The Bible is full of surprises. Passages like Deuteronomy 32 tend to knock the wind out of you — even when you kind of know what’s coming.
The nation of Israel is about to enter the promised land. They have been effectively led, warned and judged by the Lord. Moses is their faithful and patient leader. He knows God. He speaks to God on their behalf.
Then we read this:
That very day, the LORD spoke to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people (Deu. 32: 48-50).
Essentially, God says, “Go up this mountain with the view of the land (that you are not going into) and die. Then I’ll go ahead and give the people the land.”
God discloses the issue for us in this passage for Moses. He ‘broke faith,’ and ‘ … did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel’ (v. 51). This is referring to Numbers 20 where Moses lifted up his hand to strike the rock instead of obeying God and speaking to the rock.
From our chairs, this may seem like a matter of semantics. Speaking vs Touching? What’s the big deal? Doesn’t Moses have some religious capital in the bank for overdraft protection?
No. The issue, as God says, is the regarding of the Holy One. Therefore, Moses is prevented from entering the land.
Surely each of us can appreciate the gravity of what we have here. Moses is ‘the guy’ among Israel at this time (and even future). He is highly regarded. However, he is not without sin. He is not perfect. In this sense he is quite like us.
This is why he will not do as a true and final Mediator. His role is serving as an incomplete, anticipatory type. In other words, he looks forward, in his imperfection, to the perfect one.
Jesus, like Moses, was the representative of his people. He leads, directs, teaches, speaks to them. This he does without any sin. His whole life was characterized by perfect, holy obedience! Not only is there no sin found in him, but there is not the slightest deceleration of loving loyalty and delight in God! This shows him to be the perfect representative for us to God.
We know that the culmination of his obedience is his sacrificial death upon the cross. It is here that his obedience is most vividly seen. He loves God and his people unto death, even death on a cross.
If one single, seemingly ‘small,’ action like Moses’ can lead to such consequences, how much more our flagrant and multiplied sins? Do you see again how valuable Jesus is?!
Father, thank you for giving the perfect Mediator, your beloved Son, for such rebellious, stubborn, weak people, as I am. My heart is as hard as the rock which Moses struck. Yet you show mercy and lead rebels out of captivity and into the land of promise. This great gospel procession trumpets the beauty of Christ and triumph of grace. Make me see and despise small sins — and truly hate all sin! And may my sin be an occasion to see both my need and Christ’s sufficient provision in the gospel.