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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Deuteronomy 3

Verses 23-28


Deuteronomy 3:23-28. And I besought the Lord at that time, saying, O Lord God, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain and Lebanon! But the Lord was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the Lord said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.

THE character of Moses, in whatever point of view it be considered, is worthy of admiration: his zeal and industry, his patience and meekness, his fidelity and love, were never surpassed by any child of man. As an intercessor for the Lord’s people, he stands unrivalled. Many were the occasions whereon he prevailed on God to spare that rebellious nation that had been committed to his charge. But behold, this eminent saint, who had so often succeeded in his applications for others, was now refused when praying for himself. And, though it might appear humiliating, and might lower him in the estimation of all future generations, he gives a faithful account of the whole matter, recording both the prayer that he offered, and the answer he received.
The points to which we would call your attention, are,


God’s rejection of the prayer of Moses—

Nothing could be more proper than this prayer of Moses—
[He requested that he might be permitted to “go over Jordan, and see the promised land.” It was with a view to the enjoyment of this land that he had laboured incessantly for forty years. He had held up the possession of it as the great inducement to the whole nation to come forth from Egypt, and to endure all the hardships of journeying in the wilderness, and the perils of protracted warfare against the inhabitants of the land. He knew that Canaan was “the glory of all lands.” And now that the period for the full possession of it was arrived, yea, and God had given them an earnest of it in the subjugation of the kingdoms on the east of Jordan, who can wonder that Moses should be anxious to participate the promised, happiness? The manner in which he sought it was most becoming. He did not complain of the sentence of exclusion that had been passed upon him; but only prayed that it might be reversed. Often had he urged similar petitions for others with success: and therefore he had reason to hope, that he might not plead in vain for himself. He did not certainly know that God’s decree with respect to him differed from the threatenings that had been denounced against others: there might be a secret reserve of mercy in the one case as well as in the other: and therefore he was emboldened to offer his requests, but with a meekness and modesty peculiarly suited to the occasion.]

But God saw fit to reject his petition—
[The refusal which God gave him on this occasion was most peremptory. When he had rejected his prayer for the offending nation, be said, “Let me alone;” and in that very expression intimated the irresistible efficacy of prayer. But on this occasion he forbade him to “speak to him any more of that matter:” yea, he “sware to Moses, that he should not go over Jordan [Note: Deuteronomy 4:21.].” In this refusal there was an awful manifestation of the divine displeasure. It was intended as a punishment both for his sin, and for the people’s sin; for God was “wroth with him for their sakes,” as well as for his own. To him the punishment was great, as being a painful privation, a heavy disappointment: to them also it was a severe rebuke, inasmuch as they were deprived of a loving father, a powerful intercessor, an experienced governor, and under whom they had succeeded hitherto beyond their most sanguine expectations.

We forbear to notice the typical intent of this dispensation, because we have mentioned it in a former part of this history [Note: See Discourse on Numbers 20:12.]: it is in a practical aspect only that we now consider it; and therefore we confine ourselves to such observations as arise from it in that view.]

This refusal however, though absolute, was not unmixed with kindness: as will appear from considering,


The mercy with which this judgment was tempered—

As God in later ages withheld from Paul, and even from his only dear Son, the blessings which they asked, but gave them what was more expedient under their circumstances [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:8-9; Luk 22:42-43 with Hebrews 5:7.], so now, whilst he denied to Moses an entrance into Canaan, he granted to him,


A sight of the whole land—

[He commanded Moses to go up on Mount Pisgah to view the land; and from that eminence he shewed him the whole extent of the country from east to west, and from north to south. The sight, we apprehend, was miraculous: because, however great the elevation of the mountain might be, we do not conceive that the places which he saw could be within the visible horizon [Note: Deuteronomy 34:1-4.]. However this might be, we have no doubt but that the sight must have been most gratifying to his mind, because it would be regarded as a pledge of God’s fidelity, and a taste at least of those blessings, which Israel was about to enjoy in all their fulness.

But we are persuaded that Moses, notwithstanding he spoke so little about the heavenly world, knew the typical nature of the promised land, and beheld in Canaan a figurative representation of that better kingdom, to which he was about to be translated.]


An assurance that his place should be successfully filled by Joshua—

[To him was committed the office of instructing, encouraging, and strengthening Joshua for the arduous work which lay before him. And what could be a richer comfort to an aged minister, than to see that God had already raised up one to occupy his post, and to carry on the work which he had begun ? Methinks, the preparing of Joshua’s mind for his high office was a task in which Moses would take peculiar delight: and the certainty of Israel’s ultimate success would cheer him under the pains of his own personal disappointment.]

The practical observations arising out of this history, will bring the subject home to our own business and bosoms. We learn from it,

To guard against sin—

[We might profitably dwell on this thought, if we considered only the exclusion of Moses from the promised land for one single transgression. But as other occasions must arise whereon such an observation may be grounded, we would call your attention rather to the injury which both ministers and people may sustain by means of each other’s transgressions. Repeatedly does Moses say, “God was wroth with me for your sakes:” from whence we are assured, that their sins were punished in him. And we know also that his sin was punished in them: they suffered no less by the loss of him, than he did by the loss of Canaan. Such a participation in each other’s crimes and punishments is common in the world: children are affected by their parents’ faults; and parents by the faults of their children. In the ministerial relation, this happens as frequently as in any. If a minister seek his own glory instead of God’s, or be remiss in the duties of the closet, his people will suffer as well as he: the ordinances from whence they should derive nutriment will be to them “as dry breasts or a miscarrying womb.” If the people slight the ministry of a faithful man, what wonder is it if God remove the candlestick from those who will not avail themselves of the light? If, on the other hand, they idolize their minister, and put him, as it were, in the place of God, what wonder is it if God, who is a jealous God, leave him to fall, that they may see the folly of their idolatry; or take him from them, that they may learn where alone their dependence should be? Let the death of Moses, and the bereavement of the Israelites, be a warning to us all; that we provoke not God by our rebellions to withhold from us the blessings we desire, or to inflict upon us the punishments we deserve.]


To submit with humility to afflictive dispensations—

[When once Moses was informed of the decided purpose of God, he forbore to ask for any alteration of it; nor did he utter one murmuring or discontented word concerning it. God had bidden him to be satisfied with the mercies which he was about to receive; and he was satisfied with them. Now it may be that God has denied us many things which we could have wished to possess, or taken from us things which we have possessed. But if he have given us grace, and mercy, and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ, what reason can we have to complain? We have prayed to him perhaps under our trials, and they have not been removed; or we have deprecated them, and they have still been inflicted. But God has said to us, “Let it suffice thee” that I have made thee a partaker of my grace: “let it suffice thee” that I have given thee prospects of the promised land: “let it suffice thee” that thou hast a portion in a better world. And shall not these things be sufficient for us, though we be destitute of every thing else ? Shall any of the concerns of time or sense be of much importance in our eyes, when we are so highly privileged, so greatly enriched? Ah! check the first risings of a murmuring thought, all ye who are ready to complain of your afflictions. Think whether you would exchange one Pisgah view of heaven for all that this earth can give: and, if you would not, then think, how richly heaven itself will compensate for all your light and momentary afflictions: and, instead of indulging any anxiety about the things of this world, let the prayer of David be the continual language both of your hearts and lips [Note: Psalms 106:4-5.].]


To serve God with increasing activity to the end of life—

[The last month of Moses’ continuance on earth was as fully occupied with the work of God as any month of his life. Though he knew that he must die within a few days, he did not intermit his labours in the least, but rather addressed himself to them with increasing energy and fidelity. This was the effect of very abundant grace: and it was an example but rarely copied. How many towards the close of life, when they know, not from revelation indeed, but from their own feelings, that they must shortly die, become cold in their affections, slothful in their habits, querulous in their tempers, and remiss in their duties! Instead of taking occasion from the shortness of their time, to labour with increased diligence, how many yield to their infirmities, and make their weakness an excuse for wilful indolence! The Lord grant, that no such declensions may take place in any of us; but that rather “our last days may he our best days;” and that our Lord, finding us both watchful and active, may applaud us as good and faithful servants, prepared and fitted for his heavenly kingdom!]

Verses 27-28


Deuteronomy 3:27-28. Thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him; for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see.

IN reading the records of God’s dealings with the Jews, we are sometimes tempted to bring him to the bar of human reason, and to arraign his character as severe. Such hasty judgment, however, would be impious in the extreme; since we are wholly incompetent to decide upon matters, which are so far beyond our reach. There may be, and doubtless are, ten thousand reasons to justify his conduct, where our slender capacities cannot find any: and such light has been cast upon his procedure, in many instances, by the Gospel, as may fully evince the necessity of shutting our mouths, and of giving him credit for perfect equity, even where his dispensations most oppose our natural feelings. We may instance this in the exclusion of Moses from the promised land. He had brought the people out of Egypt, and, with most unparalleled meekness, had endured their perverseness forty years in the wilderness: yet, when he had led them to the very borders of Canaan, he was not suffered to go in with them; but, on account of one single offence, was obliged to devolve on Joshua his office, his authority, his honours; yea, he was forbidden even to pray for an admission into that good land [Note: ver. 23–27.]. Dark as this dispensation must have appeared at the time, we are enabled to discern a propriety and excellency in it. It was altogether of a typical nature: for while he represented the law, Joshua, his successor, was a very eminent type of Christ. The text naturally leads us to shew this: and we shall,


Trace the resemblance which exists between Joshua and the Lord Jesus Christ—

Joshua resembles Christ—


In his name—

[The name of Joshua was intended to designate his work and office. His name originally was Osea, but was altered by Moses to Joshua [Note: Numbers 13:16.]. This, doubtless, was of God’s appointment, that he might be thereby rendered a more remarkable type of Jesus. This name imported, that he should be a divine saviour [Note: Jah, which was prefixed to his name, is the name of God.]; and though, in the strictest and fullest sense, it could not properly belong to him; yet, as he was to be such a distinguished representative of Jesus, it was very properly given to him.

The name of Jesus still more fitly characterized the work that was to be performed by him. This name is precisely the same with Joshua in the Greek language; and repeatedly do we, in the New Testament, translate it, “Jesus,” when it ought rather to have been translated, “Joshua [Note: Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8.].” It was given to our Lord by the angel, before he was conceived in the womb [Note: Matthew 1:21.]: and the express reason of it was assigned, namely, that “he should save his people from their sins.” To him it is applicable in the fullest extent, because he is “God manifest in the flesh,” “Emmanuel, God with us;” and because he is the author, not of a typical and temporary, but of a real and eternal, salvation to all his followers [Note: Hebrews 5:9.].]

This striking coincidence, with respect to the name, may prepare us for fuller discoveries of a resemblance,


In his office—

[Joshua was appointed to lead the Israelites into the promised land. Moses was not permitted to do this. He was destined to represent the law, which was admirably calculated to lead men through the wilderness, but could never bring them into the land of Canaan: one offence against it destroyed all hope of salvation by it [Note: Galatians 3:10.]: it made no provision for mercy: its terms were simply, Do this and live [Note: Romans 10:5.]: and, for an example of its inexorable rigour, Moses himself was, for one unadvised word, excluded from the land of promise. The office of saving men must belong to another; and, for this reason, it was transferred to Joshua, who had been both appointed to it, and thoroughly qualified by God for the discharge of it [Note: Deuteronomy 34:9.].

Jesus also was commissioned to bring his followers into the Canaan that is above. He, probably in reference to Joshua, is styled the Captain of our salvation [Note: Hebrews 2:10.]: and he appeared to Joshua himself in this very character, proclaiming himself to be the Captain of the Lord’s host [Note: Joshua 5:13-15.]. “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,” the Lord Jesus Christ came to effect [Note: Romans 8:3.]. He has been divinely qualified for the work; and, like Joshua, was “encouraged to it, and strengthened in it,” by an assurance of God’s continual presence, and support [Note: Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 42:4; Isaiah 42:6.]. He leads his people on from grace to grace, from strength to strength, from victory to victory [Note: Psalms 84:7; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Revelation 6:2.]. Nor will he ever desist from his work, till he shall have subdued his enemies, and established his people in their promised inheritance.]

Happily for us the resemblance may be likewise traced,


In his success—

[Nothing could oppose any effectual bar to Joshua’s progress. Though Jordan had overflowed its banks, its waters were divided, to open him a path on dry land [Note: Joshua 3:17.]. The impregnable walls of Jericho, merely at the sound of rams’ horns, were made to fall [Note: Joshua 6:20.]. Confederate kings fled before him [Note: Joshua 10:16.]. City after city, kingdom after kingdom, were subjected to his all-conquering arms: and almost the whole accursed race of Canaanites were extirpated, and destroyed [Note: Joshua 12:7.]. The promised land was divided by him amongst his followers [Note: Joshua 11:23; Joshua 18:10.]: and he appealed to them with his dying breath, that not so much as one, of all the promises that God had given them, had ever failed [Note: Joshua 23:14.].

And shall less be said respecting our adorable Emmanuel? He “triumphed over all the principalities and powers” of hell; and causes his followers to trample on the necks of their mightiest foes [Note: Rom 16:20 with Joshua 10:24.]. He leads them safely through the swellings of Jordan, when they come to the border of the promised land [Note: Isaiah 43:2.]; and, having given them the victory, he divides among them the heavenly inheritance [Note: Matthew 25:34.]. Thus will all of them be put into possession of “that rest, which remained for them [Note: Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 4:9; Hebrews 4:11.],” in the hope and expectation of which they endured the labours of travel, and the fatigues of war.]

Having traced the resemblance between Joshua and Christ, I will,


Take occasion to suggest from it some salutary advice—


To those who desire to possess the promised land—

[Grieved I am to say, that many desire that good land, yet never attain unto it; first, because they do not seek it with sufficient earnestness; and next, because they do not seek it in God’s appointed way. Respecting the former of these our blessed Lord says, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many shall seek to enter in, and not be able [Note: Luke 13:24.]:” and of the latter, the Apostle Paul, speaking of the great mass of the Jewish people, says, that, though they “followed after the law of righteousness, they did not attain to the law of righteousness; because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law [Note: Romans 9:30-33.].” He bare them record that they had a zeal of God: but it was not according to knowledge: for, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, they would not submit themselves to the righteousness of God. Christ was the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believed. “But they, instead of believing in him for salvation, stumbled at him as a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence;” and thus they perished, whilst the Gentiles by believing in him were saved [Note: Romans 10:2-4.]. Now, my brethren, I cannot too earnestly impress upon your minds the necessity of abandoning altogether the law of Moses as a ground of hope before God, and of trusting entirely in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. If Moses himself was not suffered to lead his followers into the earthly Canaan, or even to go in thither himself, much less can he lead you into the heavenly Canaan. As a guide through the wilderness, Moses is excellent: but as a Saviour, he will be of no use. Joshua alone can give you the possession of the promised land; that is, Jesus alone can effect your complete salvation. If you read the epistles of St. Paul to the Romans and Galatians, you will find the main scope of both is to establish and enforce this truth. Bear in remembrance then that you must “die to the law,” and seek salvation by Christ alone: for “by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified.”]


To those who are fighting for the possession of it—

[Though Canaan was promised to the Israelites, yet they must fight for it. And you must also fight for the promised inheritance of heaven. Remember however, that you are not to fight in your own strength. You must “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might,” if you would gain the victory over your spiritual, enemies. And this is your great encouragement: for through Him the weakest shall be strong, yea, shall prove “more than conqueror” over all his enemies.” What took place in the contest of Israel with the Midianites shall be accomplished in God’s Israel throughout all the world. Against the numerous hosts of Midian only twelve thousand armed Israelites (a thousand from each tribe) were sent to fight: and when the whole Midianitish army was destroyed, it was found, on investigation, that not a single Israelite was slain [Note: Numbers 31:49.]. So shall it prove with you, my brethren, in your spiritual warfare. Only fight manfully in the Saviour’s strength; and what he said to his heavenly Father in reference to his disciples while he was yet upon earth, he will repeat before the whole assembled universe in the day of judgment, “Of those whom thou hast given me, not one is lost [Note: John 17:12.].” True, there are Anakims of gigantic stature to contend with, and cities walled up to heaven to besiege: but “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world:” and all your enemies, with Satan at their head, “shall be bruised under your feet shortly [Note: Romans 16:20.].” “They all are but, as it were, bread for you [Note: Numbers 14:9.],” and not one shall ever be able to stand before you.]


To those who yet retain their hostility to the Lord Jesus—

[You have seen what was the issue of the contest between Joshua, and all the kingdoms of Canaan. No less than thirty-one kings fell before him [Note: Joshua 12:24.]. And Le sure that you also must perish, if you continue to fight against our adorable Lord and Saviour. I would earnestly recommend to you the example of the Gibeonites. They felt assured, that they could not withstand Joshua; and therefore, feigning themselves to belong to a nation remote from Canaan, they came, and entreated him to make a league with them. There needs no such collusion on your part. You may come to Jesus, and he will enter into covenant with you to spare you [Note: Joshua 9:15.]. And, if your submission to him provoke the hostility of the world against you, he will come to your support, and will save you by a great deliverance [Note: Joshua 10:4.]; and will make you eternal monuments of his power and grace. Let me also recommend to you the example of Rahab. She cast herself and all her family on the mercy of Joshua; and bound the cord wherewith she had let down the spies from the walls of Jericho, about her window, as the sign of her affiance in the pledge that had been given her. For this faith of hers, and for her works consequent upon it, was she commended both by St. Paul, and St. James [Note: Joshua 6:22; Jos 6:25 with Heb 11:31 and James 2:25.]. And, if you also with like faith cast yourselves upon the Lord Jesus, and, like her, evince also by your conduct the sincerity of your faith, you “shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation,” and have a portion accorded to you amongst the Israel of God for ever and ever.]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 3". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.