Elder Beebe: Sometime last summer I asked you to give your views on Deuteronomy 34:7, and you gave notice in the next paper, that you would attend to it; but it must have escaped your recollection. You will oblige me by giving your views on that text now.
Isaac C. Garrison.
February 28, 1865.
Reply: The text reads thus: “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” This may seem a very short obituary for so eminent a servant of the Lord; but we would commend its brevity to the attention of those who write obituaries for the “Signs.” Should this example meet with favor, it will greatly relieve us, and silence the murmuring of many who object to our filling so large a space of our paper with prolix eulogies of their dead. There were many things remarkable connected with the death and burial, as well as the life, of this distinguished servant of God. He was born in Egypt, and at a time of violent and cruel persecution; his preservation from the fury of the tyrant when but an unconscious infant was truly wonderful; his home in the royal palace of him who had sent forth the murderous decree to slay him, and his being adopted and succored by Pharaoh’s daughter until he came to years, shows the perfect control our God has over the wrath of men. But in his death it is remarkable that he died in the land of Moab, and was buried there by the Lord, and his sepulcher no man could ever find.
Regarded only as a natural incident, it was remarkable that Moses, at the age of a hundred and twenty years, should have retained his strength and faculties unimpaired up to the time of his death. But wonders of still greater magnitude were prefigured in all the history of this man of God, and we believe that every incident of the life and death and burial of Moses is full of spiritual instruction for the people of God. We have not time or space, nor is it needful in answering the enquiry of our friend, to dwell upon the figurative import of more than what is set forth in our text.
First, that he was a hundred and twenty years old when he died.
Second, that at that age he was unimpaired in vigor and perception.
In the figurative import of our subject, Moses personates the law, as holding dominion over the people of God until its dominion over them is annulled by their redemption from its power by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, who having risen from the dead, succeeds and supersedes the law, as Joshua succeeded and superseded Moses in leading the tribes of Israel into the promised land. Although Moses and Aaron, representing the Jewish law and priesthood, were sent to lead forth the oppressed Hebrews from Egypt, and to conduct them in their meanderings in the wilderness, they could not conduct them into the promised land. Aaron died at Mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom (Numbers 20:23), and Moses, as we have seen, at, or near Mount Nebo, in the land of Moab, thus signifying to us that neither the works of the law, nor the sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood, can bring the children of God into their promised gospel inheritance of rest.
The age of Moses, to our mind, only expresses the idea of his being full of years, and points to the continuance of the law and the prophets until John; or the introduction of the gospel dispensation. As a prophet, Moses himself said to Israel, “A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he saith unto you (Acts 3:22) (See also Deuteronomy 18:15).” The hundred and twenty years fulfilled the measure of days which God allotted to Moses, and figuratively signifies the amount of time that God’s redeemed children must be held under tutors and governors, differing nothing from servants though heirs of immortality.
It is a happy consideration to the children of God that Moses was not allowed to pass over Jordan, and into the promised land. It is true Moses, from Mount Pisgah, was allowed to see the land afar off, even as the law anticipated the glory of the kingdom of Christ. But if Moses had followed the Ark of God through Jordan into the land of promised rest, it would have signified that the law should still hold dominion over the saints under the gospel dispensation. But Jordan was to the Hebrews then what gospel baptism is now to those who believe and have entered into that rest which remains for the children of God. But we will pass to the consideration of the second part of our subject.
Second. His eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. Taking Moses, in our text, as representing the law, as we feel warranted by the example of Paul (II Corinthians 3:13,17), in the piercing eye, and undiminished force of Moses to the very end of his ministry, we have a striking illustration of the keen perception of the law in taking cognizance of the thoughts and intents of our hearts, and its natural force in holding delinquents until the utmost jot and tittle of its demands are canceled.
The eye of the law of God was not dim when from the first transgression in the garden, through the vista of succeeding ages it could see and testify of the coming of the great law-fulfiller, and with sufficient natural force, hold him responsible for the transgressions of all his members. In all its types and predictions, the undimmed eye of the law was steadfastly fixed on him who should come, as in the volume of the book it was written of him, not to destroy the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them; to do and suffer all that was written of him in the law, and in the prophets, and in the psalms. And when the fullness of time had come, and God sent forth his own Son, who was made under the law to redeem them that were under its dominion and curse, the eye of the law was quick to recognize him, and to testify of him. And when the last great struggle came on, although, to follow the figure, the law had attained its hundred and twentieth year; old as it was, and about to yield its dominion to our spiritual Joshua, yet its eye could distinctly see all the iniquities of the people of God as laid on him, and with infallible accuracy summed up the crushing aggregate, and exacted the last jot and tittle at his bleeding hands.
Nor was its natural force abated! The nature of the law was inexorable and its force irresistible; stronger than the foundations of the universe were its inflexible demands, for although heaven and earth shall pass away, not a jot or tittle of the law could fail till all was fulfilled.
But perhaps the omniscience, and the omnipotent force of the law has been more clearly taught, and more sensibly understood by the children of God, in their own personal experience. When the commandment or law came, sin revived, and I died.
Reader, hast thou known the searching scrutiny and almighty power of the divine law in thine own case? When first quickened by the entrance of divine life, did you not indulge a hope that the law was blind, or that the eye of the law was at least dim, to the enormity of thy guilt? Did you not flatter yourself that it would be lenient with you, and in pity overlook what you in ignorance had done? Did you not propose in your mind to compromise the matter by doing the best you could, in hope that the law would accept that, and not exact a perfect and perpetual obedience, such as you could never attain unto? But no good resolutions, no penitential sighs, no ardent prayers, no flowing tears, nor overflowing grief could dim the eye of the law. It looked into the deep and hidden recesses of your heart, the secret chambers of your soul, and dragged into the broad glare of light such depravity and guilt as you had never dreamed were lurking in your nature. You found that you could hide nothing from the piercing eye of God’s holy law. Guilt-stricken and in despair, you laid your hand upon your mouth, and cried in deep conviction, Guilty and unclean!
Nor, in your case, was the natural force, the force of that law whose nature was holy, just and good, which is exceeding broad, and invested with the authority of God himself, in the least degree abated. It still possessed all the force which it displayed when its thunder tones made Sinai tremble to her base, the mountains skip like rams, and the hills like lambs. You died. All your legal hopes gave up the ghost; for you could not meet its stern demands, nor hide from its searching gaze, and never will you be permitted to forget that the eye of the law was not dim, nor its natural force abated.
The reason assigned why Moses and Aaron could not go into the promised land, was because of the smiting of the rock from whence water came forth for the salvation of Israel. Paul said, “And that rock was Christ (I Corinthians 10:4).” If then the apostle could recognize in the smitten rock a type of Christ; we may reasonably conclude that Moses and Aaron in the same connection represented the law and the Levitical priesthood, and the application of the figure is seen, when he who is the Rock of our salvation was smitten by the law; and from him as the fountain of living water, the river of life gushed forth. But the law could hold dominion over God’s redeemed people no longer; it could pursue them no further. Not because of any inefficiency in the law to execute its legitimate or natural functions; for its eye was not dim, nor its natural force abated. Like Moses in the figure, retaining all his powers and strength of vision until he died, so the law remained in all its force until its demands were fulfilled. And then, in full force and vigor, it died. It died in all its relations to the Israel of God, the same as Moses’ power and dominion ceased to the Hebrews when he expired on Mount Nebo. Moses was succeeded by Joshua, whose name and work made him the special type of our spiritual Joshua, or Jesus. Both names signify a Savior. Now then, we see that Moses could not bring the chosen tribes to rest; to that promised land which prefigured the gospel kingdom of Christ. But Jesus our spiritual Joshua, or leader, having received from the rod in Moses’ hand, the stroke due to our transgressions, having fulfilled all the demands of the law and justice of God, has finished transgression, and made an end of sin; has brought in everlasting righteousness. He has redeemed his people from the dominion, as well as from the curse of the law; and they are now dead to the law by the body of Christ, and the old husband to whom they were bound being dead to them, there remained no legal impediment to their marriage unto him that is risen from the dead, that they should henceforth bring forth fruit unto God. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1,2).”
“Israel rejoice, now Joshua leads!
He’ll bring your tribes to rest;
So far the Savior’s name exceeds
The ruler and the priest.”
March 15, 1865.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 158 - 162