Deuteronomy 34:1-12 26th October 2014
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 Matthew 22:34-46
Over the coming week we will have had Reformation day – October 31st – where Luther nailed his 95 theses to the castle church door in Wittenberg Germany, which were proposals to debate the doctrine and indulgences of the church. Then on 1st November it is All Saints day and the 2nd being All Souls Day.
But when it comes to celebrating saint’s days we don’t actually remember the many saints of the Old Testament.
Now to be recognised as a saint today you have to have carried out a few outstanding miracles.
Moses – who we hear about today was one who carried out many miracles in the name of God but we don’t actually celebrate him as a saint.
For Moses however – life with God was not about miracles. Even with the many miracles he carried out there was only one thing that Moses really wanted, and that is in many ways displayed in his acceptance that he would not cross the Jordan River.
After the many years – we are told he was now 120 years old, that Moses remained attentive to God’s word in what was an amazing relationship – and there was one lesson he learned from God and that was – that it is very important to be in the will of God.
We know that for the Israelites, life was at its worst when they deliberately stepped out of Gods revealed will.
In fact Moses had prayed that every route would be firmly barred to him unless the Lord promised to walk that road with him. He states in Deut 3:25 –“If your presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
Moses also prayed – teach me your ways oh Lord, that I may know you.
Nothing mattered more to Moses than knowing, obeying, and pleasing God.
In fact that threefold longing provided the essential motivation for Moses’ entire life.
Even after we read back in chapter 3 that Moses wanted to enter Canaan, to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land – he gets told by God that he wouldn’t be. – Well that never fazed him because of this strong relationship he had with God.
So as I’ve just stated – Nothing mattered more to Moses than knowing God, obeying God, and pleasing God. Moses knew that the things we wish for ourselves are not always best for us. There are times when only God knows the difference between what we merely want and what we genuinely need.
So although God said “no’ to Moses wish to enter Canaan, he was not left without encouragement – after being shown the promised land, and after hearing the promise of God – that this would be where the Israelites would live. These things, seeing and hearing are important facts revealed to us in our reading today
We all know that in any culture we have some strange sayings. In fact we laugh at people who get things wrong – like inviting the new neighbour who has recently arrived from overseas to a pot luck tea – bring a plate we tell them – so they do – along with their knife and fork.
Well in biblical language what Moses experienced with God at this final stage of his life and that we now read about is also full of language we could totally misunderstand.
Let me explain 2 of these sayings.
The first one is, “Moses saw the land. We need to remember that prior to this point that the Promised Land had previously been seen in parts by Moses which we read of back in chapter 32:52
To understand this viewing of the land but not entering the land, we need to know a little about Hebrew Law and land rights.
Viewing was part of becoming the owner of the land.
The same principle applied to Abraham – in Genesis 13:14-15 God says, “lift up your eyes… and look… All the land you see I will give you.
We also see it at the temptation of Jesus, where the devil showed him all the kingdoms … All this I will give you” he said.
Then there is the parable Jesus taught, where one is invited to the wedding feast but the reply is – I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it.
We think it totally ridiculous that any purchaser should buy a field without first examining it, but what is being described here is the formal legal transfer of that mans newly acquired property.
But in the looking out over the now promised land Moses has been given the unique privilege of legally taking possession of that entire country on behalf of its new people.
It is for this reason that he is told to look out as far as he can see in each direction and to see how it’s beautiful features and its extensive territory.
It was his even though he was not personally allowed to take possession of it.
The vital spiritual principle here for us is similar – in that not everything which is given to a believer is an immediately acquired possession.
Unfortunately we at times demand everything now – this side of heaven.
Sure we are heirs to a rich inheritance, but some of our assured possessions belong to a land we have yet to enter.
It is a sad mistake when any believer insists that everything we inherit must be claimed now, things like a sinless life, constantly healthy bodies, perfectly harmonious relationships, and unlimited prosperity, – when the scriptures make it plain that much of what is promised is reserved for the future.
There are better things to come.
The inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, is not ours now, but is kept in heaven for those who believe.
As one commentator put it – we can look now, but for the moment, our feet must stay “this side of the river.
Basically Moses heard the promise when God spoke those final words to him – “this is the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said I would give it to their descendants (34:4)
What Moses saw – the land, and what Moses heard – the promise – brought him immense peace.
He realised that he could not stride on with the marching people but he would soon be gathered with his arrived people.
The second saying is about Moses himself. It says in verse 7 – Moses was 120 years old when he died; he was as strong as ever, and his eyesight was still good.
Yet if you go back to other parts of the O/T you will see that it says something different. For example back in chapter 31 verse 2 it says “I am 120 years old and am no longer able to “go out and come in” – newer translations say – “lead you”
But the words go out and come in- refer to ones mobility, as if Moses had lost the ability in age to be on his feet for long periods.
Some might think that this is a conflict of scripture but it is not.
In the Hebrew language the word used is “leah or lah – which means green or greenstick – or new or fresh, or vigour.
Now when we go back to our story – that of Moses’ age is 120, this is actually 3 x 40 years = 120, or 3 generations of 40 years, and a generation is symbolic in our bibles.
The state of his health at the time of his death is described as being,
“he was as strong s ever and his eyesight was still good.
Or older translations say – his vision was sound and his physical strength unimpaired.
But the Hebrew connotation of this word used “ leah” in fact idealises Moses and really means that he was in old age – but a man of vigour.
The expression about his vision and his energy levels basically meant that for a man of his age he had retained his powers in a remarkable way, even if he was no longer able to go out and come in.
It could also mean that at death Moses was a man who had full possession of his faculties. Like that when died it was as if he had just gone to sleep and had woken up in a new place – the way I would like to die and many of us would.
Right up until his death Moses retained his love for God, and he worked and served tirelessly for God.
Now when I look around our congregation I too see people getting older but who are still full of vigour, who still have their full faculties.
The lesson for us here is that in Gods service there is no such thing as retirement until death.
When we consider the age of our towns people and with a growing percentage of elderly people around NZ, and the world, then the story of Moses can be encouraging to us all.
NZ currently has 34.5% over 65 with 27.8% living alone, and the median age in NZ is 49.7years at 2013 census.
In Katikati there are more people over the age of 50 than under, and over 34% are 65yrs+ Both these figures are way above the NZ average.
That means that as a church we need to look at how we do things differently but with the same vigour as Moses.
In our story today there are some amazing facts about Moses that I could have spoken on, and we have only brushed over some of them today.
But when we take a closer look we can see that God encouraged Moses.
That God equipped Moses, that God disciplined Moses, and God replaced Moses after Moses had passed on his wisdom to Joshua.
We too can see how Moses did that.
Moses empowered Joshua, Joshua learnt Moses wisdom, Joshua was teachable and dependant both on Moses and God, and after Moses death – totally on God.
All of these things teach us and are models that we can follow as we too take and prepare for the journey into the Promised Land.
Let us pray.