Death of Moses / The Widow’s Offering: April 21st 2021

Deuteronomy 33:1-34:12

Moses blessed each individual tribe of Israelites before his death. God would ride on the heavens to help them (v.26). The eternal God would be their refuge and drive out their cowering enemies before them (v.27), before trampling down where their enemies worshipped their demonic gods (the ‘high places’ (v.29)).

The nation of Israel was blessed – ‘a people saved by the Lord’ (v.29). God would be their ‘shield and helper’ (v.29).

Moses climbed Mount Nebo and, before he died, God showed him the whole of the promised land. It must have been so emotional for Moses to see the beautiful, fertile land that God had promised his people.

Moses died at the age of one hundred and twenty in remarkably good shape. ‘His eyes were not weak nor his strength gone’ (34:7). That’s what working diligently for God does for you. It’s retirement that will age you. Never retire. Keep doing something positive for God.

Moses was buried in the valley of Beth Poar by God and no-one knows exactly where his grave is. God did not want his tomb to become an idol for the Jews. The book of Jude (v.9) tells of a dispute between Saint Michael, the archangel, and the devil ‘about the body of Moses’. I presume that Michael was arranging the burial for God and the devil was trying to set up Moses’ tomb as an idol. Jude remarked at how polite Michael was during this tense encounter merely saying, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’.

The Israelites grieved for Moses for thirty days. He had been a fantastic leader, a great man of God, willing to put his own life on the line to save his people. The Lord knew him ‘face to face’ (v.10).

Moses had laid his hands on his successor Joshua and imparted to him ‘the spirit of wisdom’ (v.9) i.e. the Holy Spirit. Because he had been given the Spirit, ‘the Israelites listened to him’ (v.9).

He remains the most important prophet for the Jews: ‘For no-one has ever shown the mighty power of performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel’ (v.12). However, Jesus said that John the Baptist, who bridged the Old and New Testament was greater: ‘among those born of women there has never risen anyone greater than John the Baptist’ (Matthew 11:11). As baptized Christians justified and made righteous in the sight of God through the death of Jesus, we have all entered the kingdom of God: ‘yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (v.11). We have the Holy Spirit actually living within us. God resides in us. Jesus is the greatest prophet, Lord and Saviour. His name is above any other name in heaven or on earth. Hallelujah.

Luke 20:27-21:4

Jesus said that the immortal God’s children, the people of the resurrection, ‘will neither marry nor be given in marriage; ‘for they are like the angels’ (v.35).

He then confirmed that we can pray to the dead to intercede between us and God. Just as we can ask our living priest or pastor to pray for us, we can pray to any historical saint – or even Moses – to pray on our behalf to God because to God they aren’t dead. They are just as alive as when they were on the earth: ‘He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive’ (v.38). Saints in heaven are just twiddling their thumbs hoping someone will turn to them in prayer and ask them to do something for us. Many people have favourite saints and others are great for specific topics. For example, if we need help as a father, we can pray to Saint Joseph. Some saints have privileged access to the Trinity. Prayers to Mary, Mother of God, are particularly effective as she has such a direct line to her son. Exorcists have a particular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as she is so effective at crushing the head of the demonic.

Jesus warned us against ostentatious forms of religiosity, funded by bequests from widows who presumed their money would earn them salvation. Godly people shouldn’t place themselves on a pedestal to be admired. Christians should be mainly undercover, wearing ordinary clothes and mixing with ordinary people. If people ask them to pray for us, we should mainly do this in our private place with God – we don’t need to do it in the open to show off.

The poor widow showed her total trust in God. She gave to the temple ‘all she had to live on’ (v.4). When Jesus taught the disciples to pray he said, ‘Give us each day our daily bread’ (Luke 11:3). Of course, there were wealthy people who followed God: Abraham, David and Solomon (until he went rogue) and they didn’t give away all their wealth. Their ‘daily bread’ must have been more spiritual. They realised that wealth and status weren’t important. They didn’t ‘trust in their wealth or boast of their great riches’ (Psalm 49:6). What mattered was their daily relationship with God, that brought them fresh inspiration, love, comfort and internal joy every new day. They trusted in God, not their money.

The rich people were giving into the treasury: ‘gifts out of their wealth‘ (v.4) These donations were obviously a public spectacle with onlookers able to see what each person was donating. The rich would have got some smug satisfaction from showing off in front of the crowds with their large offerings. However, they should have diverted some of their money to the widow and given the rest in secret. Jesus loves orphans and widows. ‘Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself being polluted by the world’ (James 1:17).

Psalm 49:1-20

We can’t redeem anyone’s life with money (v.7). ‘The ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough’ (v.8).

Even the richest billionaire in the world is going to die no matter what plastic surgery or medical interventions they afford. We can’t take earthly riches with us – there are no pockets in a shroud.

Jesus won for us the priceless gift of eternal life through his death on the cross. When we die, our wealth is left to others. I gave up my secular job so I could write this blog. When I was working I was just building up wealth to leave for others. Of course, I could have carried on working just to give my wages to the poor and maybe I might do that some day – but I would also want to work in a Godly worthwhile job.

We shouldn’t trust in ourselves or our wealth. We should only trust in God to raise us from the dead. The psalmist was confident that, ‘God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself’ (v.15). He must have received this prophetic word of knowledge from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit living within us raised Jesus and he will raise us as well. The gifts of the Holy Spirit we exhibit, such as praying in other languages, are the initial deposit guaranteeing our resurrection from dead.

It is wonderful to be blessed by God and have a comfortable roof over our heads and food on the table but he has blessed us far more than that. He sacrificed his precious son to give us eternal life. We must not have ‘riches without understanding’ (v.20). Our real riches are the eternal ones we build up in heaven by working for God.

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/frted/8186047545/

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