I have always felt sad for Moses. I remember watching The Ten Commandments as a little kid, and just feeling bad for him at the end, walking up that mountain alone to die. It seems lousy to go through so much and lead his people so far, only to die just before they cross the finish line. Even if I feel bad for him, Moses does not seem sad for himself here. Moses could have been bitter. But he was not.
Moses did not enter the promised land, but his last words to the Israelites were blessings and hymns. “The LORD came from Sinai and appeared to them from Seir; he shone on them from Mount Paran…Indeed, he loves the people” (Deuteronomy 33:2–3). Moses reminded the Israelites that God held them in His hand.
The end of Moses’s life is not a bitter ending. It points forward. This leaves the story in anticipation of what is to come. The promised land for the Israelites was ready, yet the kingdom of God was not complete. Moses pointed ahead to that continuing work. He saw how God was faithful to the Israelites and directed them back to remember all that God had done for them.
When Moses dies, the text stresses one key fact about his life: that the Lord knew him face to face. Moses saw God. He may not have understood every step of God’s work that would unfold in the centuries to come. But Moses knew that God was good. He had peace that his ending was not a bitter one.
We know that Moses was in the presence of God’s glory, and we know that Jesus’s disciples were too. When we read the gospels, and see Christ there, we are seeing the same glory that Moses saw, the same glory that gave him peace and joy, even as his life ended at the threshold of the promised land. “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the LORD’s word” (Deuteronomy 34:5).
Hebrews shows us how Christ meets us and how we fit into His redemptive story. Moses was a priest and mediator between God and the Israelites, and Christ is that for us. The same God that shone forth for Moses and his people shines forth for us. We do not have the experience of Moses or the apostles, but we can have the same peace that Moses had. We can remember what God did for them and what He has done for us and know that He will keep His promises. Promises that are not just about milk and honey, but of a God who dwells among us.