A dignified death

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We don’t like to think about our own death, but maybe it is good to do so. As one book subtitle put it, ‘learn to live by preparing to die’.

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Bible passage: Deuteronomy 32:48–52; 34:1–12

Moses to Die on Mount Nebo

48 On that same day the Lord told Moses, 49 “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. 50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”

The Death of Moses

34 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.

Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.

10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


God’s kindness
Back in Numbers 20:1–13, Moses had failed to honour God at a key moment in his leadership. Consequently he would never enter the Promised Land, but God let him see it. Mount Nebo was the unique vantage point for this last earthly experience of God’s kindness (Deuteronomy 32:48–52).

Dignity and honour
The death of Moses is not defined by his failure in leadership. Yes, he had made a mess of one situation, but he died with dignity and honour. We read of God showing him the land that he had promised the Patriarchs from north to south (34:1–4), then after his death it was God who buried him (34:5,6). He had clearly been taken in God’s timing (34:7), and he was grieved for an extended period by the nation (34:8). Joshua took on the leadership anointing from Moses, for great leaders don’t leave behind a vacuum (34:9).

Not perfect but unique
Moses was not perfect, but his epitaph highlighted how unique he was – he met with the Lord face to face, he did God’s miracles in Egypt, he led the nation. Moses was a great prophet. And at the time of writing, a greater prophet than Moses had not yet risen in Israel. Thankfully, by the time the whole Bible was written, the greater prophet, Jesus, had risen!

Peter Mead


Your life need not be remembered for your failure. Thanks to Jesus, how true this is!

Deeper Bible study

This series opened (24 June) quoting Martin Luther King on the eve of his assassination: ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop … I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!’ On the eve of his death, Moses climbs Mount Nebo and ascends the peak of Pisgah… God shows him the Promised Land (v 1), but warns that he will not enter it (v 4). Moses is an old man. Yet, though ‘no longer able to lead’ (Deut 31:2), we read, ‘his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone’ (v 7). Whether or not this refers to his physical condition, it aptly describes Moses’ spiritual state: his spiritual vision remains undimmed, his spiritual vigour undiminished. Moses had ‘persevered because he saw him who is invisible’ (Heb 11:27), confident that God would lead his people to the Promised Land. Picture Moses singing, ‘Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all’!

Although debarred from entering the land, in this final scene of his earthly life, God permitted Moses a glimpse of Israel’s future glory, allowing him to see the Promised Land (v 4). Much later in the drama, Moses will reappear on the stage – now located within the Promised Land itself – as one of the key supporting actors in that unforgettable scene where God’s glory is revealed in the transfiguration! (Matt 17:1–8)

Moses’ epitaph is not written on a tombstone (v 6), but in God’s Word. This great ‘servant’ (v 5) stands unique among Israel’s prophets (vs 10–12). Yet, his finest tribute is surely that he was one ‘whom the Lord knew face to face’ (v 10). The Sermon on the Mount warns us that a relationship with Jesus is indispensable for our salvation (Matt 7:21–23).

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your intimacy with the Lord? How will you guard and grow in this intimacy?

Tanya Ferdinandusz

How did Moses break faith?

The waters of Meribah Kadesh

For all the fantastic, faithful things that Moses achieved there was one thing that God describes as ‘breaking faith’ (Deuteronomy 32:51). The pertinent incident is described in Numbers 20:9–12.

Once again the Israelites need water in the wilderness, once again they complain about it, once again Moses asks God what to do, and once again Moses does what God tells him. So what was the problem?

We don’t know!

We have to look at some apparently very small problems: 
   • Striking the rock (v 11) instead of speaking (v 8)? 
   • Striking the rock twice (v 11) instead of once (Exodus 17:6)? 
   • Taking the credit himself for the provision (v 10)? 
   • Being angry with the people (v 10)?

Whatever it is, it is sufficient for God to call it a lack of faith. But we wish he had made it clearer to us!

I prefer the first, since it notes a difference between God’s instructions and Moses’ implementation of them. In addition, it suggests that Moses wants to trust in the tried method that worked previously.

Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year.

Nehemiah 11,12

Luke 9

Praying for church leaders

Think about your church, house group, cell or Christian Union. Who are the current leaders? Are you one of them? Is God calling and equipping you to be one of them? Who is God raising up as the new generation of leaders? What are the characteristics of those who lead and those being selected for leadership? Reflect on your attitude to those God has placed over you, and when you’re ready, pray this prayer:

O God,
You will build your church.
Forgive me when I don’t play my part.
Forgive me when I stop others.
Forgive us when we lack the courage to obey.
Forgive us when we get in the way of people seeing you.

O God,
You will build your church.
Give me wisdom to see the gifts you have given me for your church.
Give me discernment to see who you are calling to leadership, especially if it’s me.
Give us confidence to respond to your call and serve.
Give us courage to encourage and support your new leaders.

O God,
You will build your church.
Bless your leaders with the gifts they need.
Bless us with willing, obedient hearts.
Bless our reaching out to other churches in partnership.
Bless our community through the work of your church.

O God,
You will build your church.
Let it be so!

Sarah Bingham


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  • Song: There's a sound (Restoration Song)
  • Composer: Lou Fellingham, Nathan Fellingham and busbee
  • Artist: Lou Fellingham
  • Album: Promised Land
  • Publisher: Kingsway Music
  • Copyright: Copyright © 2008 Thankyou Music & The Livingstone Collective/kingswaysongs.com
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Counting on your name
Tim Hughes, Nick Herbert & Ben Cantelon
Copyright © 2010 Thankyou Music
Buy this and other great worship songs at www.integritymusic.com

  • Rachael Hampton | Friday, 12 July 2019

    Yes, there are consequences for our messing up, but God does not abandon us. He kept Moses’ eyes and legs strong to climb the mountain and see the land, and then ‘buried him,’ whatever that means. There is such tenderness here. Psalm 92:0-15 in the Amplified Bible is a fabulous promise we can claim as our own as we age. I AM ‘uncompromisingly righteous’ in Jesus and by life choices, and therefore I can say that ‘I flourish like a palm tree in the courts of my God. Long lived, stately, upright, useful and fruitful. Growing in grace I still bring forth fruit in old age; I am full of sap - spiritual vitality - and rich in the verdure of trust, love and contentment, a living memorial to show that the Lord is upright and faithful to His promises.’ When we believe this about ourselves and our God, and walk in intimacy with Him, our brains respond with ‘structures’ that bring health and strength to the body. Bless you, my sappy friends.

  • Alan Pang | Friday, 12 July 2019

    "Broke faith in the presence of the Israelites and did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites". The people knew why Moses gathered them together on that day. They witnessed him striking the rock not once but twice instead of speaking to the rock. The leader has to be disciplined. Seeing the Promised Land on Mt Nebo with eyes not dim and strength not gone, and buried by God is some consolation! Nobody else were there and they couldn't find the body. Perhaps it's better to say "he was no more because God took him away".

  • Angela Munday | Saturday, 13 July 2019

    God never stopped loving His servant, Moses. In weariness, Moses may have not given his full attention and maybe misunderstood an instruction, but he still climbed that final mountain in obedience. Death came to Moses during a close encounter with God and at the end of a long and tiring journey. Chaos lay ahead in Canaan; the people had learned very little. God will keep those who love Him, flourishing to the end of earthly life and then take them to be with Him. Who was there on the mountain top with Moses? Who witnessed this event, enabling it to be written down? Moses was buried down in the valley.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Saturday, 13 July 2019

    Rom 9:16 So then God’s choice is not dependent on human will, nor on human effort [the totality of human striving], but on God who shows mercy [to whomever He chooses—it is His sovereign gift]. We can save ourselves a lot of hassle if we just trust God and get on with being transformed with a renewing of our mind.

  • Jack Russell | Saturday, 13 July 2019

    Indeed what you say is true Rachael about bringing health and strength to the body when we believe we are full of "spiritual vitality" and the "Lord is upright and faithful to His promises". One way in which we can honour Jesus is in having joy - the joy of the Lord is your strength. I'm sitting here having suffered from a virus for about a month, fatigued and energy has gone from my physically. But I am still able to perform in my radio show and to have read my poetry publicly. Within me is a peace and my hope is that I can recover physically form the fatigue and virus. Having said that, in the illness I have been learning or having affirmed the need to be accepting of suffering and for me that's no bad thing for my ego for I can drive myself harder than is healthy for my body which is probably a contributor to how I have been feeling. I was once described as honourable, with exemplary conduct but that I gave more than I can give. For me, social conditioning with doing what people like or achievement can be driving factors with habit and possibly at times even addiction. But over achieving leads to exhaustion and people pleasing leads to anger and resentment. You can't please everyone and you are likely to invite mistreatment if you try to. It seems to me that the mostly likely thing that was Moses' issue was anger toward the people and trying the method that worked before with striking the rock in stead of speaking to it to get water from it. I am tempted to do things that bring me comfort if I get to the point of anger and resentment in order to find relief from uncomfortable feelings. But if I do go down the path of what I think is comfort, I could be missing out on something new from God that is better. "Growing in grace" is significant to me - I've noticed one or two things in the last week where I have engaged differently than before without thinking about it. And in that sense it's not been as pleasing to others as before but I have been stronger for it and it's also not sowed seeds that would result in resentment further down the line for me. Sometimes the compassionate approach is not in giving what people want but in doing what is right that works out better for everyone.

  • Angela Munday | Saturday, 13 July 2019

    GILVIN - Thank you for that verse from Romans. I have been reading on from it and know that we can still be ‘hassled’ in life from those ‘stubborn’ ones mentioned in verse 18! I am sure God knows how they tire us physically and mentally. Like Moses, I believe we try our best as we trust in Christ to give us strength and peace. Bless you this day and for all your comments for us.

  • Roger Hall | Saturday, 13 July 2019

    I suppose the Mountain of Transfiguration, when Moses was able to speak with the Lord Jesus emphasised once again the enormous stretch of The Lamb Slain from the beginning of the world. The same Lord who spent time with Moses. It is so very very implicit in this eternal existence! How full of Grace. How little I have become. Smaller than a grain of mustard seed!

  • Ron Keller | Saturday, 13 July 2019

    Rachael Hampton. Thank you for your comments today... and everyday. I am grateful for your wise and wholesome perspective. I have been using SU Discovery for almost 50 years; and Wordlive since it's inception. Your daily insights, add confirmation to the passages and commentary. God bless you and thank you for sharing.Ron Keller, Minneapolis, MN, USA

  • David Chipchase | Saturday, 13 July 2019

    Ron, welcome to the Comments! Thank you for your support. I hope to read more of your 50+ years of wisdom and knowledge soon.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Sunday, 14 July 2019

    Thank you ANGELA for your comment. I have had lots of advice from those around me wanting to be helpful in a situation I am in but most is not found in the Word therefore cannot be heeded. I benefit from many comments here and always look forward to yours and indeed RACHAEL'S.

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