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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Deut. 1–34. Numb. 27]

THE hour had come at last when Moses was to be taken away from his people. Before he died, God commanded him to lay his hands upon Josue, in the presence of all the people, so that they might obey him as their ruler. For God had said to Moses: “Thou shalt not pass over this Jordan; but Josue shall bring the people into the land which I swore I would give to their fathers.”

Then Moses made his farewell discourse to the people in the most touching manner: “Hear, O ye heavens, the things I speak; let the earth give ear to the words of my mouth. Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength. Let none be found among you that consult soothsayers, or observe dreams and omens. These things the Gentiles do; but thou art otherwise instructed. The Lord thy God will raise up to thee a prophet of thy nation, and of thy brethren, like unto me. Him thou shalt hear.”

He reminded them of all the wonders which God had wrought in their behalf. He promised them that, if they were faithful in observing the commandments of God, they should be blessed in their houses, blessed in their fields, blessed in the fruits of the land, blessed in their cattle, blessed when they came in and when they went out. Then he warned them that, if they did not hear the voice of the Lord and keep His commandments, curses should come upon them and all they possessed.

 

Fig. 36. Mount Nebo. (Phot. Bonfils.)

Then, having at the order of God composed a great hymn [canticle of Moses] for the people, he blessed the people, and went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo (Fig. 36). From that place the Lord showed him, from afar off, the Land of Chanaan, which He had promised to his fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

There Moses died, at the age of one hundred and twenty years; and all Israel mourned him for thirty days.

The Justice and Faithfulness of God are shown to us in a very awe-inspiring manner in this story. Moses was a very holy servant of God, distinguished for his virtues and services. But, in company with his brother Aaron, he, for one short moment, doubted God’s mercy, and for their sin God pronounced on both of them this sentence: “You shall not bring these people into the land which I will give them.” Soon after this Aaron died on Mount Hor. At last the Israelites arrived at the borders of Chanaan, and the time had come for them to cross the Jordan and take possession of the Promised Land; but Moses was not allowed to go further. From the top of Mount Nebo, Almighty God showed him the beautiful Land of Promise, and then he had to die; for God always does that which He says He will do. If the Lord God punished Moses so severely for one venial sin, how much ought we to fear His justice, and avoid everything that is wrong!

In Moses’ parting discourse he exhorted the Israelites as follows:

1. They were never to forget the Covenant, sealed with God, but were always to keep it faithfully. His exhortation applies to us also, who ought never to prove unfaithful to our baptismal vows.

2. They were to worship God only, and love Him with their whole hearts. Our Lord tells us that this commandment is the first and greatest commandment, for it contains all the others.

3. They were to bring up their children in the fear and love of God, and relate to them all God’s wonderful works and the benefits which He had showered on them, so that they might be moved to be grateful and to love Him. It is a sacred duty of parents to bring up their children in the fear of God; for He has done far more for us Christians than He ever did for the Israelites.

4. If the Israelites kept the Commandments, God promised them rich earthly blessings; for, as the people were sensual and earthly, sensible and earthly rewards were held out to them. It is true in all times that only he who fears God can have any true happiness on earth, and for this reason St. Paul says: “Glory and honour and peace to every one that worketh good” (Rom. 2:10); but all the same we Christians ought not to serve God for earthly rewards, but for those which are imperishable and eternal. We ought to love God for His own sake (independently of all rewards and punishments), because He is infinitely worthy of love. The law of the New Testament is more perfect than the law of the Old Testament. Moses pointed to the New Covenant, for, in his parting discourse, he gave utterance to

5. the seventh promise of the Messias. He foretold to his people that one day another prophet should rise in their midst, who also would institute a Covenant: “The Lord will raise up to thee a prophet of thy nation, and of thy brethren, like unto me. Him thou shalt hear.” Who is this prophet? Jesus Christ, who was a Prophet like to Moses; for, firstly, He instituted the New Covenant as Moses had instituted the Old; and secondly, He foretold the future as Moses did, proclaiming the divine law. (See chapter XXXVII, in what way Moses was a type of our Lord, and also New Testament, chapter XXXVII, where Moses appears at the Transfiguration.)

The threefold office of Christ. Moses’ prophecy about the Redeemer points to the prophetical office of our Lord. Balaam’s prophecy points to His kingly office: and the typical brazen serpent pointed to His priestly office, by foreshowing that the Divine Saviour would be sacrificed on the Cross, and would heal our sins.

Look back at Moses’ great virtues, his living faith, his firm confidence in God, his burning zeal for God’s honour, his patience, humility, piety, gentleness, fortitude, and love of his people. Think of his blessed death at the end of his laborious life spent in the service of God. He is now great in heaven, and we on earth venerate him as one of the best and noblest of men.

Our pilgrimage to heaven. The forty years’ wandering of the Israelites in the desert is a sensible type of our pilgrimage to the promised land of heaven. The passage of the Red Sea delivered the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt: we must pass through the waters of Baptism to be freed from the bondage of sin. The Israelites wended their weary and perilous way through the desert to the Promised Land: our road to heaven is also wearisome, and many are the enemies that we meet on the way (“Narrow is the gate, and strait is the way which leadeth to life.” New Test. XXI). The Lord God Himself, going before them, showed the Israelites the way: Jesus has gone before us and has, by word and example, shown us the way to heaven. God fed them with manna: Jesus feeds and strengthens our souls with the true Bread from heaven, His Sacred Body and Blood. The Israelites strove and fought and conquered only by the help and protection of God: we too, in our fight against the enemies of our salvation, must seek God’s grace, without which we can do nothing. The children of Israel received, as the reward of their labours, the safe possession of the land of Chanaan: we shall receive, as our reward, the eternal possession of the kingdom of heaven.

APPLICATION. You should seek to know what God has done, and is still doing for you, and what He requires of you. You can learn this by your instructions in the Catechism and Bible History. But are you not lazy and negligent about such instruction? Do you always learn the lesson set you? Do you always pay great attention to what you are taught?

III. EPOCH

JOSUE AND THE JUDGES

(About 1450–1095 B. C.)








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