Thoughts from North Hollywood First United Methodist Church.
If we look at Deuteronomy 34:1-12 through the window of legalism, it is a simple text. Moses leads the people to Mount Pisgah overlooking the land of Canaan. God reminds him this is the promised land, and tells him he may look, but not enter. The death of Moses is foretold, his burial place kept secret, and a fitting eulogy is included. It would be easy to end the story of Moses simply understanding that for reasons mostly apparent to God; perhaps the greatest leader of the people of Israel (Moses) was denied entrance to the “Land of Milk and Honey.”
What would seem to be a text of judgment is really a story of grace. This implication of the burial and the secrecy involved is that God alone acted in making these arrangements. Theologian, Fred Buechner, writes that Moses symbolized the truth that once God touches you, your troubles are just beginning, and yet Moses probably wouldn’t have changed any of his life. Think of it, nobody knew God’s name before Moses asked. If Moses had chosen to keep quiet, we might still be wondering what to call the Creator. Moses had heard God in the burning bush, witnessed God in person (if only in passing and under clouds) and in the end God would take care of the last details of Moses having led His people.
The story here is about the future. Because Moses heard and heeded God’s claim and call on his life, the people of Israel had a future and a great hope. This is a story of grace.
Dr. Joey K. McDonald