Ellen G. White Writings

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The Signs of the Times

March 31, 1881

The Death of Moses

By Mrs. E. G. White

When Moses had ended his last words to Israel, he turned from the congregation, and in silence and alone he made his way up the mountain side. He went to Pisgah, the loftiest ridge, and then to Nebo, the highest point on that ridge. Upon that lonely height he stood, and gazed with undimmed eyes upon the scene spread out on every side. Far away to the west lay the blue waters of the Great Sea; in the north, snowy Hermon stood out against the sky; to the east was the table-land of Moab, and beyond lay Bashan, the scene of Israel's triumph; and away to the south stretched the desert of their long wanderings.

In solitude, Moses reviewed his life of vicissitudes and hardships since he turned from courtly honors and from a prospective kingdom in Egypt, to cast in his lot with God's chosen people. He called to mind those long years in the desert with the flocks of Jethro, the appearance of the angel in the burning bush, and his own call to deliver Israel. He again beheld the mighty miracles of God's power in the plagues upon Egypt, the wonderful passage through the Red Sea, the symbol of God's presence in the cloud and the pillar of fire, the water bursting from the rock, the daily bread descending from heaven with the falling dew, the victories which the Lord had given them over their enemies, their quiet and secure repose in the midst of a vast wilderness, and the unsurpassed glory and majesty of the divine presence which had been revealed to him. As he reviewed these things, he was overwhelmed with a sense of the goodness and power of God. His promises were sure to Israel. When they were faithful and obedient, no good thing promised had been withheld from them.

Moses had been disappointed and grieved by the continual rebellion of Israel. Notwithstanding all his prayers and labors during their forty years’ journeying, only two of all the adults in the vast army that left Egypt, were found so faithful that they could see the promised land. As Moses reviewed the result of his labor, his life of trial and sacrifice seemed to have been almost in vain.

Yet he regretted not the burdens he had borne for an ungrateful people. He knew that his mission and work were of God's own appointing. When first called to lead Israel from the house of bondage, he shrank from the responsibility, and entreated the Lord to choose some man better qualified to execute this sacred work. His request was not granted. Since he had taken up the work, he had not laid it down, nor cast aside the burden. When the Lord had proposed to release him, and destroy rebellious Israel, Moses could not consent. He chose still to bear the burden which had been placed upon him.

The servant of God had enjoyed special tokens of the divine favor; he had obtained a rich experience during his travels in the wilderness, in witnessing the manifestations of God's power and glory; and in reviewing the scenes of his life, he concluded that he had made a wise decision in choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.

As Moses looked back upon his experience as a leader of God's people, only one wrong act marred the illustrious record. If he could atone for that one transgression, he would not shrink from death. He was assured that repentance, humiliation, and faith in the Promised One, who was to die man's sacrifice, were all that God required. In humility and faith, Moses again confessed his sin, and implored pardon in the name of Jesus.

Angels of God presented to Moses a panoramic view of the land of promise. Every part of the country was spread out before him, not faint and uncertain in the dim distance, but standing out clear, distinct, and beautiful to his delighted vision. He seemed to be looking upon a second Eden. There were mountains clothed with cedars of Lebanon, hills gray with olives, and fragrant with the odor of the vintage, wide green plains bright with flowers and rich in fruitfulness, the palm-trees of the tropics side by side with waving fields of wheat and barley, sunny valleys musical with the ripple of brooks and the song of birds, goodly cities, and fair gardens, lakes rich in “the abundance of the sea,” grazing flocks upon the hill-sides, and even amid the rocks a place for the wild bee to secrete its treasures. It was indeed such a land as Moses, inspired by the Spirit of God, had described to Israel: “Blessed of the Lord,... for the precious things of heaven, for the dew and for the deep that coucheth beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, .. and for the chief things of the ancient mountains,... and for the precious things of the earth and fullness thereof.”

As the glories of the promised land faded from his sight, a scene of deeper interest passed before him. He was permitted to look down the stream of time, and to behold the first advent of our Saviour. He saw Jesus as a babe at Bethlehem. He heard the voices of the angelic host break forth in that glad song of praise to God and peace on earth. He beheld Christ's humble life in Nazareth, his ministry of love and sympathy and healing, his rejection by a proud and unbelieving nation, the agony in Gethsemane, the betrayal, the cruel mockery and scourging, and that last crowning act of nailing him to the tree. Moses saw that as he had lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of God must be lifted upon the cross, to give his life a sacrifice for men, that whosoever would believe on him should “not perish, but have eternal life.”

Grief, amazement, indignation, and horror filled the heart of Moses, as he viewed the hypocrisy and Satanic hatred manifested by the Jewish nation against their Redeemer, the mighty angel who had gone before their fathers, and wrought so wonderfully for them in all their journeyings. He heard Christ's agonizing cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” He saw him rise from the dead, and ascend to his Father, escorted by adoring angels. He saw the shining portals open to receive him, and the hosts of Heaven welcoming their Commander with songs of everlasting triumph. As Moses looked upon the scene, his countenance shone with a holy radiance. How small appeared his own trials and sacrifices when compared with those of the Son of God! He rejoiced that he had been permitted, even in a small measure, to be a partaker in the sufferings of Christ.

Again the vision faded, and his eye rested upon the land of Canaan, as it spread out in the distance. Then, like a tired warrior, he lay down to rest. “So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth Peor; but no man knoweth of his sepulcher unto this day.”

Many who had been unwilling to heed the counsels of Moses while he was with them would now be in danger of committing idolatry over his dead body. Hence his resting-place was concealed from men. But angels of God buried the body of his faithful servant, and watched over the lonely grave.

The life of Moses was marked with supreme love to God. His piety, humility, and forbearance, had given him a strong influence over the host of Israel. His zeal and his faith in God were greater than those of any other man upon the earth. He had often addressed his people in words of stirring eloquence. No one knew better than he how to move the affections of his hearers. He conducted all matters connected with the religious interests of the people with great wisdom.

Satan exulted that he had succeeded in causing Moses to sin against God. For his transgression, Moses came under the dominion of death. Had his life not been marred with that one sin, in failing to give to God the glory of bringing water from the rock, he would have entered the promised land, and would have been translated to Heaven without seeing death. But the servant of God was not long permitted to remain in the tomb. Christ himself with the angels who buried Moses, came down from Heaven, and called forth the sleeping saint, and bore him up in triumph to the city of God.

As the Prince of life and the shining ones approached the grave, they were opposed by Satan with his company of evil angels, who were determined that the power of death should not be broken. But the glory attending the Son of God compelled the hosts of darkness to fall back. Satan insolently claimed the body of Moses because of his one transgression. Christ condescended to enter into no dispute with his adversary but meekly referred all to his Father, saying, “The Lord rebuke thee.” Moses had humbly repented of his sin, no stain rested upon his character, and his name in Heaven's book of records stood untarnished. By the power of his word, Christ opened the prison-house, and set death's captive free.

Upon the mount of transfiguration, Moses was present, with Elijah, who had been translated. They were sent as the bearers of light and glory from the Father to his dear Son. Such is the last scene revealed to mortal vision in the history of that man so highly honored of God.

Moses was a type of Christ. He received the words from the mouth of God, and spoke them to the people. God saw fit to discipline Moses in the school of affliction and poverty, before he could be prepared to lead the armies of Israel in their travels from Egypt to the earthly Canaan. The Israel of God who are now passing on to the heavenly Canaan have a Captain who needed no earthly teaching to perfect him for his mission as a divine Leader. He manifested no human weakness or imperfection; yet he died to obtain for us an entrance into the promised land.

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