Have you noticed when reading the Bible that small details can sometimes stand out which make you start asking questions? One such example of that for me is found in Deut. 34:1-5. Some of that text is as follows,
“Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land … ‘I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.’ So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor; but no one knows the place of his burial to this day.”
Does anything stand out to you when you read that text? When it says, “he buried him,” to whom is that a reference? Most likely it is a reference to God Himself. God either directly or indirectly through his angels, buried Moses. Wow!
Why would God do that? Why would he not just let the leadership bury him as they did with Aaron?
Two reasons come to my mind for this dramatic burial. The first is hinted at in the text above. God told Moses, “You shall not go over there.” God, graciously allowed Moses to go up mount Nebo so that he could see the vast land that the nation was about to inherit from God. As much as he desired to live in the promised land, his sin of rebellion against God had to be fulfilled. Therefore, to prevent the nation of Israel from taking the body of Moses (like they did Joseph) to the promised land, God made sure that they would never find his body.
God is a gracious and loving God, but he also is just. He declared that Moses would never see the promised land whether living or dead.
A second thought comes from the story of the bronze serpent Moses made and had placed upon a pole so that those who had been bitten by a snake could be healed by glancing at it. Notice what 2 Kings 18:4 says the Jews did with that pole,
“He (Hezekiah) removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it.”
The Jews had kept that pole for hundreds of years, and it became an object of worship! This was never intended by God. Is it possible, that if the Jews knew where Moses was buried, his burial site could have become a place of worship? We do not know for sure, but that certainly would not surprise me.
So what do we learn this morning? Moses had a very different death and burial. He was buried by God Himself. Moses was not shown any favoritism because of his unique relationship with God. He was held accountable for his sin. We also see that God prevented Moses from being able to enter the land even after he died. Finally, God prevented Moses from being deified because of his special relationship to God and his leadership role in the history of the Jewish nation.
Father, thank you for the reminder of the burial of Moses. His sin required just payment. May you help me to remember the significance of sin especially for those in spiritual leadership. May you help me to remain faithful and obedient as I seek to follow you.
Following Jesus with you,