“And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.”
There are many very remarkable incidents in the history of this servant of the Lord, in his birth, his preservation from the murderous decree of Pharaoh, his introduction in the house of Pharaoh, and his adoption as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, his continued attachment to and preference for his own people, when he had come to years, his flight from Egypt and arrest by the Almighty at the burning bush, his commission from the I AM to go again to Egypt and lead forth the chosen tribes of the Lord from the house of bondage, the wonders which God wrought in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at Sinai, Horeb, and many other places, are among the most wonderful events recorded in the holy Scriptures. But not only in his life was he distinguished by so many strange and wonderful events, but also in his death. Although he had attended the children of Israel about forty years in the wilderness, he was not suffered to share with them their final entrance and settlement in the promised land. From Pisgah’s summit he was allowed to behold the distant landscape, and then to die upon the mountain of Nebo, and was buried by the Lord himself, and his sepulchre is not known unto this day. And although six score years of toil and care had been upon him, yet we are told that his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
We are informed in the Scriptures that these Old Testament records were written for our instruction, and that the whole legal dispensation was figurative, a shadow of good things to come, and as such they are regarded by the inspired writers of the New Testament. What the precise age of Moses was intended to represent we are not able to say, only that the one hundred and twenty years of his life covers the time of the sojourn of Israel in the wilderness.
Moses, in some particulars, was a type of our Lord Jesus Christ, as a prophet, a leader and commander of the people, &c. But principally he stands as a personification of the law which he administered to the children of Israel. As such he is frequently referred to in the New Testament, and the reading of the law in Jewish synagogues is called the reading of Moses. In the third chapter to the Hebrews, Christ as a personification and embodiment of the gospel, is compared by way of contrast, with Moses as the personification of the law.
Taking Moses then in his general figurative character we shall read his history with increased interest, and especially this account of his death and burial, together with what is said of his keen discernment and natural force. To understand the figurative import of our text, we must inquire, What is the discernment and the natural force of the law of God which Moses represents? When the people of God, as the antitype of carnal Israel, are delivered or brought from the power of darkness, being quickened by the Spirit, they find themselves truly in a house of bondage, and under such task-masters as cause their groaning to be heard by the I AM, who appeared to Moses in the bush, and Moses, or the law of God in its spirituality, comes home to them with a display of divine omniscience. The fountain of the great deep of their hearts is broken up, the hidden recesses of their mind is laid bare and open, the secret chambers of the soul are exposed, and the quickened sinner, now in the hands of Moses, learns that the law takes cognizance of the very thoughts and intents of the heart, sin revives, appears exceeding sinful, and the subject of this work is convinced that the eye of the law of God is not dim. It calls for jots and tittles, and thunders in our guilty ears, that heaven and earth shall pass away, but these jots and tittles which all unregenerated men have always overlooked, shall not be dispensed with until all are fulfilled. Here every mouth is stopped and all the world stands guilty before God.
Two examples of the searching discernment of the law of God should be considered in connection with the death of Moses. First, in reference to its demands exacted at the hands of our adorable Redeemer, for it was by his vicarious death and sufferings that those for whom he suffered became dead to the law by the body of Christ, and the law dead to them as to its curse and dominion, that they being reckoned as dead with him, buried with him by baptism into death, and with him raised from the dead to a newness of life, and that being dead to them wherein they had been held, they are married to him that is risen from the dead, that they should henceforth bring forth fruit unto God, in serving him, not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of that Spirit which brought again from the dead the body of our crucified Lord. In the demands of the law for satisfaction and atonement for the transgression of God’s people, its eye was not dim. It was clear enough to discriminate between the blood of bulls and calves, and such other blood as had long streamed from Jewish altars, and that of the Lamb of God. It could clearly perceive in him, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Its eye was not so dim as to recognize in any other being in heaven or earth the right of redemption, based on eternal vital union and indissoluble relationship. And the law and eternal justice of God, clearly seeing in the person of Jesus, the Head of the church, the great Law-filler, the Lamb without blemish, who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, for us who by him do believe in God who raised him up from the dead; and seeing all the iniquities of all his people laid by the hand of God on him, inflicted its extreme penalty, and exhausted on him all its wrath. Dim indeed must have been the eye of the law, if it had only required atonement for what the Arminians call original sin, and had overlooked the actual transgressions of his people, or any part of them. If the eye of the law had then and there been dim, divine justice would not have been satisfied. If any part of its requisitions, even one jot or one tittle had escaped the vigilance of that clear, piercing eye, all his sufferings for us would have failed to redeem us to God. Or if that eye had been too dim to look back to the days of creation, nay, back to the very throne of God, the ancient settlements of eternity, and thence forward to the great burning day, some of the sins of some that Jesus was the surety for, might have been overlooked, and then the whole mediatorial work must have failed. But, glory to God in the highest, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.
The natural, physical power, vigor and strength of Moses as a man, we presume, had not relaxed nor yielded to the weight of years, as the infirmities incidental to old age are generally developed, but all this was necessary in making him a proper personification of the law.
The natural force of the law which we were under, and from which Christ came to redeem us, should be carefully considered, but alas, how few there are at this day who understand it. To know the natural force of the law, we must understand its nature, and the nature of the law must be determined by its emanation. It is the law of God, it came immediately from him, and bears in it a clear transcription of his nature. As he is holy, just and good, so is the law which came from him, and its force is like that of its Author, omnipotent and irresistible. The natural force then of the law, considered in reference to its emanation, is absolute and almighty, and cannot, like things of a finite or terrestrial nature, abate from age.
Second. The natural force of the law is exemplified in the infliction of its penalties on Christ. He who had power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out devils; he who had power to command all the legions of angels in glory; he who had power to create the universe, yea, to dash whole worlds to death, and make them at pleasure, is seized by the law, and by its natural force held more firmly than are the pillars of the heavens or the foundation of earth, for both of these shall fail, but the natural force of the law shall never abate or become even less potent. No abatement of its natural force was either asked or granted, when Jesus the Savior bore its full force on Mt. Calvary, and when in death he convulsed the universe. Not even in consideration of the divinity, purity and excellency of the character, person and glory of its victim, could its force abate. Were we able to watch one hour with our Lord in his suffering in the garden, or on the cross, could we witness his agonizing appeal, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass;” or writhing in the deadly pains of the cross, grappling with the weight of all the sins of all his people, could we there hear him cry, “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” and see responding nature shuddering to her centre, the sun darkened in the heavens, the natural force of rocks and mountains abating, rending asunder, the startled dead leaping from their graves, then might we to some extent appreciate the natural force of the law, and what it was when it died, as to its righteous claims on Christ, by receiving at his hand an exact and perfect equivalent for the sins of all his members. Here at the cross of Jesus is laid the scenes which the death of Moses prefigured. As God had sworn with an oath, that the seed of Abraham should possess the land of Canaan, so had he sworn that the spiritual, the antitypical Israel should enter into gospel rest. But as the natural force of the law allows no rest, no intermission of labor, no respite, it was not intended that that law which was written on the tables of stone, should pass the baptismal waters of Jordan, which bounds the gospel state and rest that remains for the people of God. Here Moses dies, and Joshua, which name is the same as Jesus, takes the lead, and brings his Israel into the gospel land which, although infested with some Canaanites which remain for a season, yet it flows richly with milk and honey.
One idea more in regard to Moses, with all his cares and responsibilities devolving on him, opposed by the almost constant murmuring of Israel, and often encountering the deadly enemies of Israel, such was his natural force, no earthly power could dispossess him of life. None but God could dissolve his dominion over his Israel. And so it truly is in the natural force of the law. If so much as a beast should touch the mountain, it must die, and the thunder of its precepts was more than Israel could endure. So none but Jesus, our God and Savior, was able to meet and receive the force of the law, and by an equitable liquidation of the last jot and tittle of its claims, redeem his people effectually from its dominion, and bring them under that law to himself, which is not written in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of his children’s heart.
As we see in the transactions on Calvary, an illustration of the figurative import of the death of Moses, so also in the personal experience of the saints, the same is made most clearly to appear. When a subject of grace is quickened, as we have stated before, he finds himself in a wilderness state and condition, and Moses, or the law having dominion, and enforcing the precepts with a rod. For the heir, so long as he is a child, or minor, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all, but is under tutors and governors until the time appointed by the father. And Moses continues with them, as a reprover, pointing out and threatening them with pains and penalties, until they reach Mount Nebo, or the place from which the goodly land may be seen. At this place in their experience, the interposition of him who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth, is made manifest. By faith, which is the gift of God to them, they have a view of the atonement which was made by our Lord Jesus Christ, and his blood and righteousness is by the Spirit applied for the remission of their sins, and they are freely justified, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and thus are they released from the terrors of the law. Moses becomes dead to them; they are no more under the law, but under grace. The handwriting of ordinances is blotted out, and the law of commandments nailed to the cross. Moses is not only dead to them, but he is buried out of their sight. They, like the Israelites, spend much time in searching for his body, but they cannot find it. There is a legal Spirit in their flesh which constantly inclines them to legality, which is the body of Moses, about which Michael the Archangel disputed with Satan. (Jude 9.) And that dispute is still continued by their respective hosts, Satan and his legions still contending for salvation by works, and Michael, which is Christ, and his witnesses contending that salvation is by grace alone; Satan and his ministers urging the law as the rule of life to the Christian Church, and Christ and his followers contending that the Church is no more under the law, but under grace. God, in the gospel, now says to his redeemed people, as he said to the carnal Israelites, Joshua i. 2, “Moses, my servant, is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan.” Under the guidance of Joshua, your new Leader, arise and, through this Jordan, baptism, enter into the rest which remains for the people of God. This goodly land was seen by Moses from the top of Pisgah, as the new covenant dispensation was seen by faith, through the types, but Moses could not enter, neither can those who read Moses, or claim to be Moses’ disciples; their carcasses will all most assuredly fall in the wilderness; for by the deeds of the law, none shall be justified, and as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse. Of all such, God has sworn that they shall not enter into his rest. The law is not of faith, but it calls for works continually. “So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief,” or for the want of faith. “For we which have believed do enter into rest.” - Heb. iii. 19; iv. 3.
Middletown, N. Y.
June 1, 1858.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 96 - 102