Please read Deuteronomy 34 v 1-12 and Hebrews 3 v 1-6 and then pray; Almighty God, may your Word strengthen and inspire me to live for the glory of your name, and to die with the assurance of entering your eternal promised land and kingdom, through Jesus Christ my Saviour. Amen!

Tradition holds that Moses, the very great Israelite leader, wrote the first five books of the Bible which are commonly referred to as the Pentateuch. These books include, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. If Moses was responsible for the Pentateuch, he could not have written its final chapter, because a person cannot write their own obituary. This portion of what the Jews refer to as The Torah, must have been written by another – possibly by the writer of the book of Joshua which follows on from this. Personally speaking, I find the final chapter of Deuteronomy and the Pentateuch to be one of the most moving and beautiful chapters in the entire O.T. This is because it highlights the final moments of Moses auspicious and noble life, and then speaks so eloquently of his sudden death and mysterious burial.

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He (God) buried him in Moab, 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. (5-6)

Moses is the only personality in the bible to have been buried by God. What an honour! God took this spiritual giant off the top of Mount Nebo where he had told him to climb to see the promised land, and put him to rest somewhere in the valley below. God personally dealt with his servant’s lifeless body, the body of the man who he had known face to face, and who had received the ten commandments on God’s sacred mountain – Sinai (or Horeb). Moses was laid to rest by God.

Moses did not die of old age or natural causes – even though when he died, he was 120 years old. According to our text, his eyesight remained very good and his body capable of climbing a mountain which is well over 2000 feet high and takes 5-6 hours to reach its summit. Moses died in accordance with God’s will and timing. His life had been in the hands of the Lord his God, and so was the timing and place of his death. Earlier in Deuteronomy 32 we read this;

On that same day (the day Moses shared a song of blessing with and for the people) the Lord told Moses, “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. There on the mountain you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor (Numbers 20:22-29) and was gathered to his people. This is because 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. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel. (32: 48-52)

For the last 40 years of his life, Moses had been tirelessly working his way toward the promised land and he would now, at long last, see the land from the great vantage point of Nebo, but he would not enter it. His marvellous leadership of the people was at an end, and Joshua his faithful assistant would take the people on into the land. The leadership of Moses was replaced by the leadership of Joshua.

In this somewhat brief eulogy, we can see how Moses both lived and died well. Without doubt he was one of the greatest of all Israel’s leaders and is revered as such. We will think about how he lived well, and then how he was able to render up his life to God on the top of that mountain, and then die well. His 120-year life can be broken down into three periods, each of forty years. This is what the bible does and it is made particularly clear in Stephen’s speech recorded in Acts 7. (Acts 7:20-30) It is interesting that forty is such a significant number in the bible. For Moses, it was 40 years in the courts of Egypt, forty years as a shepherd in Midian, then forty years leading the people through the exodus experience and the wilderness years. It is that final period of forty years that the obituary concentrates on as it succinctly reveals how well Moses lived and stood out as an exceptional servant of the living God.

How does a person live well? What does a life well-lived look like? Moses is best known for the exodus from Egypt and the giving of the law – the ten commandments. Those world-changing holy commandments given to Moses were summarised for us by Jesus when he was asked by an expert lawyer which was the greatest commandment;

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love you neighbour as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

That is how a person lives well and Jesus is the only person who has ever fully kept these two commandments, without fault. But Moses was certainly an individual, who from the point of his calling by God at the burning bush, lived a life that was grounded and rooted in those two commandments. Those commandments are the pathway to a well lived life and a triumphant and peaceful death. There are several features of Moses life which stand out for mention and which should inspire each of us in our walk with God.


  • His humility and his humble trust and obedience of God. Notice in our text that Moses is described as the servant of the Lord. (v5) Moses was marked out by his humble service and obedience to God. In fact, during one episode in his life when he was even being criticised and questioned by Aaron and Miriam, God himself stepped in and stood up for Moses his servant. And in this very episode we are told that Moses was, quite simply, the humblest man on the face of the earth. (Read Numbers 12: 1-8). Moses was one man who did all that God asked of him (except on one notable occasion). Because he was so humble – he became so very great in the eyes of God and man. In the N.T. Jesus reveals through his teaching that greatness in the kingdom is for servants and for those possess servant hearts. (Mark 10:43) Friends, if want to live and die well, you must live a life of humble service and obedience to God, loving and serving God and neighbour will all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Aspire to live humbly under God’s leadership and love. Be inspired by Moses, but inspired even more by Jesus, who was the servant king. (Philippians 2: 6-8) What does the Lord require of us? To love mercy, act justly and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)


  • Secondly, Moses lived well and died well because he completed the task set before him by God. Moses was chosen by God to do many things and he completed the work God gave him and so on Mount Nebo he could rest in peace – even though he would not enter the promised land. Amongst the many tasks given to Moses by God were the following; to confront Pharoah with signs and wonders and to ultimately lead a whole nation out of slavery and into freedom, nationhood and distinctiveness as God’s separated and holy people; to receive God’s law for the people; to establish the tabernacle and priesthood; to lead throughout the wilderness years by trust in God for provision and victories over enemies. Moses completed the work he had personally received from the Lord God. What about us? What about you? Are you on track to complete what God has given you? Every Christian is called to bear fruit. Everyone is called to a particular work and given special gifting and anointing. Do you aspire to compete in the good fight and complete what God has called you to do? Jesus asserted: My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. (John 4:34) Is fulfilling and finishing God’s will for your life your meat and drink? Paul asserted; However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace? (Acts 20:24) Do you share Paul’s sense of ambition for your life? Writing to the Colossians, one of Paul’s final instructions includes this one; Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.” (Colossians 4:17) Are we “seeing to it” that we complete the work we have received from the Lord, so that come the day of our death and passing into glory, Jesus might say to us; Well done my good and faithful servant. (Matthew 25:21) Friends, complete the tasks God has given you!


  •  Thirdly, Moses lived and died well because he knew another leader was coming after him (Joshua) to take his place. Although there was deep disappointment because Moses would not step into the promised land, he knew that he had faithfully and carefully prepared another leader for that challenging task. For a long time, Moses had trained, encouraged, and spiritually prepared his successor Joshua. Joshua was ready for battle. Joshua was in place. (Read Numbers 27: 12-22 and Deuteronomy 31: 1-8, 34:9) Moses knew Joshua was ready. He could pass on the baton to him. God’s Spirit was upon him as it had been upon Moses. Moses could rest in peace with that knowledge, knowing that the sheep would not be without a shepherd. This is why Jesus prepared and trained the disciples. This is why Paul trained and encouraged the likes of Timothy and Titus. Who are we preparing for the future? Who are we discipling in our Church to take up the reins when we are gone? How are we encouraging young adults to be strong in the Lord? Just as all parents aim to bring up their children and grandchildren well, so we must put effort and forethought in preparing the next generation of Christ’s followers? Are we doing that? Is that a priority? Last Sunday evening, I was privileged to ordain a young man called James Annis into the eldership of the URC. For this I rejoice!


  • Fourthly, Moses could live and die well because he knew God personally and knew that his communion with God would continue beyond death. Moses was closer to God than anyone save the Lord Jesus Christ. This was part of his uniqueness. We are told that he was a leader who knew God “face to face.” (10) Moses was the greatest prophet in the OT. His closeness to God was unparalleled and unrivalled. God had chosen it to be so with this man who he first met and called at the burning bush. Oh – the sacred time that Moses spent alone with God on that holy mountain! Oh – the time he spent in the presence of God’s glory in the tent of meeting. (Read Exodus 33: 7-11) We need to understand that this quality of encounter and fellowship was utterly unique. And yet, in the NT we are told that the humblest Christian now has access into the very presence of God so that they can offer humble prayers and requests to “Abba Father.” The humblest Christian, according to Paul, now has an “unveiled face” that reflects the Lord’s glory as they are slowly being transformed into Jesus’s likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3: 16-18). Ultimately, the Christian will know God fully and experience a “face to face” fellowship. (1 Corinthians 13:12) Do you remember the words of promise from the apostle? Now we see but a poor reflection in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. Those who commune with God in this life, as Moses did, can die well and peacefully in the knowledge that the fellowship just gets a whole lot better, sweeter, more intimate and face to face! Do you look forward to that face-to-face sight and knowledge of God? Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God. (Matthew 5:8)

These then are four ways which enable good and fruitful living, and good and peaceful dying. Moses leads the way. He shows us the importance of;

  1. Humility, servanthood, and obedience.
  2. Completing the tasks given to us by God.
  3. Preparing those who will come after us to carry the baton of faith.
  4. Being privileged to know, enjoy, and glory in our communion with God in this life, which will lead to face-to-face life eternal in the promised land and kingdom.


Friends, I have had the privilege of being able to offer you today just a short glimpse of the greatness of Moses. It is, I think true to say, that Moses must be amongst the three greatest men in the OT period – the others being Abraham and David. Abraham was the founding father of the nation of Israel and the founding father of Jewish and Christian faith. You and I are included in Abraham’s numberless family and descendants. The promise land was God’s solemn promise to Abraham and his offspring. David was undoubtedly the greatest and most successful of all the kings of Israel. Moses though was the greatest prophet that ever arose in that 2000-year period up to the birth of Christ. As Deuteronomy 34:10 clearly states;

Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses…


Because no other prophet ever enjoyed such face-to-face contact with God. Because no other prophet was enabled to do such mighty and powerful signs, wonders, and miraculous deeds like Moses. No-one comes close to him on that front, not even Elijah. Only Moses received the magnificent Torah. Moses shaped the nation like no other individual could.

And yet having revealed and emphasised the greatness and uniqueness of Moses, even he cannot be compared to the greater Prophet who he said would one day arise from his nation. (Deuteronomy 18: 15-18). Jesus was that greater, purer, and perfect Prophet, Priest, and King. (Acts 3:22, 7:37). He was also Lord and Saviour and Immanuel – which means – God with us. If you have admiration for Moses and what he did and achieved, then take a long look at the life, death and resurrection of the One Moses served and wrote about in the Pentateuch. (Luke 24:45) Jesus said, “Before Abraham was – I am.” (John 9:58) Jesus was and is and forever will be the great I AM, who Moses met when he saw a burning bush that could not be consumed. (Exodus 3:14)

Moses himself would want me end this sermon not talking about him but by exalting and proclaiming the name of Jesus. As our reading from Hebrews 3 revealed, Moses was important and great, but Jesus was far more important and so much greater and more glorious. Moses was a great servant – as we have seen. But Jesus is the Son – the Son of God! (Hebrews 3:6) Moses was a faithful steward of the house (the house of God’s people). But Jesus is the owner of the house – Lord of all. (Hebrews 3:3) Moses deeply loved and feared God. But Jesus is God! The radiance of God’s glory! The exact representation of his being! (Hebrews 3:4, 1:3)

Moses made mistakes – costly ones. Jesus alone kept all the law of Moses. Jesus made no mistakes. Moses spoke the word of the Lord. Jesus is the Eternal Word of God. (John 1:1) Jesus fulfils all the promises and prophecies of Scripture which point forward to the One who was to come – including those shared and written down by Moses. Moses received bread (manna) from heaven in the wilderness. But Jesus is the Bread of God, the Bread from heaven, the Bread of life. (John 6:32-25). Moses possessed great faith – see him as the Red Sea parts! But Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith. (Hebrews 12:2)

All Hail King Jesus! All hail Emmanuel! All hail the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

I close with this thought and it is a most beautiful piece of revelation. Moses, the great servant of the Lord climbed to the top of Mount Nebo that he might see the promised land. And that was the last thing he saw before dying in the Lord’s arms. He saw vast swathes of land and was able to view and take in the length and breath of what would be Israel’s homeland. He died on that mountain and the people mourned his loss for thirty days.

However, many hundreds of years later, Moses did place his feet upon that promised land. They were placed next to the feet of Elijah, and next to the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ. All three were together on top of another mountain – the Mount of Transfiguration. Here, Moses and Elijah appeared to encourage Jesus as he prepared to make his way to Jerusalem and to his death. (Matthew 17:3). Moses was in the promised land and standing before and with the Greater Prophet and Son of God whose face and clothes were transfigured and shone like the sun in all its glory. The deliverance, the exodus of Israel under Moses all those years earlier, formed the pattern for the still greater exodus that was to be wrought by Jesus the true Passover Lamb. (1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Peter 1: 18-20) We are beneficiaries of Christ’s sacrificial death and mighty resurrection, and thank God that we can sing what the book of Revelation refers to as the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb. With this I end: (Revelation 15:3-4)

Great and marvellous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.

Those “righteous acts” were revealed through Moses and through the Lamb of God – the Lord Jesus Christ!

And now to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be all the glory, honour, and praise. Amen!

Revd Peter J Clarkson (29.10.23)