Lessons from Mount Nebo

Deuteronomy 32:48-50 ESV
“that very day the Lord spoke to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people,”

There is arguably not a more significant spot in Jewish history than that of Mount Nebo. It stood just as a boundary mountain between the people in the wilderness and the people settled in Canaan. It was when the children of Israel reached this mountain, and when their leader had climbed to its summit, and there died, that the people were permitted to enter into that wonderful land which Yahweh had sworn would be their inheritance forever.

But there is also significance here for the Christian when we study Old Testament history in light of the New Testament. By doing so, we can see many types and prefigurations of the Gospel throughout its pages.

In Mount Nebo, the weakness of the law is exposed. Where the law is magnified at Mount Sinai through the awe-inspiring presence of Heavenly Smoke and Glorious Thunder, Mount Nebo represents the required death of Moses, and the inability of the Lawgiver to cross the Jordan into the Promised Land.

Throughout their journey, Moses was the epitome of leadership and wisdom, keeping this stiff-necked people marching in an orderly fashion. When the trumpets blew, the people marched; when the pillar of cloud suspends, the people pitched their tents. The ability of Moses to control this group and bring this former group of slaves into a might military force. Yet, Moses was not sufficient—or rather the law was not sufficient—to reach the Promised Land.

Those who profess to be good people, who obey the law, and are nice to others through their words and deeds feel themselves worthy to be enter God’s presence when their last breath is drawn. The argument of any good moralist lies in such a defense. Similar is the ritualist who faithfully recite their rote prayers and attend church services and contribute regularly to the church building.

As Moses led the nation of Israel to the very edge of the Jordan, so the works of the law lead us near to the gates of Heaven. But no matter how observant of the law a person is, if they remain unconverted, there is no hope of reaching that long sought Promised Land.

For those who are seeking to obtain Heaven by your obedience, learn that your obedience will not serve you when you come to die. In the next world, it will not be our obedience, but the obedience of Christ Jesus, which will reward us; nothing of our doing, our living, or our suffering; it will be Christ’s living and Christ’s suffering which will grant us eternity with Him. Our good works may take us to the edge of Jordan, but on Mount Nebo they must die; and there, the morality we boasted of will be utterly and completely useless. We must rely, therefore, no longer on Moses; but seek Jesus. He will be lead you into the Land of Promise.

Unless the Lord returns prior, we must all die. As believers, we look forward to our own “crossing” of the Jordan knowing of Who is waiting to welcome us home. The river of death is so very narrow and God will give us the grace to make the crossing when our time has come. Many a faithful brother in Christ has had a glimpse of Heaven on their own deathbed just as Moses was allowed to see the land beyond the Jordan from atop Mount Nebo.

D. L. Moody’s last words were, “Earth recedes. Heaven opens before me. If this is death, it is sweet! There is no valley here. God is calling me, and I must go.” And Moody’s son said, “No, no, Father. You’re dreaming.” And Moody replied, “I am not dreaming. I have been within the gates. This is my triumph; this is my coronation day! It is glorious!”

May your own glimpse from Mount Nebo someday be just as grand.