is no indication that Aaron or Moses protested the penalty they were to pay for not sanctifying the LORD in the sight of the people. The lesson is learned. God is not going to share His glory.
However, Moses did have a dying request when the time came for the judgment to be executed.
A Dying Request
15 And Moses spake unto the LORD, saying,
16 Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,
17 Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.
If ever a man loved a nation, it was Moses. He loved his people to the end. Moses loved the Israelites, not because they were loveable, or even likeable. Moses loved his people because of the greatness of his own heart.
In this, Moses is certainly a type of Christ. The questions are asked, “Why does the LORD love me?” “Why did Christ die for me?” “Why am I numbered among the elect?” There is only one answer. “God loves sinners because of who HE is, not because of who, and what they are.”
“And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
Charles Wesley, 1708 – 1788
The Prayer of Moses is Answered
18 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;
In matchless grace, the LORD answered the prayer of Moses. The LORD honored the motive that led Moses to pray such a prayer, and the LORD honored the petition itself. Joshua (the Lord is Salvation), the son of Nun, would be the successor of Moses.
His initial faith in the Lord regarding the Land of Promise, was going to be rewarded with that of Caleb, as they were allowed to enter the land at the end of the wilderness wanderings. It took eighty years for the LORD to honor Joshua, and Caleb, but the LORD does not forget. He will be a debtor to no one.
19 And [Moses] set him [Joshua] before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
To ensure all of Israel respected Joshua, to avoid any conflict in leadership after the departure of Moses, the authority of Joshua was divinely established by the Urim and Thummim.
The Establishment of Authority
20 And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
The LORD Leads His People by Urim and Thummim
21 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the LORD: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
Urim (lights) and Thummim (perfection) were objects worn in the breastplate of the high priest that served as a means for determining the will of God (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8; Num. 27:21; 1 Sam. 14:37- 42; 28:6). They were well known to the nation of Israel.
22 And Moses did as the LORD commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation:
23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
The Rest of the Story: An Angelic Contest for the Body of Moses
Once the authority of Joshua was established, the LORD took Moses into a mountain and buried him in private. It was a fitting end to a remarkable life. But the story does not end there, for something very interesting happened once the spirit of Moses departed and his mortal remains had not yet decayed. An angelic contest took place between Michael the Archangel, and Lucifer, the Devil, over the body of Moses. The story is told in Jude verse 9.
9 Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee.
There is much left untold about this angelic struggle, but it is interesting and instructive – for another time.