Moses Series: A Promise FulfilledAdrian Holloway on September 6, 2009 with 0 Comments
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Dueteronomy 34:1-12 – Preaching from ChristChurch London’s Sunday Service
Today we are finishing our series on Moses. And we are going to look at the death of Moses in Dueteronomy 34.
So, I’d like to pray and then we can get straight into it:
Prayer: Lord, Thank you that, today, as we read your word, as we read the Bible, we can be inspired by what you have inspired to be written. I pray that everyone here will get something out of this. I ask that every single person here today will receive something from you, that will help them in life, through this passage, in Jesus’ name.
OK, let’s read from verse 1:
Moses: A promise fulfilled (Dueteronomy 34:1-12)
1 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, 2 all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. 4 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,
OK, so the geography is: the Mediterranean Sea is here. Jerusalem is here. Jericho is here. Then you’ve got the River Jordan, which is the border of the Promised Land. And here, Moses is just outside the Promised Land. He’s on Mount Nebo. In fact he’s on a summit point on Mount Nebo called Pisgah. And Mount Nebo is today a tourist attraction in the nation of Jordan. And so, God’s people are about to finally enter the Promised Land. Which is exactly what they left Egypt to do. It should have taken a few weeks. In fact, it took 40 years, but, the good news is . .
The dream is about to come true. The mission is about to be accomplished.
Now you could catch a flight from Heathrow Airport to Jordan tomorrow . . . and if you climbed Mount Nebo, you would see the Promised Land. If you can’t wait til tomorrow, then get onto the internet tonight. Go to Sacred Destinations.com and you can see the view from Mount Nebo yourself.
But you will only see a small part of what Moses saw. You’ll see Jericho easily and if it’s a clear day you will also see Jerusalem. But Moses saw the whole of Israel. Moses saw all 160 miles from the southern border to the northern border. Moses also saw the whole 60 miles from Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. No-one could ever see that far from Mount Nebo, but Moses did.
How come? The answer’s in verse 1. It says: “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo [and] There the LORD showed him the whole land.”
The Lord showed him the whole thing. Supernaturally. It was a miraculous vision.
What relevance has Moses climbing a mountain 3,000 years ago got for you and me living in London today? Well masses, because it’s only when we climb Mount Nebo and view the Promised Land that we can see what our life’s been about, from God’s point of view.
The great thing about this chapter is that, here, we are at the end of the story. The dream comes true. After all the aggravation Moses had to put up with, after all the frustration, the delays, the disappointments, Moses sees that it was all more than worth it in the end.
But you can only see that from the top of the mountain. You can’t see the Promised Land from the bottom. All you can see from the bottom is the back of a big Jordanian mountain. From ground level all you can see is . . . Moab.
Maybe you’ve experienced massive disappointment. Thirteen years ago, I left my media job here in London, to go and work for a church. And I’d been involved in planting this church for the previous 4 years. For four years, I’d given hundreds of hours of my spare time to help build this church, just like many of you have done here at Christ Church. All my dreams were bound up with the success of this particular church. And we’d seen it grow, and now I had agreed to join the staff team, working alongside the leader, who had been my best friend since the age of 17. And we saw great success and the church grew quite fast. But then the leader experienced a moral failure. It was fairly spectacular. And he could not lead the church anymore. It was tragic. The church was rocked by the news. And on a personal level, it seemed like all my dreams were in tatters. I stayed on working on staff for a further three years as we dealt with the fall out. And yes there were times when I thought: “This was not what I had in mind when I gave up my career to go into church work.”
But now I thank God for the 8 years I spent in that church. For many reasons . . . for one, I met Julia Brown at that church, and she is now my wife. And if I’d never gone there, we would never have got together, and our 4 children wouldn’t exist. Now, when I put our four girls to bed each night, I thank God for that church. And I wrote a book while I was at that church, which went round the world and was used by God to bring hundreds of people to faith in Christ. Even this week, I’ve received emails from people in three different countries whose lives have been changed through that book. I look back now, and I thank God that I went to that church. Now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. And incidentally that church is doing great today. But that’s the view from Mount Nebo. I can tell you, from ground level, at the time, it was pretty grim.
In the same way, when you are sweating your way to work on the tube under the ground, you can’t see the Promised Land. But if you come up higher, from Pisgah, you can see a supernatural vision of what your life is all about.
Maybe you have a job and you’re wondering ‘am I really accomplishing anything worthwhile at work? Am I influencing anyone for Jesus? OK, I grant you that once again this week, I didn’t swear, I didn’t steal, lie or cheat. I worked hard. I was busy. I sent 547 emails, but you know what, if I’m totally honest, it feels like another week has passed and no-body’s life has been affected for good.”
Tonight I am asking you to come up higher. Tonight I am asking you to climb Mount Nebo with me. Come and take a look at the Promised Land.
So much of Moses life must have seemed totally meaningless. If you think your job is going no-where, then, man, consider Moses, who spent 40 years in the Desert of Midian. He’d been educated in the top university in the world. Brought up in Pharoah’s palace. He had brilliant prospects. But he then killed an Egyptian. He ran away, and spent the next 40 years looking after sheep. No offence to any sheep who might be here tonight, or indeed to any urban shepherds who might be here. I’m just saying that this was not Moses chosen career path.
For Moses, every day from the age of 40 to the age of 80 was a fresh chance to wake up and think: “So I’m a murder-er. I have blown God’s best plan for my life. In fact, I am probably the most highly educated murdered who’s blown God’s best plan for their life that’s ever lived.” If you think you are frustrated, consider Moses. He was doing the same job at the age of 80, as he was aged 40. Here’s his own verdict on his life. He said: “I have become an alien in a foreign land.” That’s it! Wooppee!
And all this folks was before the burning bush, and the Exodus. After which, Moses spent a further 40 years in another wilderness literally going round in circles. Moses got so depressed at one point in Numbers chapter 11 that the Bible says he wanted to die. “Lord, what’s the point, I’m accomplishing nothing.” He was tempted to give up. Haven’t you ever felt like that? “God, I can’t do this any more. What’s the point” Tonight we’ll see the point. When you Climb Mount Nebo you realize, like Moses did, that it is all worth it. You will see . . . The Promised Land! You will get there in the end. And like Moses, you’ll look back and be amazed at what God has accomplished through you.
No matter what comes against us in life . . . God is in control. He is directing our steps.
The Almighty God Tabernacle, God if you are out there, show me that you still have a plan for. I don’t know if you are all familiar with caller ID. Some, all it said was “Almighty God.” Why didn’t you answer the phone, he said, “no way, it was only one didget off. God knows what he’s doing.
When you are at ground level, all you can see, a lot of the time, is pressure. Maybe you’ve survived the latest round of job cuts, only to end up doing your own job, plus someone else’s as well. So you’ve still got a job, but now you’re working twice as hard for less money!
You know 40 years before our passage today, 40 years previously, when the 12 spies were sent out to spy out the promised land, 10 of the 12 saw nothing but giants. Maybe you’re facing some giants in your life right now. A giant of debt. A giant of worry. A giant of loneliness. A giant of failure. A giant of guilt or doubt. A giant of sickness. A giant of opposition. Maybe your boss is against you. Is there a giant in your life that seems to be standing between you and your entry into your promised land?
You think: “If only I could slay this giant, then I’d be into the promised land. But I can’t. He’s too big. I can’t slay the giant.
Yes you can. Goliath was a giant in the Promised Land. The Bible says Goliath despised David. But Goliath fell pretty quickly didn’t he? One smooth stone, just the right angle. As my rugby coach always told us: The bigger they are, the harder they fall. The walls of Jericho stood between the people of God and the Promised Land, but they fell pretty quickly. What happened? God’s people blew their trumpets. Then they shouted. And the walls came tumbling down.
Listen, let me spell it out, it is your destiny to enter the Promised Land. It’s going to happen, it’s already been decided by God. And if God is for you, who can be against you? God runs the show. So it doesn’t matter how much Goliath struts his stuff, he’s going down! Jericho’s walls may look pretty solid. But they too will crumble and fall before our God.
I love the way that in this passage, the land of Canaan is described in post conquest terms. What do I mean? I mean that before the invasion, Canaan was full of Baal worship, idolatry and even child sacrifice. When Moses stood on Mount Nebo, there was no-where in Canaan that was called Dan, or Napthali, or Judah. But that’s what those regions are called in our passage. You see Moses is seeing and describing it in post-Conquest terms. Why? Because he knows victory is assured. As far as Moses is concerned, that Northern bit 100 miles up there that’s already Dan, because the victory is the Lord’s. That Southern bit to my left that’s already Judah, because God’s people are destined to settle there. It’s going to happen. Victory is already assured.
So on top of Mount Nebo, what can we say about Moses? What have we learnt from him at the end of his life and at the end of our series?
Think about how much he’d learned and what he’d been through:
1. Forty years in Midian (Exodus 2:15-25)
Lesson: God will use you, even if you think you’ve “blown it.”
As we’ve said, for 40 years in Midian, Moses thought he’d blown it, by killing the Egyptian. We know it was a sin because Exodus 2 says he looked both ways before he did it, and that he buried the body once he had. But as Moses stood on Mount Nebo eighty years later, he can see that God used him anyway. On top of Pisgah, it’s clear that he hadn’t blown his chance. He hadn’t ruined his life after all. Friend this is huge for you and me. If murderers can be forgiven, restored, and used by God to change the world, there’s hope for you and me.
But Moses didn’t fulfil his destiny overnight. It took time. Maybe you are experiencing delay. Maybe you feel like you’re like one of those planes stacked up in the sky in a holding pattern. You want to land now. You are radio-ing in: “I am running out of fuel, I want to land now”, but no, the message from the control tower seems to be . . . “Don’t worry, everything is fine. I haven’t forgotten about you. It’s not your time yet. I have got a plan. I’ve got you right where I want you on my radar screen.”
Maybe you are like Moses in Midian. Maybe you, like Moses, are educated, privileged, and called by God, but you think you’ve been sidelined because you’ve sinned. No! God is gracious and he’s bigger than your sin. In the heart of God, mercy triumphs over judgement. Don’t discount yourself! When God has counted you in. God says: “I am the lifter of your head and I’m taking you to the Promised Land.”
So God’s plan cannot be thwarted. And despite everything, God comes to Moses and speaks to him through a burning bush.
2. Moses four Excuses
Lesson: God will use weak people who try and avoid the call of God.
Moses said: “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.” (Exodus 4:13)
Remember, when God called Moses through the burning bush to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, out of slavery, into the Promised Land, Moses said: “No!” Moses said: “No. Please send someone else to do it.” And he started listing excuses. I mean the Bible is so true to life.
God didn’t have to choose Moses. I’m sure God could have found someone else who would have said: “Yes, Lord, I will lead your people. And I’m glad you’ve finally noticed my obvious leadership qualities. I’m ready to part the Red Sea. Call down plagues! Strike the rock! I am ready!”
But God hasn’t called that person. God wants you. God called Moses. And in the same way, God has called you. “Yes, but . . .” Exactly . . .
Moses had 4 excuses:
a) Personal short-comings (Exodus 3:11)
b) Fear of man (i.e. the potential unbelief of the people) (Exodus 4:1)
c) His lack of eloquence in public speaking (Exodus 4:2-8)
d) “Someone else” would do it better than me (Exodus 4:13)
But on Mount Nebo, 40 years later, Moses must have been so grateful that God had ignored those excuses. Moses had begged God to choose someone else, but now on Pisgah, Moses must have been so delighted that: “God chose me.”
It’s like, imagine, someone comes to you and says: “We would love you to consider becoming a trainee life group leader. We believe you are the right person to lead this group when it multiplies.” And everything in us wants to say:
a) Well, I have these personal shortcomings that you don’t know about, or
b) No, I am scared, or
c) No because I’m not very good at talking in front of people,
And so d) my answer is “No thanks. Please ask someone else.”
But Moses discovered that God not only calls weak people, but that he also helps weak people. By the time he stood on Mount Nebo, Moses had come to know, Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord is my Provider. God will meet all of your needs, and a few of your wants as well.
Our default setting is that we want a life without massive challenge, and high risk. Moses was the same, but on Mount Nebo, Moses was so grateful that he’d lived this life of massive challenge and high risk, because so much had been accomplished. His life had been a huge triumph.
So we’ve looked at the 40 years in Midian and then the burning bush.
Moses on Mount Nebo could also look back on the next stages of his life:
3. The return to Egypt (Exodus 4 & 5)
4. The ten plagues (Exodus 7 – 11)
5. The exodus (Exodus 12 – 19)
6. The giving of the law at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19 – 24)
7. The constant opposition and rebellion (e.g. Golden Calf Exodus 32)
8. The 40 years in the wilderness (Numbers 14)
And I’ve really enjoyed listening on my ipod to all the previous sermons in this series that I’ve missed. But at the end of it all, God did achieve his plan. God’s sovereignty does seem to trump whatever human failures and rebellion we come up with.
In the end, Moses saw that unexplained, unexpected frustrating set backs did not stop the purpose of God:
I can take you to the place on Plumpton Race Course where God called me to be part of a newfrontiers church in Central London. It was 1986.
It was something called the Downs Bible Week. And during the week, the course of my life was set. I now had a vision to live for “The Restoration of the Church.” You see, up until then, as a non-Christian I had never read the bible. So I had no idea what Jesus was really like. The real Jesus was locked up in the pages of Scripture. As a non-Christian, all I had to go on was an occasional visit to church, and the church as it was portrayed in the media. But the church in the 1980s was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The papers were full of the church, but it was all about how the Bishop of Durham, at the time didn’t believe in the resurrection, and churches to me just seemed like cold, dead, empty buildings. So when I became a Christian, and I heard the vision of newfrontiers about the Restoration of the Church, it was obviously the answer. If we are going to reach British non-Christians, if we are going to re-evangelize the nation, we first need to get the church right. We need to restore the church to a Biblical standard. We need some life, we need sound doctrine. That was it. I said yes. Count me in! The course of my life was set!
And where’s the best place to change the nation from? Well the answer seemed obvious to me: Central London. So my dream from 1986 onwards was to become part of a newfrontiers church plant into Central London.
But for 18 years nothing happened. I worked in London, but I didn’t live here. There was no newfrontiers church in central London. I took work colleagues along to other churches in London during the 1990s.
Then in May 2003, David Stroud asked us to move to London and on the 16th of February 2004, my dream came true, The Holloways moved to London, and Christ Church started. What did I learn from that? That God knew what he was doing all along. God knows what he’s doing with my life, and with yours. He’s not forgotten your dreams, your gifts, he’s got you right where he wants you right now, to bring you into your promised land.
When I was at school, I was part of a rugby team, and there was this one school, a boarding school in Kent that we could not beat. We could beat other teams, but whenever we played this one school in Kent, it was so muddy, and they were so big and strong, we got beaten every time.
In the final year of school, I was determined this was not going to happen again.
So we went out on the pitch early. About 30 minutes before kick off. And the mud was as thick as ever. And there was no-one else there, just the 15 of us, all clean not a spot of mud on us. I said: “Right lads, we are all going to run towards those posts, and then dive into the mud and slide.” And we all ran, and then we all swallow dived into the mud, and every single one of us got covered in mud. We got so pumped up in that warm up, that when the opposition came out, they looked at us, and they were shocked. The only bit of us that was white was our teeth. And we just roared like animals at them.
And they looked scared. I think they were shocked how much it mattered to us. At that point, I knew we’d win. From that moment, the result was never in doubt, it was decided beforehand. The mud slide did it! What am I saying: Listen, the result of your life is already decided. Victory is already yours. Your team, this team, is destined to win.
You know I love team games. When I became a Christian, the thing I loved about it was the fact that I got to be part of a team. I became part of Wimbledon Baptist Church. I thought that was so cool. Then I discovered that I could actually become a member of the team. Someone told me that you could become a member of the church. I didn’t know that. They actually accepted me as a member. And the best thing was once a year, as a team, as a church, we’d all go away and camp for a week at Plumpton Racecourse at the Downs Bible week. And there the message was this: ‘This team is destined to win.’
Let’s read on . . .
4 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.”
5 And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. 6 He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. (Duet 34:4-6)
So this is a glorious end to Moses life. I mean, I’ve watched state funerals. I’ve seen thousands of people line the streets of London. But this is far more impressive. The Lord buried Moses. God buried him. But only God knows where.
And that really makes sense because if ever there was a grave site that the Israelites were likely to venerate and visit and build a monument and goodness knows what, it is the grave of Moses. But they never did that because only God knows where he’s buried, because God buried him.
Now that fact does appear to make sense of an otherwise obscure verse in the new testament letter of Jude which says:
“But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude vs 9)
Now there is no other reference to this incident, this dispute between the archangel Michael and the Devil about the body of Moses, apart from Jude verse 9. There’s nothing in the Old Testament about it, but you and I can certainly imagine why the Devil might want to get hold of Moses body. Because if he had succeeded in wrestling it from the archangel Michael, then the Israelites might have been snared into idolatry. They could have ended up venerating Moses bones as relics. I mean just when God was trying to establish monotheism and the worship of an invisible God, what a brilliant strategy for Satan to try and lure them into idolatry instead. Anyway, the Devil’s plan failed, and God’s plan succeeded. To this day, no-one but God knows where Moses is buried.
7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over. (Duet 34:7-8)
What a contrast to the way they responded when he went up Mount Sinai, when they started worshipping a golden calf while he was gone.
Now before we read verse 9, let’s just remember that as Christians we are supposed to read the Old Testament with our New Testament spectacles on. And if you put on your New Testament spectacles now, we will see a glorious truth in Dueteronomy 34.
First let me just comment on the most glaring omission from the sermon so far, which is that I’ve said nothing so far about the statement in verse 4 that Moses was not allowed by God to enter the Promised Land himself. That’s because of a sin he committed back in Numbers 20 at Meribah, when he struck a rock which water came out of, when in fact, God had not told him to strike it, God had told him to only speak to the rock.
And you might ask, “doesn’t that rather undermine the whole thrust of the message, because as a result of that sin, Moses doesn’t enter the Promised Land?”
To which I answer: “Au contraire. On the contrary, the glorious thing about Moses is that despite his sin, he does enter the promised land, because Jesus takes Moses in. As we are about to see . . .
OK, New Testament spectacles on as we read verse 9:
9 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. (Duet 34:9)
Joshua is the one who actually leads God’s people through the Jordan into the Promised Land. And Joshua or Yeshua is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek name Jesus. So Joshua and Jesus is one and the same name, meaning “saviour” or “The Lord saves” Hold that thought.
We can say that the Old Covenant was mediated through a human being (Moses). And the New Covenant was mediated by another human being, (Joshua, Yeshua or Jesus).
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)
And what do we find here? We find that Moses cannot enter the Promised Land himself. Why? Because the law will never take you in.
That’s the whole message of the book of Romans, the law will never get you into heaven. You need Jesus to do that. The law is just a schoolmaster to lead you to Christ.
The Promised Land has always been associated by hymn writers with heaven. Think of Swing Low Sweet Chariot, “I looked over Jordan and what did I see, coming for to carry me home?” Where’s home? South Carolina? No! Heaven is home. It’s the other side of the River Jordan from Mount Nebo.
Now what about the Welsh rugby anthem, “Guide Me O Thou Great Jehovah”? “When I tread the verge of Jordan, Bid my anxious fears subside; Death of deaths, and hell’s destruction, Land me safe on Canaan’s side.”
So one side of the Jordan is hell, the other side, Canaan is heaven.
So if Moses represents the law, and the Promised Land represents heaven, it is entirely appropriate that Moses doesn’t go in. Why? Because you need Joshua to get into the Promised Land. You need Jesus.
And now this is the bit we’ve been waiting for . . . In Matthew 17, Jesus does take Moses in.
1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Matthew 17:1-4)
Moses does get into the Promised Land. He does walk safely on Canaan’s side. He does fulfil his destiny. The dream does come true. The whole point of the law (Moses) is to lead us to Joshua – to Jesus. The whole point of Dueteronomy 34, which ends with Moses outside the Promised Land it to leave us looking to Joshua, to Jesus, who will take law-breakers, sinners like Moses, sinners like you and like me into the Promised Land.
So Jesus takes him in:
As we finish this series, what are you left with? In Moses, we see a life that was totally taken up and taken over by God. So we’re not really surprised by this resurrection appearance in Matthew 17, because his whole life has been wrapped up with a supernatural God from start to finish. But here’s the amazing truth about you, one day, after your death, you too will be resurrected. You too will hang out with Jesus. You’ll talk to Jesus. You’ll see him not just as a humble carpenter, but you’ll see him transfigured in glorious power in dazzling white.
10 Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, (Duet 34:10)
Moses knew God face to face. We read that and we think, “wow I would love to know God face to face.” Well you will, the whole point is that you are going to the promised land where you will see him face to face. Revelation 21 says that God will live with you. There will be no more tears, there’ll be no more death or mourning, there’ll be no more pain.
How ironic. We spend so much of our lives thinking: I can’t win, when all along the truth is, we cannot lose.
The truth is you will experience face to face fellowship with God. You will judge angels. You are a person of destiny.
Maybe the band could come up as I read this final verse:
11 who did all those miraculous 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. (Deut 34:11-12)
The Bible’s verdict is: We have never seen anyone like him. What a gracious verdict. Human frailty but divine faithfulness. Since then a greater exodus has taken place, a far greater exodus than anything achieved my Moses. A greater deliverance took place when Jesus died on the cross to deliver his people once for all from slavery to sin. That was what Jesus was surely talking to Moses about, on the Mount of Transfiguration. We can imagine Jesus saying: “Moses, you freed the slaves from physical slavery, now I’m going to free them from the slavery of sin. I’m going to break every chain, so that anyone can be saved, so that anyone and everyone can go to heaven. So that everyone can enter the Promised Land.”
Let me pray: “Lord, thank you for this picture that we finish with tonight, of Moses talking to Jesus in the Promised Land. Thank you that Moses fulfilled his destiny, and thank you that it is the destiny of every single one of us who trusts in Christ to spend all eternity speaking to you face to face, living with you, in the glory, in the Promised Land. Amen.”