Moses on the Mountain (Deuteronomy 34:1-8)
Have you ever been to the mountaintop? When I was about 16, I went to Denver, Colorado, on a school trip. We arrived late one evening, and the next day, we were scheduled to take a tour bus to look at some of the sights. The Rocky Mountains will take your breath away. We were riding on a tour bus to Colorado Springs, and as we drove, Pike’s Peak was right in front of us. We went to tour the Air Force Academy, and I believe it’s the most beautiful place I have ever been. The mountains just surround that campus.
Here in the Roanoke Valley, we live in an absolutely beautiful part of God’s creation. The mountains here are gorgeous. When we came to interview, I was blown away by the beauty around here. The morning we departed to go back to Florence, I took several pictures in case we didn’t come back. Mom and Dad originally intended to come on Tuesday when they came a couple weeks ago. A couple days before that, it seemed to me that the color of the leaves hit their peak. I texted Mom and said, “If there’s any way at all, you need to come Monday so that you can see these mountains.” I’m thankful they were able to do that.
I’m confident that each of you, in your own way, has a deep appreciation for the beauty of these mountains. How many of you moved to the Roanoke Valley and absolutely love the scenery? How many of you decided to move here, at least in some small part, because of the scenery? How many of you have taken friends or family who came to visit to the top of Mill Mountain or to the Peaks of Otter or somewhere else to show the beauty of this region? Some of you have lived here all your lives. When you go on vacation, do you feel at home when you start to see the mountains in the distance? Could you even imagine ever living in a place where you didn’t see the mountains every day?
In this morning’s text, Moses goes to the mountain. From that mountain, YHWH, in faithfulness to the promises He had made the patriarchs, shows Moses all the land of Canaan. Moses sees God’s faithfulness to the patriarchs, but he doesn’t experience that faithfulness. Yet, Moses experiences God’s faithfulness on Mt. Nebo. Moses sees the Promised Land instead of entering it because he disobeyed the Lord at Kadesh (Num 20:7-13). God said Moses would not enter Canaan; Moses did not enter Canaan.
As Moses dies on Mt. Pisgah, Moses teaches us an important lesson: “Sin has consequences.”
Scripture (Deuteronomy 34:1-8)
Moses went up on the top of Mount Nebo. As I’m reading this in English, I was convinced that Pisgah was the name of the mountain. In “The Sweet Hour of Prayer,” we talk about taking flight from Mt. Pisgah. Pisgah, though, means “summit” or “peak.” Moses, therefore, goes to the very summit of Mt. Nebo. The peak of that mountain would provide a spectacular view of the land God had sworn to give Abraham.
The LORD showed Moses all the land. I’ve never been to Nebo, and I, therefore, have absolutely no idea how much can be seen from it. Of course, much can be seen from the tops of mountains. You know how much you can see from the overlook at Mill Mountain, and Mt. Nebo is twice as tall.
Yet, the text says “the LORD showed him all the land. . . .” I suspect there’s a supernatural element at work here. God, through His great power, was able to show Moses every square mile of the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo, were He so inclined. The devil was able to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matt 4:8). If the devil could show the Son of God all the kingdoms of the world, I believe God can do the same and so much more.
The LORD shows Moses the land that He had sworn to give the patriarchs. This is a reminder that God keeps His promises. God had promised to give the land of Canaan to the patriarchs.
- Abraham: “I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God” (Gen 17:8).
- Isaac: Genesis 26:2-5.
- Jacob: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants” (Gen 28:13).
Whatever God has promised, God will do. “Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Josh 21:45). “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised. There has not failed one word of all His good promise, which He promised through His servant Moses” (1 Ki 8:56). Whatever God has said you can take to the bank; God will do what He has promised.
But, you must understand that doesn’t just work for good things God has promised. When God says there is a penalty for sin, you had better sit up and pay attention! There are serious consequences for sin.
- “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek 18:4).
- “The wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).
- Galatians 6:7-8.
Moses learns that lesson here. Because Moses had sinned against God, the LORD did not permit him to enter the Promised Land. God’s promise that Moses would not enter the Promised Land is found in Numbers 20:7-13. Yes, Moses struck the rock twice when the LORD said to speak to it. However, the ego in Moses’ statement — “Must we bring water for you out of this rock” (v 10) — shows that Moses’ heart was far from right. Notice further what God says to Moses: “You did not believe Me” (v 12). Moses sought to glorify himself and Aaron instead of the LORD.
Moses’ sin demonstrates powerfully the need to guard our hearts. Because Moses’ heart was wrong, he did wrong. That is a vital lesson to learn. Jesus: “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Matt 15:18). Therefore, we must guard our hearts with all diligence.
Moses dies in the land of Moab and not in Canaan. I really feel sorry for Moses. Moses had endured so much in the past forty years — he didn’t want the job, he had gone to Pharaoh, endured the bellyachers for forty years, and he had wandered in the wilderness. Moses is at the Jordan, he sees the land flowing with milk and honey, but because Moses had committed a little bitty sin God won’t let him enter Canaan.
Don’t you dare forget that! Because Moses does ONE THING wrong God won’t allow this great man to enter the Promised Land. Sin is that serious!
God buried Moses. Moses died at 120 with sound mind and body. The children of Israel mourned for Moses thirty days.
God’s refusal to allow Moses to enter the Promised Land demonstrates conclusively that “Sin has consequences.” We, therefore, need to do two things.
One: We need to make things right when we sin.
We need to make things right with God. Any sin — no matter how small we might find it — is a serious matter before God. Sin leads to death.
- God killed Saul because of his sin: 1 Chronicles 10:13-14.
- We all die spiritually when we sin: Romans 6:23.
Sin leads to God’s wrath: “Because of these things [sins that had just been listed] the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (Col 3:6).
Because sin leads to death, we need the blood of Jesus.
- “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).
- “If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7).
Do you need to make things right with God this morning? I don’t believe that most of you need me to tell you how to make things right with God. If you have questions or need help making things right before God, please come to me or one of the elders. Don’t delay in making things right before God.
We also need to make things right with others. Sin, because of its very nature, harms human relationships. Think about Sarah, Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael and that tangled web. Think about Jacob and Esau. Think about Joseph and his brothers. We must make things right with others. Matthew 5:23-24. What do you have to be made right with others this morning?
Two: We need to count the cost of sin.
We’ve talked about the high cost of sin in this morning’s sermon. We need to think long and hard about whether sin is worth the high cost.
- Ironically, Moses provides a powerful example in counting the cost of sin. Hebrews 11:24-26. Moses understood that the temporary pleasures of sin were not worth the high cost he would need to pay.
- Paul, likewise, counted the cost. Philippians 3:4-9. Paul had advanced well in Judaism and was on his way to a comfortable life with a nice career, but he counted the cost and abandoned those hopes to follow Jesus.
Jesus urged us to count the cost.
- “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk 8:36-37).
- Matthew 18:8-9.Jesus says it’s better to go through life as a cripple than to go through this life and end up in hell. People say, “Jesus isn’t speaking literally.” I’m not advocating that you maim yourself, but if you go to hell because you couldn’t keep your eyes or hands or feet where they didn’t belong, you will wish you could go back and cut them off! Sin is that serious!
Get off to yourself this week and think about the sin in your life. What might the consequences of that sin be? What would be the consequences if your spouse knew about that sin? How embarrassed would you be if members of the church here knew about your sin? Would you be able to keep your job if your employer knew about your sin? What do you need to do to get rid of that sin and avoid the consequences?
I was tempted with alcohol one time in my life. Except for this one occasion, alcohol has never been a problem for me. When I was growing up, even as a teenager, I was never really around it and never had an opportunity even to try it. Now that I’m older, I know some family history and my own personality, and I don’t think it would take much at all for me to become a full-blown alcoholic. Other things torment me, but not alcohol.
When I was in college, I spent the night in Vienna, Austria at a very nice hotel. There was a minibar at the hotel, and I was very curious. However, I was wise enough to know that my mom and dad paid my credit card bill. I knew that could lead to very serious consequences. I left the minibar alone!
What consequences are you facing for your sin? Is your soul in danger this morning because of sin in your life? Do you need to come to Jesus right now?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Dale Ridge church of Christ in Roanoke, Virginia.