Moses' Death

Steve Viars April 8, 2006 Deuteronomy 34:1-12

4/9/06
Deuteronomy 34:1-12 – Moses’ Death
Saved as “34.1-12Moses’Death [sermons/deuteronomy subdirectory]

- A member of our church sent this to me recently written by a former basketball player..
- On the 21st of the month, the best man I know will do what he always does on the 21st of the month. He’ll sit down and pen a love letter to his best girl. He’ll say how much he misses her and loves her and can’t wait to see her again.
- Then he’ll fold it once, slide it in a little envelope and walk into his bedroom. He’ll go to the stack of love letters sitting there on her pillow, untie the yellow ribbon, place the new one on top and tie the ribbon again. The stack will be 180 letters high then, because the 21st will be 15 years to the day since Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years, died...
- There’s never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach. He won 10 NCAA basketball championships at UCLA, the last in 1975. Nobody has ever come within six of him.
- He won 88 straight games between January 30, 1971, and January 17, 1974. Nobody has come within 42 since.
- So, sometimes, when the Basketball Madness gets to be too much – too many players trying to make Sports Center, too few players trying to make assists, too few coaches willing to be mentors, too many freshmen with out-of-wedlock kids, too few freshmen who will stay in school long enough to become men – I like to go see Coach Wooden.
- I visit him in his little condo in Encino, 20 minutes northwest of Los Angeles, and hear him say things like “Gracious sakes alive!” and tell stories about teaching “Lewis” the hook shot. Lewis Alcindor, that is...who became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
- There has never been another coach like Wooden, quiet as an April snow and square as a game of checkers; loyal to one woman, one school, one way; walking around campus in his sensible shoes and Jimmy Stewart morals.
- He’d spend a half hour the first day of practice teaching his men how to put on a sock. “Wrinkles can lead to blisters,” he’d warn. These huge players would sneak looks at one another and roll their eyes. Eventually, they’d do it right. “Good,” he’d say. “And now for the other foot.”
- Of the 180 players who played for him, Wooden knows the whereabouts of 172. Of course, it’s not hard when most of them call, checking on his health, secretly hoping to hear some of his simple life lessons so that they can write them on the lunch bags of their kids, who will roll their eyes.
- “Discipline yourself, and others won’t need to,” Coach would say. “Never lie, never cheat, never steal,” and “Earn the right to be proud and confident.”
- If you played for him, you played by his rules: Never score without acknowledging a teammate. One word of profanity and you're done for the day. Treat your opponent with respect...
- No long hair, no facial hair. “They take too long to dry, and you could catch cold leaving the gym,” he’d say. That one drove his players bonkers.
- One day, All-America center Bill Walton showed up with a full beard. “It’s my right,” he insisted. Wooden asked if he believed that strongly. Walton said he did. “That’s good, Bill,” Coach said. “I admire people who have strong beliefs and stick by them, I really do. We’re going to miss you.” Walton shaved it right then and there. Now Walton calls once a week to tell Coach he loves him.
- It’s always too soon when you have to leave the condo and go back out into the real world, where the rules are so much grayer and the teams so much worse...
- He's almost 90 now. You think a little more hunched over than last time. Steps a little smaller. You hope it's not the last time you see him. He smiles. "I'm not afraid to die," he says. "Death is my only chance to be with her again."
- "There is only one kind of a life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere. Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters." - John Wooden

- now, there’s a bit of that we might quibble with...but here are the essential points...
- John Wooden’s professional accomplishments are legendary...
- it is likely that those records will not be broken in our lifetimes, if ever...
- his love for his wife and commitment to their marriage stood the test of time...
- he is known universally for his grace and humility...
- and he ties of all that...according to his own testimony...by his personal relationship to One he calls...his Savior...

- as a result, he is able to face death the same way he faced life...with dignity and courage...
- now, I realize that we don’t like to talk about death...but we should talk about it...for several reasons...
1.  We all face it...it is as natural as life...I’ve known some people who approached difficult challenges with the belief that “if you don’t talk about it, it won’t happen...”
- but we all know that’s not true...
- sure its hard...that’s why some in the world view this topic as “the kind of terrors...”...they speak about the sting of death...
- but ignoring it does not help...
- the question isn’t death or no death...it’s whether we are going to position ourselves to handle it well...if there’s a way to take the sting away [to face it with dignity and grace]...we would be wise to find it...[to talk about it...a lot]
2. We should also talk about death because it is a common theme in the Bible...apparently God wants to talk with us about it...to help us be prepared...
- the saying is true---until you’re prepared to die, you’re not prepared to live...
3. This week is the time of the year that we especially commemorate the death of Jesus Christ...
- He’s the One who said... John 12:23-26 - But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.
- understanding the significance of His death, and the impact it can have on the way we face this topic...is one of the most important emphases of all of the Bible...
- with that in mind, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy chapter 34...page 160 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you [page 272 of our Chinese/English Bibles]
- if you are visiting with us today, you might say...I assumed with that introduction that we would be going to a passage in the NT...
- at our church this year, we’ve selected as our theme...Gearing Up for Greater Effectiveness...
- we are in the process of seeking to launch several new ministry initiatives over the next 14 months together...
- so we selected Deuteronomy as an appropriate book of the Bible to study in this first quarter of the year because...
- at this point in the history of Israel, God’s people had completed their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, and are preparing to go into the promised land...
- and so their great and faithful leader, a man named Moses, gathers them together just outside the promised land...and he gives them a series of gearing up speeches...and we have been studying them together...
- now we’ve come to Deuteronomy 34...the last chapter of the book, which records the death of Moses...
- and on purpose we planned this study for this particular week in our calendar because it provides a logical opportunity to compare the death of Moses...with the death of Jesus Christ...we’re calling this...Facing Death...Moses, Jesus, and You.

- please follow along as I read beginning at Deuteronomy 34:1...Read 34:1-12

- Facing Death...Moses, Jesus, and You...and I’d like us to look for 3 ways to benefit from Deuteronomy’s final chapter.
- if all Scripture is inspired and profitable for me like you and me today...how can we benefit best from this section of God’s Word?

I.  By Comparing the Lives of Moses and Jesus.


- there were some very striking similarities, and also some obvious differences...let’s think about them together...
A. Similarities.
1. Their meekness.
- the book of Numbers makes a very unusual statement about Moses...
- Numbers 12:3 - Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.
- I realize that we don’t use the word meek very often in our culture because we equate it with being weak, or afraid...
- a good definition of meek is “power under control...”
- and here you have a man like Moses who was hand-picked by God for one of the most important leadership assignments in all the Bible, yet one of the summary statements about him is that he was the meekest man who walked on the face of the earth...and in God’s eyes, that was a very good thing...

- now, what about Jesus Christ and the subject of meekness?
- Matthew 5:5 - Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
- Matthew 11:29 - Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
- here’s two great leaders...who obviously knew how to handle death...yet Scripture goes out of its way to point out that they were both characterized by meekness.

2. Their intimacy with the Father.
- Deuteronomy 34:10 - But since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face,
- Exodus 33:11 - So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.
- now verse 20 of that same chapter goes on to explain that Moses was not looking directly in God’s face because you could not do that and live...and I don’t pretend to understand all that means...but it certainly means this...Moses possessed a relationship with the Lord that was personal and intimate like few others...ever...
- in fact, I would encourage us to think about how touching this entire event was...God taking His dear leader up this mountain...talking with him, and showing him the promised land...what a touching picture of the kind of relationship Moses had with the Lord...
- now, at a different level because Christ was the God-man...we see that same kind of intimate relationship...
- John 17:20-21 - I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.
- interesting parallel between Jesus and Moses...here’s another similarity...
3. Their mediatorial position.
- how often did we see Moses standing between God and his children... Deuteronomy 5:24-27 - And you said: ‘Surely the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire. We have seen this day that God speaks with man; yet he still lives. Now therefore, why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the LORD our God anymore, then we shall die. For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived? You go near and hear all that the LORD our God may say, and tell us all that the LORD our God says to you, and we will hear and do it.’
- they knew that God was holy and that they fell woefully short of that standard...so they begged Moses to be the “go-between”...to intercede between them and the Holy God of heaven...
- what about Jesus?...what does I Timothy 2:5 tell us?... 1 Timothy 2:5 - For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,
- what Moses did for them...Jesus Christ stands ready to do for us...
4. Their patience with imperfect people.
- there are many examples of this in Scripture for both Moses and Christ...
- Deuteronomy 9:26 - Therefore I prayed to the LORD, and said: ‘O Lord GOD, do not destroy Your people and Your inheritance whom You have redeemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand.
- we see the same thing in the life of Christ...again, many examples, like the death of Lazarus, where we read of Jesus groaning in His spirit because of their unbelief...[Lord if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died...]
- John 11:33 - ...He groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
- same thing a couple verses later, after those stranding by said, “could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have kept this man also from dying?”
- there are many other parallels we could draw...they were similar in...
5. Their revelation of God’s Word.
- Moses brought the revelation of God’s Word to the people...Jesus Christ was the revelation of God’s Word to the people.

6. Their complete submission to the plan/purpose of God.
- Hebrews 11:24-26 - By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
- Luke 22:42 - Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.

- there are other ways we could develop this, but the point is there were significant similarities between the way Moses lived, and way Jesus did...
- and you might say...how do we explain that?...one possible clue is the way Paul explained the wilderness wanderings to the Corinthian church...1 Corinthians 10:1-4 - Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
- Jesus’ existence didn’t begin in Bethlehem...Christ is the eternally existent 2nd person of the Trinity...
- and as Moses spoke with God as a man would speak to his friend...over time that intimacy developed character that was like God’s Son...

- now, what about their...
B. Differences.
- the most obvious one was...while Moses was a good man, he was certainly an imperfect one...
- Deuteronomy is bittersweet because at least 4 times in this book we are reminded that Moses can’t go into the promised land...because of his sin at a place called Meribah...
- do you remember what happened?...the people needed water and God told Moses to speak to the rock in front of the people and it would give them water, an obvious way for God to be glorified and the people to be blessed...
- but Moses became angry...and he diverted the attention from God’s glory to his anger...and he said... Numbers 20:10 - And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?”
- they robed God of His glory...which was an act of unbelief...
- Numbers 20:12 - Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”
- Moses was a good man...but he still needed a Savior...
- in fact, do you remember when Moses actually appears in the NT?...at the Mount of Transfiguration...when Christ shows his disciples his glory...and Moses and Elijah are speaking with Christ...and what are they discussing?
- Luke 9:30-31 – Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.
- why would Moses care about Jesus’ “departure”...because the salvation of every Old Testament saint...himself included...was dependent on the finished work of Christ on the cross...
- just like John Wooden, though he is a good man, understands he needs a Savior...Moses understood that too...he was a good man, but an imperfect man...
- contrast that to Christ...
- Hebrews 4:15 - For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

- now can I ask you this as you think about the life of Moses?...
- do you possess some of the same similarities to Christ that he did?...
- does your growing intimacy with the Father result in an increasing likeness to His Son?...
- now, let’s push it another step...we can also benefit from this chapter...


II. By Comparing the Deaths of Moses and Jesus.


- just like the way Moses and Jesus lived, they are some striking similarities in the way they died...
A. Similarities.
1. They died courageously because of their trust in the promises of God.
- can you picture in your mind’s eye what it would have been like for God to take Moses up this mountain...and the text says in verse 2 that the Lord showed him all the land, as far as to the Mediterranean Sea...which would have comprised some sort of miracle to allow Moses to see that far...
- and then the Lord says to him [as a man speaking to his friend...]
- Deuteronomy 34:4 - 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.”
- see, Moses could trust God with his eternal destiny...because He had faithfully delivered His people to their immediate destiny...
- if God could get His people to their temporal home...He could get His servant to his eternal home...
- did the death of Christ involve trust on His part?...how did the book of Hebrews say it?...
- Hebrews 12:2 - Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

- [as time allows, mention Ralph Blacketer’s memorial service and some of the comments his children made]...

2. Their deaths brought tears to those who loved them.
- Deuteronomy 34:8 - The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
- though the children of Israel did not always express it well, they loved Moses because of the leadership he provided them...
- what about the Lord?...
- Luke 23:26-27 - As they led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.

3. Their deaths were not the end of their stories.
- we know that Moses was resurrected because of what we already read in the NT about the transfiguration...
- this man who died was alive and talking to Elijah and Christ...
- if you wonder, how is it that the disciples became such effective servants of God after the resurrection that even their detractors said they were turning the world upside down...
- it is because they had a settled belief...just like John Wooden...that death is not the end...to be absent from the body [for a believer in Jesus Christ] is to be present with the Lord...

  of course that was obviously the case for Christ as well...emphasized in many places in the Bible...including even the words He spoke to the thief on the cross who chose to believe in Him with his dying breath...Jesus said...
- Luke 23:43 - Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

- now, while the similarities are important...what is especially noteworthy is the...
B. Differences.
- did you notice the way verse 5 describes this...
- Deuteronomy 34:5 - So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
- the term translated “word” in this verse is usually translated “mouth” in the OT...
- and what many people believe is being stated here, is that God kissed Moses and then he died in God’s arms...
- and that’s not some fanciful translation...many Jewish scholars have historically believed that...
- it was more than likely a very quiet death...like going to sleep in your father’s arms...

- not so, for Jesus Christ...what did the Lord say from the cross?...
- Matthew 27:46 - And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”
- [point out – not why have you kissed me?]

- and the reason the conditions were different is because the consequences were different...
- Moses died because of his sin...just like every other human being...[the wages of sin – Romans 6:23]...
- But Jesus Christ died as a substitute...in our place...and as a sacrifice, and as a satisfaction...
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 - For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
- [could mention liberal pastors who occasionally write in the paper and say the death of Christ was not substitutionary in nature...]

- this is why the resurrection is so central to our faith...because the fact the God the Father raised His Son from the dead proves that the price He paid on the cross was acceptable for our sin.

III. By Embracing the Gearing Up Lessons from This Event.

A. Be sure that you are prepared to die.
- every Israelite witnessing this event would have to be reminded of a lesson they had occasion to learn practically every day for the last 40 years...
- I too someday will die...am I prepared to meet the Lord?...

- friend, can I ask you...are you?

B. Let your growing intimacy with the Father result in increasing likeness to His Son.


C. Understand that helping others prepare for death is one of the noblest tasks on earth.

- [develop conversation with church member this week who is really concerned about the eternal destiny of his friend...]

- develop – that is the point of our community outreach...

D.  Rejoice in the life of the One who died for you.

- [encourage folks this week to review the events of the passion week]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video