With the entire nation gathered together, Moses sat down, his ancient frame resting on a bench. His hands, gnarled and bony, clutched his shepherd’s rod which lay across his lap. After carrying it for 80 years — 40 as a shepherd of sheep, 40 as a shepherd of Israel — it is a part of him, an extension of his hands. As he opened his mouth to speak, the people pressed in close to hear him, so close they could see every line and wrinkle in his weathered face. As the nation’s oldest elder at 120 years old, Moses commanded respect. The people were eager to hear him.
He began slowly, his voice raspy but steady, holding out the first word, sliding up to the second, lowering the pitch of the third with a wide vibrato — old Moses was singing!
Sometimes a song can do what a speech or sermon cannot; it can make you feel the message of the lyrics. But Moses wasn’t just singing to touch the emotions, he was teaching God’s people in the form of historical poetic praise. The tune and tempo of the song were not preserved, but because we have the Holy Spirit inspired lyrics we know that it was a song meant to inspire.
When Israel heard Moses sing of God’s care for them, like a mighty eagle gently mothers her young, it would inspire them to love Him (v.10-11). When Moses sang about God’s wrath against idolatry and rebellion (v.15-27), it would inspire them to remain faithful to Him. When they heard Moses sing about God’s desire to protect His people and to fight their enemies for them, it would inspire them to be courageous in battle. (v.30-43).
That same day God indicated to Moses that his life’s work was nearly completed and that he would soon die. Moses was not going to enter the Promised Land with the rest of Israel. Many years before, he had disqualified himself from possessing it and living there because he had “broken faith with God” in the Meribah incident (v.51). You can read the story in Numbers 20:6-12. Moses’ action of merely striking the rock doesn’t seem so bad, but to God it was highly offensive. Moses had misrepresented the Lord, acted in anger, and failed to have genuine faith.
Although Moses could not live in Canaan, God let him look at Canaan. From the top of Mt. Nebo he looked to the west at the land he had longed for but could not enter. It must have been a bittersweet moment for Moses…he was so close, and yet so far away. May you never forget: sin will will rob you of blessings and kill your dreams.
Note: Many years after his death, Moses finally got to enter the Promised Land. See Matthew 17:1-3.