The Death of Moses
Open Your Bible
Deuteronomy 33:1-29, Deuteronomy 34:1-12, John 1:14-18, Hebrews 3:1-6
Cemeteries are filled with epitaphs engraved on tombstones, honoring the lives of departed loved ones. With just a few words or short phrases, they give insight into who the person was and what they meant to those whose lives they touched. Deuteronomy 34, the shortest chapter in the book, is a beautiful epitaph to a life lived in dedication to God.
So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the LORD’s word (Deuteronomy 34:5).
The writer of this section of Deuteronomy could have added more titles to this verse: prophet, great lawgiver, and worker of miracles. Instead, Moses is simply referred to as the servant of the Lord. Some of his works are listed later, but “servant of the LORD” (v.5) captures the essence of Moses’s life.
For decades Moses faithfully served the Lord, leading the people God had entrusted to him out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and finally to the borders of the promised land. However, he could not enjoy Canaan with them because of a disobedience committed earlier in their desert journey (v.4).
It’s tempting to focus on the unfairness (from our perspective) of Moses missing out on a long-awaited reward because of one failure. Of course it’s a disappointing reality. But we’ll miss out on the broader narrative of Moses’s story and the message of Deuteronomy if we only stay there.
Moses’s life, summarized in this capstone chapter, reflects all of his instructions recorded in the previous chapters. Deuteronomy is for us a picture of a loving God who calls His people to covenant, responding to His goodness by loving Him—faithfully walking in His ways. The call to faithfulness, in Moses’s lifetime and our own, doesn’t overlook our brokenness as humans. Instead, it directs us to turn to the One who has called us and trust in Him to help us walk in His ways.
These final verses from a book that some regard as harsh or legalistic actually underscore the beauty and truth reflected throughout Deuteronomy. As servants and children of the Lord, our God invites us to get to know Him through His instructions, through His Word. Because He is a just God, He will not overlook our sin. Sometimes our disobedience does cause us to miss out on some wonderful things. But that doesn’t mean that He will abandon or disown us. At the end of the day, Moses is still the servant of the Lord, in spite of his failures.
Centuries later, the writer of Hebrews reflects on Moses’s faithful service to point us to Jesus, who has secured our identity as God’s forever people (Hebrews 3:2–3). We are His, and every day is an opportunity to live in honor of this truth.