The Bible tells us that Moses lived 120 years but did not grow old and feeble: "Moses was 120 years old when he died. His eye was undimmed, and his vigor unabated" (Deuteronomy 34:7).
The biblical account of Moses' life spans the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, ending with this remarkable memorial: "There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel" (Deuteronomy 34:10–12).
The life of Moses can be broken up into three periods of forty years. For the first forty years, Moses lived as a prince in Egypt (Acts 7:20–23), learning some of the leadership skills necessary to become the greatest Old Testament leader Israel ever had. During the next forty years, Moses lived as a humble outcast in Midian (Acts 7:29–30), gaining further experience to prepare him for God's call. In the final forty years, Moses accomplished his life work by conducting the people of Israel on their journey out of bondage and into freedom (Acts 7:36).
Despite feeling inadequate for the monumental tasks set before him, Moses accepted God's call to confront Pharaoh and head up the most spectacular getaway in all of history (Exodus 3—4). Although he faced all kinds of danger, difficulty, disappointment, and discouragement on the journey across the desert, Moses put his total faith and trust in God. He met every challenge with sincere compassion and confident prayer. In his meek and quiet way, he discerned God's will and made it known to all the people. So close was Moses' relationship with the Lord that God talked with him on a regular basis.
Moses' enduring achievements were leading the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt; mediating God's covenant with them; handing down God's laws (such as the Ten Commandments) to the people; recording, teaching, and establishing those laws for future generations; and bringing the Israelites to the edge of the Promised Land.
Only one time in his final forty years is it recorded that Moses disobeyed God. At Meribah, he struck a rock twice with his staff when God had told him only to speak to the rock and it would produce water. Because Moses failed to trust God in that instance, he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:2–13; 27:12–14; Deuteronomy 32:51).
Moses' life represents the law. No matter how hard we try, we cannot keep God's law perfectly. Our inability to keep the law reveals just how sinful we are. We need a Savior. Moses the lawgiver could not lead the people into the Promised Land—which signifies our rich inheritance in Jesus Christ. Moses had to die so that Joshua—who represents our Savior, Jesus Christ—could lead the people into Canaan. The law, represented by Moses, points out our need of Christ. In Jesus we are no longer under the law but under grace. Jesus leads us into freedom and everything else we inherit Him (Romans 7:7–25).
Moses, who had begun his ministry on Mount Sinai (or Horeb), ended that ministry on Mount Nebo (Deuteronomy 34:1–3; cf. Numbers 27:12–13). From the mountain top, God allowed Moses to view the Promised Land, but not to go in himself. After living 120 years, Moses died on the peak and was buried by the Lord in an unknown and unmarked grave (Deuteronomy 34:5–6). With great lament the people of Israel mourned his passing (Deuteronomy 34:8).
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