“So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said.” (Deut. 34:5)
I recently finished teaching a series on the life of Moses at my church, and when it was all over there was one particular thought that stayed with me, comforted me and even brought me some relief. The thought is this: Our life doesn’t end simply because we’re old and wore out. Instead, God takes us when He determines our time is up.
Deuteronomy records the last days of the Moses’ life, where God calls him to the top of Mount Nebo for a final look around. Now, this mountains is about 4,500 feet high, and most of us are thinking, “Hey, nice view.” But Moses was 120 years old! How many of you could climb almost one mile high now, much less than when you are 120 years old? And there was no trail or paved road. Moses blazed his own trail and climbed to the top. I have trouble going up and down the stairs at work more than a few times in a row, and here’s Moses doing a little last minute mountain climbing and sight-seeing before he finally takes his eternal rest. Moses was a stud.
But Moses wasn’t just physically strong, he was spiritually strong. We don’t find any self-pity or final regrets mentioned in this last chapter of his life. He knew he was going to see the land God promised to Abraham, and he knew he was never going to walk there. Furthermore, the Lord had already chosen Joshua to take the Children of Israel into the Promised Land. The only thing left for Moses to do was to hike a mountain, enjoy the view, and quietly pass away.
I believe this brief story reminds us that, as believers, we have no reason to fear or panic when it comes to dying. We all die; it is part of living. In some ways, we’re really not ready to live until we’re ready to die.
As we read about Moses climbing to the top of the mountain, we don’t really want him to die. I remember reading the Gospels in high school and somewhere in my mind was the hope Jesus didn’t have to die this time. Of course, I knew that He did and I knew why He did, I just didn’t want Him to actually die. Perhaps it is something within all people that abhors the death of another, because to experience death is not the way God first created us. We were created to live on and on but the original sin messed that up. Still, it didn’t mess up our expectation for eternal life, nor our sense of sorrow when a loved one dies. We know they will; we just don’t want them to.
At the end of his life, Moses is still strong enough to climb the mountain and get a look around, and what a view it is. He starts by looking northward from Gilead to Dan, turning northwest to see Naphtali and the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, then west to all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, and finally southward toward the Negev (semi-desert region) and the Valley of Jericho. After wandering the deserts for forty years, this must have been quite a sight.
I wonder if our final moments in life will also reveal a spectacular, panoramic, heavenly view of what is ahead; a new dimension that we can see only by the invitation of God. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him,” Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 2:9. This is what Moses was looking forward to as he took his final look at the Promised Land.
And I am sure that Moses enjoyed the view. Verse 7 says “Moses was 120 years old when he died, yet his eyesight was clear, and he was as strong as ever.” Moses was more than twice my age but still he had better eyesight than I do! The word “strong” here occurs six times in the OT with the sense of being fresh, moist, or green like a tree. It speaks of sexual vigor and physical health.
Nobody knows how many more years Moses would have lived naturally if the Lord had not taken him when He did. Every part of Moses was physically healthy and spiritually strong. So take heart knowing that God doesn’t take us only when we’re worn out. He takes us when He determines our time is up. And if you’re still breathing, it means God isn’t finished with you yet. I encourage you not to give up on yourself until God determines it is time for you to go.