Today marks the end of the writings of Moses in my yearly reading plan. In previous readings, I don't think I've ever come to the end of any Old Testament book and been sad, as strange as that may sound. I think often I've often regarded the message in many Old Testament books as being purposed for others, specifically the nation of Israel, and become very detached from the accounts found within as historical and thus somewhat impersonal. But this time was different.
First let me preface by saying it's been a long time, probably ten years or more, since I last attempted an trek through the entire Bible, end-to-end. To be quite honest, it's been a long time since I've been in the Bible. God has graciously brought me back, broken and humble, to sit at his feet and to hear him speak through the inspired writers once again. But that's another story for another time.
Besides the fact that this is a story that God is telling about himself, the individual we become most intimately acquainted with in the first five books of the Bible is Moses. He shows up in the second chapter of Exodus as the child "drawn out of the water". And from that time on, we follow God's working in and through him to setup the fulfillment of part of his promise to Abraham in Genesis 12.
So much flows through Moses to his people. The law is a massive body of work detailing God's relationship to his people and what they must do if they desire God to dwell amongst them. But inside of the pages of details are outright statements that this system is not permanent, even that the people have and will fail to be able (or given the ability, Deuteronomy 29:4) to follow it. Despite this, Moses speaking as a prophet, speaks of the time to come, when God will change their very nature (circumcision of the heart):
And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.
Deuteronomy 30:6 (ESV, emphasis mine)
It is an amazing thing to see how Moses knows the heart of his people, both prophetically as God gave him insight, and as one who has led this nation for decades. His words, while filled with overwhelming condemnation at the disobedience done and still to come, there are still the tones of a father who cares and desires the people to receive the blessings of God in their new home.
Because of Moses' heart and dedication to the nation of Israel, my heart breaks over the punishment God lays on him to not enter the land that he has worked so hard for. In my humanness, I would have let him enjoy of the fruit of his labor for all he has done in bringing the nation so far. What strikes me about this punishment is both the severity with which God views sin and the importance he holds of his people keeping his name holy. Moses is not allowed into the land because "...you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel." (Deuteronomy 32:51). God's name being kept holy and his justice when that is not done are tied so closely together.
Lastly, the somber epitaph given for Moses at the very end of Deuteronomy causes me to feel as though I have lost a dear friend, someone who, while I did not know face-to-face, have come to enjoy the company of, to wonder at his closeness with God, and to desire lead as he did, under the total control of the Sovereign God.
[T]here has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
(Deuteronomy 34:10-12 ESV)