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Los Lunas Cornerstone

Church of the Nazarene

Before I Die... (Deuteronomy 34)

    Today will be our last Sunday in Deuteronomy. We will be looking at the last chapter of Deuteronomy, chapter 34. The end of Deuteronomy marks a shift, a changing point in the history of God’s people. After this chapter, they will no longer be a people group wandering through the desert, they will be a nation of their own with land that belongs to them.
    Deuteronomy 34 is unique because it brings us face to face with a fact of life that every person will someday experience: our own death. All of Deuteronomy shows us Moses, getting the people ready to take the promised land. He spoke to them and reminded them that it was their parents distrust in God that led them to wander the desert for 40 years. He told them that they needed to listen to God and obey Him if they wanted to continue to receive God’s blessings. He warned them that if they didn’t listen to and obey God, they would receive curses instead.
    He told them to choose life, to choose the life God had in store for them.
    Then Moses told the people that Joshua would take his place as their leader, that he would be the one that would lead them to into the promised land to take it. Then Moses, his work all done, went to the mountain to be with God.
    Let’s look at Deuteronomy 34, all 12 verses.
    “Now 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, Gilead as far as Dan, and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day. Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated. So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end. Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.”
    I want to sort of recap Moses’ life, because he was special, wasn’t he? He was adopted into the royal Egyptian family and for forty years or so lived as a member of Pharaoh’s family. He killed a man, then moved to the middle of nowhere where he lived as a shepherd for his father-in-law for another 40 years. Then God spoke to him in an incredible display of power and told Moses to go back. Moses did, and with God’s enabling, did all these signs and wonders that were full of mighty power and great terror before Pharaoh to bring God’s people out of Egypt. He spoke with God face-to face on the mountain top! That wasn’t the end though, he kept leading the people, even when they disobeyed, and he led them with God’s wisdom and might up until this moment.
    With all the great things he did, here he is, in his final moments, and he’s alone. I don’t point that out to sound sad or depressing, but rather to point out a very important detail of this passage. See, as great as Moses was, and as great as all of the things he did was, when it came to the moment of his passing, none of that mattered.
    There’s three things that this passage talks about that Moses couldn’t take with him. When the moment came and God called Moses home, there was nothing he could take with him.
    Verse 12 talks about Moses’ accomplishments. “and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.” He did do some pretty amazing things, as we’ve discussed, but none of that could go with Moses. When your life is at its end, you don’t take your accomplishments with you. No one goes to eternity with bragging rights for doing most things that we consider great while we’re alive.
    We don’t get to brag about our careers, or the money we had. We don’t get to brag about how amazing our families were. We don’t get to brag about the books we’ve published, or the one time we met that celebrity. We don’t get to brag about much of anything that most people think matters in this life because the truth is that very little of that matters at all in the light of eternity.
    Verse 7 says, “Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.” Moses lived a good long life, and had 120 years to live it. He was blessed, physically, to not experience his physical body fading. This verse tells us that his eyesight hadn’t gotten poor, and he was still a strong man with energy and enthusiasm for life. But even though he was still physically well, his physical body couldn’t go with him either.
    Verse 5 says that Moses died, and verse 6 says, “And He (God) buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day.” His body didn’t go with him. Moses’ body stayed there in Moab, buried somewhere where no man would ever know. His body was left behind.
    Verse 11 reminds us about all the things Moses did against Pharaoh, who in many ways became Moses’ enemy, and certainly an enemy of God’s people. In the end, Moses was triumphant. All of God’s people were. God made them triumphant over Pharaoh and his armies to the point that there was nothing left. But guess what?
    No matter how much you have victory over “enemies”, you also can’t take that with you. It just doesn’t matter.
    So, what’s left? If none of these things are important in view of all of eternity, what is important?
    In your bulletins, you’ll see the same question: “What’s Left?” There’s a blank there to fill in, and I’ll tell you what to put there in just a minute.
    Look closely at verse 5, “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.” At the moment of Moses’ death, when none of the other stuff that the had done or who he was really mattered, the one thing that is said about him in that moment is Moses, servant of the Lord.
    Moses, the servant of the Lord.
    That’s all that was important. That’s what was left after the accomplishments, after his enemies had been defeated, even considering that at 120 years of age he was still in good health, what mattered, what was important, was that he was a servant of the Lord.
    I want you to put your name in the blank there. Write your name so the sentence reads, “Your name, a servant of the Lord.”
    That’s what matters. When all that you have done in life has faded away, because it will, what will matter for all of eternity is whether or not you were a servant of the Lord.
    What matters is what you leave behind because you were a servant of the Lord. Look at verse 9, “Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses.”
    Throughout Exodus and Deuteronomy, we see Moses pouring into Joshua. He prayed for Joshua, he mentored Joshua, he taught Joshua. Why? Because Israel needed a leader, yes. But most importantly, because Moses knew that Joshua didn’t stand a chance if he wasn’t also a servant of the Lord. Moses helped Joshua become Joshua, a servant of the Lord.
    At the end of Moses’ life, in this last chapter of the life of Moses, only one thing was important: Moses, a servant of the Lord, and what he did to help others be servants of the Lord as well.
    Now, Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the promised land because not entering it was the consequence for an earlier sin. But, because he was a servant of the Lord, because he had been faithful, and he had been obedient, God let him see the promised land before he died.
    Verse 4 says, “Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.”
    Before he died, he did get to see the promise. He got to see what awaited those who did trust in the Lord. He got to see what awaited those who had been faithful. And he died knowing that because of his own faithfulness, because of his own obedience, because of his investment in Joshua to train him to be a servant of the Lord, he died with the assurance that God’s people would be led by a Godly, upright man, who would lead them all to become servants of the Lord. He got to see that eternal promise before he died.
    So this got me thinking, after my life is done, after all my accomplishments and my body has gone. When I’m standing in the light of eternity and all that matters was that I was a servant of the Lord, and I led others to be servants of the Lord, what have I done to see that come true before I die?
    I don’t know when that will be, none of us do. But we can be ready. The most important step is to know the Lord, to have a relationship with Him through His Son, Christ Jesus. To know that He died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead to conquer death for all. If we believe that, that’s the most important thing. But the Bible assures us that we will also answer for the good we do as a result of loving God.
    Like Moses seeing the promised land before he died, seeing the promise God was making come true…Before I die, I want to see my children come to a saving relationship in Christ. Before I die, I want to see my niece come to a saving relationship in Christ. Before I die, I want to see Christ build up His church so the gates of hell won’t prevail against it. Before I die, I want to see this church become the kind of church we read about in the book of Acts, devoted to prayer, devoted to God’s Word, devoted to one another, devoted to worship, devoted to the broken and hurting of the world.
    Before you die, what do you want to see? And I’m not talking about earthly things that matter to our world. I’m talking about things that matter in eternity. Your relationship with Christ and leading others to that relationship. Before you die, what do you want to see God do?
    You may have noticed this morning, something a little different about the sanctuary. Jonny put this up for me yesterday for us to use this morning, and I’m hoping that every time we enter into this place, and every time we walk out of this place, we will see it and remember what is important. We will remember what God has promised for us if we are faithful and obedient.
    We’re going to write on this section of wall. I know that seems a little unorthodox, but I like to do things differently from time to time. We’re going to write out one simple thing. Before I die…and then you’re going to write out what it is that you want to see God accomplish through you. Something that matters in the light of eternity. I told you what mine were, and I’ll be the first to write it on that wall.
    Maybe it’s a promise God gave you through His Word. Maybe He whispered it to your heart. Whatever it is, I want you to write it, starting with the words, “Before I die…”
    I want you to take a moment now as I pray to think about what this thing is. Maybe you need to look up a verse or two in your Bible. But when I say “Amen,” and when you’re ready, meet me at the wall to write down your “Before I die,” statement.

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