Saturday 26 November 2016

Bible Book:

“Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” (v. 10)

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 Saturday 26 November 2016

Psalm: Psalm 61


These verses tell of Moses' final days and his death; and offera eulogy for him.

Having transferred his "spirit of wisdom" to Joshua by thelaying on of hands (verse 9), Moses is portrayed as climbing to thetop of Mount Nebo (or Pisgah), to the north-east corner of the DeadSea. He surveys the whole of the Promised Land: from Zoar (at thesouthern tip of the Dead Sea), through the regions on the westernside of the river Jordan which, from south to north, were Judah,Ephraim, Manasseh and Naphtali (which was west and north-west ofthe Sea of Galilee), as far as Dan (a city immediately north of theSea of Galilee); and from the Western (ie Mediterranean) Sea toGilead (the region to the east of the river Jordan).

Moses' death is recorded so as to underline his exceptionallife. He was 120 years old (the full human span, see Genesis 6:3) and without any frailty orimpairment linked to old age. His death and burial were mysteriousacts of God, inaccessible to human perception. But he merited thefull period of mourning which applied to the great ones of Israeland to close family members. However, Moses was so great that hetranscended the need for a tomb, a shrine or a place which couldbecome a pilgrimage centre devoted to him.

The eulogy for Moses (verses 10-12) is remarkable anddistinctive. His equal has never been seen again - but (accordingto Deuteronomy 18:18) one day there will beanother Moses. God knew him "face to face", meaning that Godrevealed the divine will and ways to him directly. (This contrastswith a more nuanced view of Moses' relationship with God in Exodus33:20-23.) Moses' uniqueness and authority resided in hisability to perform miracles ("signs and wonders", "mighty deeds"and "terrifying displays of power" (v. 11-12)), from the time ofenslavement in Egypt to his death.

To Ponder

  • There is something deep within us which needs to review andassess the life of a loved one when they die. In your experience,when someone near to you has had time to prepare for death, has itbeen important to 'sum things up' with the dying person before thedeath and funeral?
  • Martin Luther King famously made much of Moses on the mountaintop surveying the long-promised land when he spoke passionatelyabout a new, non-racist society emerging out of the deep divisionsin the USA. What contemporary visionary appeals to you andwhy?
  • Christians will notice echoes of the way that Moses'significance is written about in the ways the first Christiansattempted to make sense of and to evaluate the life and person ofJesus. How do you, today, express the importance that Jesus has foryou and your faith?
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