Explore the Bible

with W. Wayne VanHorn

Sunday, February 23


Deuteronomy 32:48-52; 34:4-7

Today’s lesson entitled, Promised, deals with God’s faithfulness to do as He promised even when we sin. Jesus deeply loves us and stands ready to forgive our sins.

Our Sin Realized (Deut. 32:48-52). After Moses had delivered his third message to the people, the Lord instructed him to go up Mount Nebo to view the land of Canaan (v.49). For Moses, seeing the promised land affirmed the faithfulness of Yahweh. He wanted to cross the Jordan River and finish the job he started 40 years earlier but the Lord declared, “you will die on the mountain you go up” (CSB; v.50). Moses died before entering the promised land because he failed to treat the Lord as holy in the presence of the people (v.51). The incident at the Waters of Meribath-kadesh is found in Numbers 20:1-13.

Perhaps the saddest verse in Deuteronomy 32:48-52 is when God told Moses, “Although from a distance you will view the land that I am giving the Israelites, you will not go there” (32:52). How often do believers today experience God’s blessings from a distance? We must all come to realize the fullest experience of God’s blessings is found in giving our fullest obedience to His Word and will.

God’s Presence Assured (Deut. 34:4). Deuteronomy 33:1-29 records Moses’ final blessing of the tribes of Israel on the plains of Moab. When he finished blessing the people, Moses obeyed the Lord and ascended Mount Nebo to the summit of Pisgah (34:1). From this peak, he could see the promised land (34:2-3). The Lord met him there, assuring him of His presence. The Lord affirmed the land Moses was viewing was the land He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Just as God had told those patriarchs of old, “I will give it to your descendants” (34:4), even so. He acknowledged the people that Moses had led through the wilderness would now inherit this land.

The Lord reminded Moses that He let him see it with his own eyes. This opportunity to view the final destination, the promised land, was an act of grace on God’s part. The Lord could have let Moses die along the way or at Mt. Hor like his brother Aaron. Instead, he was allowed to lead the people to the crossing point of the Jordan River and to see the land from Mount Nebo’s lofty heights.

What about the last part of Deuteronomy 34:4? Did Moses lose his salvation by not sanctifying the Lord in the eyes of the people at Meribah? The answer is “No.” Moses did not lose his salvation; he was simply prohibited from entering the promised land. Hebrews 11:23-29 acknowledges Moses as a man of faith, who “chose to suffer with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” He also “considered reproach for the sake of Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt” (CSB).

God’s Mercy Discovered (Deut. 34:5-7). Moses died in God’s presence, the place of fullest grace. His death fulfilled the Lord’s earlier word to Moses (Deut. 32:50; 34:5). God was present with Moses even after his death, for the Lord buried him in the valley in the land of Moab facing Beth-peor.

“No one to this day knows where his grave is” (CSB: Deut. 34:6). Did the Lord hide Moses’ grave to prevent the people from worshiping him as an idol? Did the grave site go undiscovered because the people had to enter and conquer the promised land after just 30 days of mourning? Answers are not available.

What we do know is that God blessed Moses and honored him with a long life of 120 years.

VanHorn is dean of Christian Studies at Mississippi College, Clinton.