The Signs of the Times


March 24, 1881

The Last Words of Moses


In all the dealings of God with his people there is, mingled with his love and mercy, a striking exactness and firmness of decision. This is clearly exemplified in the history of the Hebrew people. God had bestowed great blessings upon Israel. His loving-kindness toward them is thus touchingly portrayed by his own hand: “As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead them.” And yet what swift and severe retribution was visited upon them for their transgressions. How, then, can sinners in any age hope to escape the wrath of God? ST March 24, 1881, par. 1

Again, more wonderful than his mercy toward Israel is the love which Christ has manifested in his infinite sacrifice to redeem a lost race. His earthly life was filled with deeds of divine tenderness and compassion. And yet Christ himself plainly declares, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled.” While he tells us of the love of God, he also pictures the awful scenes of the Judgment and the retribution that shall be visited upon the wicked. In all the Bible, God is presented not only as a being of mercy and benevolence, but as a God of strict and impartial justice. ST March 24, 1881, par. 2

The great Ruler of nations had declared that Moses was not to lead the congregation of Israel into the goodly land, and all the earnest pleadings of God's servant could not secure a remission of his sentence. He knew that he must die. Yet he had not for a moment faltered in his interest and care for Israel. He had faithfully sought to prepare the congregation to enter upon the promised inheritance, and had repeated before them the law of God, and his wonderful dealings with them as a people. He would in every possible way guard them from transgression. ST March 24, 1881, par. 3

He now completed the work of writing all the laws, the statutes and judgments which God had given him, and all the regulations concerning the sacrificial system. The book containing these was placed in charge of the proper officers, and was for safe-keeping deposited in the side of the ark. An erring people often interpret God's requirements to suit their own desires; therefore the book of the law was to be sacredly preserved for future reference. ST March 24, 1881, par. 4

Moses was filled with fear that the people would depart from God, their only helper. In a most sublime and thrilling address he set before them the blessing which would be theirs, if they lived in obedience to God, and then declared the terrible curses that would rest upon them, should they depart from him. “And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a by-word among all nations whither the Lord shall lead thee.” And the Lord shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other, and there thou shalt serve other gods, which neither thou nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone. And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest; but the Lord shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind. And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see.” ST March 24, 1881, par. 5

He closed with these solemn and impressive words: “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live. That thou mayest love the Lord thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him; for he is thy life, and the length of thy days. That thou mayest dwell in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” ST March 24, 1881, par. 6

At the divine command, Moses and Joshua now repaired to the tabernacle, while the pillar of cloud came and stood over the door. Here the people were solemnly given into Joshua's charge. The leadership of the man who had so long and so faithfully cared for Israel was now ended. Still Moses forgets himself in his interest for his people. In the presence of the assembled multitudes the great leader in the name of God, addressed to his successor these words of holy cheer; “Be strong and of a good courage; for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them; and I will be with thee.” He then turned to the elders and officers of the people giving them a solemn charge to faithfully obey the instructions he had communicated to them from God. ST March 24, 1881, par. 7

Together Moses and Joshua stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the eyes of all the congregation were fixed upon them. The aged man, now doubly dear, must soon be taken from them; and they recall with a new and deeper appreciation, his parental tenderness, his wise counsels, and his untiring labors. His successor was the man of God's choice, but he had far less experience. How could he bear alone the burdens which had rested so heavily even upon Moses? The people called to mind how often Moses had stood between them and God's vengeance for their sins. How often had his earnest pleadings turned aside the blow! They would gladly have kept him with them, but they knew that this was impossible. Their grief was heightened by remorse. They bitterly remembered that their own perverse course had provoked Moses to the sin for which he must die. ST March 24, 1881, par. 8

God designed to arouse the Israelites to see the sinfulness of their course. The removal of their beloved leader would be a far stronger rebuke than any which they could have received, had his life and mission been continued. Now the Lord would make them feel that they are not to make the life of their future leader as hard and trying as they have made that of Moses. God speaks to his people in blessings bestowed; and when these are not appreciated, he speaks to them in blessings removed, that they may be led to see their sins and return to him with all the heart. ST March 24, 1881, par. 9

That very day there came to Moses the command, “Get thee up .... unto Mount Nebo, ... and behold the land of Canaan, which I gave unto the children of Israel for a possession. And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people.” Often had Moses left the camp of Israel, in obedience to the divine summons, to commune with God; but he was now to depart on a new and mysterious errand. He must go forth to resign his life into the hands of his Creator. Moses knew that he was to die alone; no earthy friend would be permitted to minister to him in his last hours. ST March 24, 1881, par. 10

He was not beyond temptation, and there was a mystery and awfulness about the scene before him, from which his heart shrank. He was in the full vigor of health, with all his powers in active exercise. Was some strange and fearful sickness to come upon him? Must his body lie unburied, a prey to the wild beasts and the fowls of the air? Was this to be the end of his life of toil and sacrifice? But the severest trial was his separation from the people of his care and love,—the people with whom his interest and his life had been identified for forty years. His heart was filled with anxiety for their future, and oppressed with forebodings of evil, as he remembered their constant tendency to depart from God. Never had his faith been more severely tried. But he had learned to trust in God, and he calmly submitted to the decree of infinite love and wisdom. ST March 24, 1881, par. 11

Moses did not entertain the opinion now cherished by most of the Christian world, that as soon as a good man dies, he enters the mansions of eternal bliss, in a land of which Canaan with all its attractions, was but a dim type. Had he believed this, he would not have pleaded so earnestly for permission to cross the Jordan and share the inheritance of his people. ST March 24, 1881, par. 12

Again the Spirit of God rested upon his servant, and in the most sublime and touching language he pronounced a blessing upon the tribes individually. He then closed with a general benediction, in which he set forth God's care for Israel, and the exalted position which they might occupy, if they would live in obedience to his law. “The eternal God is thy refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee, and shall say, Destroy them. Israel, then, shall dwell in safety alone. The fountain of Jacob shall be upon a land of corn and wine; also his heavens shall drop down dew. Happy art thou, O Israel. Who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! And thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places.” ST March 24, 1881, par. 13