Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go up this mountain of the Abarim range and see the land that I have given the Israelites.
Numbers 31:2). (Evidently the events of chapter 31 are earlier in time than those of Numbers 27:12-23.)
I. THE PLACE OF DEPARTURE IS ALSO THE PLACE OF A GLORIOUS VISION. The eyes of the dying leader closed upon the sight of the land which the Lord had given to the children of Israel. We may be sure that God directed the feet of Moses to the one spot where there was the most suggestive view of Canaan. Not of necessity the view of greatest geographical extent, but probably one that would sufficiently indicate the variety of surface and products, showing also something of the populous cities. There would be everything to impress on Moses a most decided and cheering contrast with the wilderness. There might be no place even in the promised land itself where he could get a better view for the purpose. He may have climbed to different heights during the sojourn of the people in Moab, and seen many things to gladden his heart, yet never found just the Abarim point of view, until God signified it to him. There are many points of wide and spirit-filling view to which we may come in our excursions through the high lands of Scriptural truth and privilege, but we must wait for God himself to give us the great Abarim point of view. Many a Moabite shepherd had wandered on those heights, and seen with the outward eye the same landscape as Moses; but it needed a Moses, with a long-instructed, experienced, and privileged heart, to see what the Lord would show him. Balaam was driven from one height to another by the unsatisfied Balak, yet from them all even he, the man of carnal and corrupt mind, saw something glorious. What then must not Moses have seen, being so different a man from Balaam. and looking from God's own chosen point of view?
II. IT IS ALSO THE PLACE FOR CHEERING ANTICIPATIONS OF THE EARTHLY FUTURE OF GOD'S PEOPLE. Moses is to see with his own eyes that the land was worth forty years' waiting and suffering for. The object stands revealed before him as worthy of the effort. And though the earthly future of Israel is not to be his future, yet how could he look upon it otherwise than with as much interest and solicitude as if it were his own? Certainly that future was assured, as far as promise could assure it, and all the tenor of experience in the past. Whatever the circumstances of Moses' death, they could not materially affect the course of the people, seeing the ever-loving, all-comprehending God had them in charge. But it became God - it was a sign of loving care for a faithful servant - that Moses should die as he did. Quite conceivably he might have died in the gloom caused by some fresh aberration of the people, or at the best in the ordinary circumstances of daily life, with nothing more to mark his departure than if he were one of the most obscure persons in the camp. But God orders all things so that he shall depart where and when his mind may be filled with great joy because of Israel's coming years in Canaan. It happened not to him, as it has happened often in great crises of human affairs, that the leader has been suddenly called away with the feeling in his heart, "After me the deluge." None indeed knew better than Moses that Canaan would have its own difficulties. From the wilderness to Canaan was in many things only an exchange of difficulties, but still Canaan had things the wilderness never had, never could have, else it would not have been the promised land. Moses looks down on Canaan, and he sees not only the land, but a Joshua, with 600,000 fighting men under him, a tabernacle, an ark of the covenant, institutions in a measure consolidated by the daily attention of forty years.
III. THE SIMILAR ASSURANCES WE MAY HAVE AS TO THE FUTURE OF GOD'S WORK IN THE WORLD. We have things which our fathers had not - instruments, opportunities, liberties, and successes which were denied to them. Yet they saw the bright day coming; its first streaks fell on their dying faces; and they rejoiced even in what they could not share. Aged and bone-weary Israelites who died just as the people were leaving Egypt would nevertheless rejoice with all their hearts in the deliverance of their children. And Moses, who had been born an exile, who had lived forty years among strangers in Egypt, forty years more in the second exile of Midian, and forty years in the wilderness, was just the man to appreciate the satisfactions which were coming to his brethren at last. Thus we should learn to rejoice with all our hearts in the advent of possessions and privileges which have come too late for us individually to share. It is not enough languidly to say that things will be better for the next generation than they are for the present; it should be our joy to live and work as Moses did for the attainment of this. Let all our life be a slow climbing of Abarim, then our closing days will be rewarded with Abarim's view. It was the glory and joy of Moses that while he looked from the top of the mount, Israel was in the plain beneath. They were not far away in the wilderness of Sinai or, Worse still, in the brick-yards of Egypt. Moses had brought them with him, or rather God had brought him and them together. All humble, unselfish, and God-respecting hearts, who work through evil report and good report to make the world better, will assuredly have something of the reward of Moses from the top of Abarim. As concerns the greatest treasures of the kingdom of God, it matters not in what generation we live. It was better to be a believing Israelite in the wilderness, even though he died there, than an unbelieving one in Canaan. It will be better in the judgment for the man of two thousand years ago who looked forward longingly for the Messiah than for the man of to-day who looks back carelessly on the cross. The resources and revelations of eternity will equalize the disparities of time. All the same it will be no small matter if those who have taken part in guiding a generation through the wilderness see the earthly Canaan on which it is entering before they are gathered to their people. Each generation should leave to the next more of Canaan and less of the wilderness. Each generation, though it enters in some sort upon a Canaan, should leave it as only a wilderness compared with the brighter Canaan that is to follow. Let our confident, determined cry ever be, Out of Christ there is no hope for the world. Out of Christ the generations of men must become more and more corrupt, and give more hold for the pessimist with his dismal creed. But equally our cry must be, In Christ there is no room even for despondency, let alone despair. Black as the outlook remains on a world's sins and sorrows, the God who showed Canaan to Moses from Abarim holds his resources undiminished still (Matthew 37:20; Romans 8:28; Romans 11:33-36; Romans 15:19, 29; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 2 Corinthians 1:20). - Y.
Thou also shalt be gathered unto thy people, as Aaron thy brother was gathered.Romans 7:7). One great purpose for which the law is given is just to teach us what we are- utterly sinful, utterly lost in ourselves. It requires perfect obedience; and, behold, in many things we offend. It makes no provision for transgression, proclaims no forgiveness. It can give no peace. The voice is terrible to the guilty. Whenever it fulfils its true purpose in the soul it empties it of self-righteousness, lays it prostrate in the dust, and makes it take the lowest place. Thus St. Paul says, "I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God" (Galatians 2:19). And, again, "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (chap. Galatians 3:24). Are you? Under Moses or Christ? What is your hope of glory? Is it that you have not sinned so much as others? that your life is very exemplary? that you leave no duty willingly unperformed, or service unattended? Do you think that somehow or other Christ must be yours, if your life is so excellent? Are these your thoughts? Then we must faithfully tell you that you are still under Moses, still clinging to a broken law; and we must remind you that the law can never bring you to heaven. It is Christ only who can save you, and bring you into the Land of Promise — Christ only who can reconcile you to God, and we can never come to Christ without utterly renouncing our own righteousness, and our own works, as entitling us to God's favour.
1. As an engagement to us to think often of dying. We are not better than our fathers or brethren; if they are gone, we are going; if they are gathered already, we must be gathered very shortly.
2. As an encouragement to us to think of death without terror, and even to please ourselves with the thoughts of it, it is but to die as such and such died, if we lived as they lived, and their end was peace; they "finished their course with joy"; why, then, should we fear any evil in that melancholy valley?
( Matthew Henry, D. D..)
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