When I lived in China, I saw the body of Mao Zedong, preserved for veneration in Beijing. Similarly, when I lived in Vietnam, I saw the body of Ho Chi Minh in his mausoleum in Hanoi. God prevented this sort of thing from happening to the body of Moses. If their valued leader had died in their midst, the people might have wanted to preserve his corpse or turn his remains into a shrine. Instead, God Himself took care of the burial and no one knew then or knows now where Moses’ gravesite is (Deut. 34:6).
God had already told Moses the specific circumstances of his death before he died (Deut. 32:48–52). Moses would not be allowed to enter the promised land because of his disobedience at Meribah, but he saw it from a distance. He would climb Mount Nebo, see the land, then “be gathered to your people,” an idiom for death. This is a comforting example of God’s grace, extended even to a leader who’d publicly dishonored Him.
Moses’ death itself is chronicled by another writer in the last chapter of Deuteronomy. Obediently, Moses climbed Mount Nebo, where “the LORD showed him the whole land” (Deut. 34:1). There before him lay the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham (v. 4)! Then he died at age 120, in supernaturally good health (v. 7). The Israelites mourned for him for 30 days, and Joshua took over the primary leadership role (vv. 8–9).
The final three verses are in essence Moses’ epitaph (vv. 10–12): “No prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt...No one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”
>> What would you want your epitaph to be? What would it say about your achievements, ministry, or character? What would it say about your relationship with the Lord? For more on the death of Moses, read Deuteronomy 34.
We are the children of the Living God, the siblings of Christ; this is our identity. Lord God, let us bear a strong family resemblance to You so that everyone who encounters us cannot help but see You.