Mount Nebo’s Rest


Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land…
(Deuteronomy 34:1)

Read: Deuteronomy 34

Devotion: Deuteronomy is the last book written by Moses and the last book of the Pentateuch. It ends on two major, pivotal events in Israel’s history. The first is that Israel is on the cusp of entering and possessing the land that God promised to Abraham over four hundred years prior. The land that would be flowing with milk and honey, and would be their own possession, with towns and houses they didn’t build, fields they didn’t plant, and vineyards they didn’t grow. The land’s delivery was delayed for forty years due to Israel’s disobedience and disbelief in God, but it would become the place where God would reside on earth and dwell with his people as their God. A land that, if Israel loved God and obeyed him, would be protected by God from their enemies. Thus, Israel was about to enter a land of rest: rest from their wandering, rest from their enslavement, rest from their enemies, rest provided by their Almighty and gracious God.

But it would be a rest that not all the Israelites standing on the banks of the Jordan at that time would get to enjoy. No, I’m not talking about the wicked generation that fell in the wilderness. At this point in the story, they’re already dead. I’m talking about Moses, whose death closes the Pentateuch prior to Israel’s entrance into the land. As God reiterates several times throughout Deuteronomy, because of his disobedience at the waters of Meribah and not treating the Lord as holy in front of the people, Moses was not going to be the one to lead Israel into their rest. He would not eat of the produce of the land, he would not enjoy its rivers or streams, he would not enjoy the inheritance of his people, and he would not enjoy God’s blessing in the land. That would be Joshua’s commission and privilege.

Despite God not allowing Moses to enter the land, however, God does grant Moses a taste of that rest. After commissioning Joshua and giving Israel his final blessing, God commands Moses to make one last trek up a mountain. Moses was to ascend Mount Nebo, where God would show him the entire land. From Dan in the West, Naphtali in the North, Manasseh in the East, and Judah in the South, in his final moments Moses was able to look upon it all. And as he gazed at the Lord’s promises with his own eyes, God told him, This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there” (v. 4). He can see it. The land is real! There it is! It’s just as beautiful and wonderful and prosperous as the Lord promised it would be! But he will never touch it.

I am sure that moment was bittersweet for Moses. But it was only a moment, for as he gazed at the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise of an earthly rest, Moses entered into what the land was only a shadow of. His eyes, though undimmed, closed, and Moses entered into the reward that he treasured above all: the true rest of the God whom he loved (Heb 11:24-26). A rest provided for, founded upon, and which he was led into, in time, by Christ. The Israelites who entered into the rest in the land still had to work, still had to make sacrifices, and still had to battle their sinful hearts, but Moses could truly rest.

But one day, either by our death or with Christ’s return in power, we will be with our Lord in paradise and at perfect rest.

Likewise, if we have trusted in the promises of God, as Moses did, and believed what he has said concerning his Son: that he died for our sins according to the Scriptures; that he was buried; that on the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures; and that he then appeared to many before ascending to God’s right hand (1 Cor 15:1-6), then we have both entered into that very same rest already and are awaiting the fulfillment of that rest. If we are in Christ then we have, by God’s grace, come to know that salvation is not by works, but by faith (Eph 2:8-9). We’ve rested from our works, but we still live in a fallen world, in fallen bodies, and have many enemies that surround us. But one day, either by our death or with Christ’s return in power, we will be with our Lord in paradise and at perfect rest. It is a land we can’t see from Mount Nebo, but even better than Moses on that mountain, we can feel its breeze and taste its goodness. As John Calvin said, “Faith is not a distant view, but a warm embrace of Christ.”[1]

Ponder and Pray: What does it mean that we’ve rested from our works? Finish by praying together, that Christ will come soon and that you all would continue to strive to enter his rest.  

[1] Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians.

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