The Old Testament books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy describe the journey of the Israelites from Egypt up to their entrance to the Promised Land, but these books are also a biography of Moses, their great leader. They describe 120 years of Moses’ life and what he did and said.
Today, we’re reading from the Book of Deuteronomy. (Dt 31, 1-8) As his life is about to end, Moses says to the Israelites after delivering three long sermons: “I am now one hundred and twenty years old and am no longer able to move about freely.” Then he gives over his leadership to Joshua. He’s not going to cross into the Promised Land.
He doesn’t speak so much about himself or his accomplishments, his failures or regrets, as his life ends. Rather, he speaks about the Lord God and what God has done. It’s not me, it’s not Joshua, it’s not human power and wisdom that will be with you, Moses says to the people. “It is the Lord, your God, who will cross the Jordan before you.”
His words to Joshua are in the same tone:
“Be brave and steadfast,
for you must bring this people into the land
which the Lord swore to their fathers he would give them;
you must put them in possession of their heritage.
It is the Lord who marches before you;
he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you.
So do not fear or be dismayed.”
Moses’ last gift to those who follow him is a fearless faith. A great gift to pass on.
A Pew Survey the other day mentioned that some scientists think we will live to 120 years old in the future. The survey asked representatives of the various religious traditions what they thought about it. I noticed the Jewish response was for it. Were they thinking of Moses?