Go Die on the Mountain
While Moses is indeed a great example of faith, he also serves as an example of something not as pleasant. Have you thought about the fact that God told Moses to go die on a mountain? This is toward the end of Moses’ life:
The LORD spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, “Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people…” (Deut 32:48-50)
We often speak figuratively of dying on a hill or a mountain. This is generally in the context of standing firm for an issue that we believe is non-negotiable. For example, if we are talking about compromising on the resurrection of Jesus, that’s a mountain on which I’d have to die (i.e., there can be no compromise on the fact that he was raised). We pick and choose our battles, stand atop those mountains, and ultimately are either willing or not to give them up.
With Moses, it’s a different story. He was told to go die on a mountain (Nebo), not to stand for the truth of something, but rather as a consequence of sin he committed. The text picks up in Deuteronomy, “because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel.” (vv. 51-52).
Because Moses sinned at Meribah, he was not allowed to enter the promised land (see Num 20:8-13). The mountain on which he died is a reminder that God always needs to be treated as holy, and the leaders among God’s people, especially, need to honor God. There are consequences for failing to honor God with obedience. This was not the mountain on which Moses wanted to die, but it happened because of his own failure to honor God. May that be a lesson for us all.
As for us now, we are told in various places of Scripture to be strong, to stand firm, and to contend for the faith. Consider, again, some well-known passages:
“Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim 6:12).
“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3-4)
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (Eph 6:10-11).
Being in the service of the Lord is not an easy day at the park. He is calling on us to be His soldiers, those who will fight the good fight and stand firm against anything that comes against Him and His people. This is not a carnal battle, but a spiritual one in which we will “not war according to the flesh.” This is because “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…” (2 Cor 10:3-5).
In other words, we may well need to die on a mountain. Therefore, pick the mountain on which you will die. Will it be one that is a consequence of failing to honor God, or will it be one on which you will be defending God’s honor? Will it be a mountain climbed by faith, or will it be one ascended in the shadow of disobedience?
I’ve little doubt that, given today’s world, we will be called upon to die on a mountain of some kind. Choose your mountain wisely or it may be chosen for you. We don’t want to find ourselves dying on a mountain and looking at the promised land from a distance.