And the Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, ‘I will give it to your offspring.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” Deuteronomy 34:4In the last chapter of Deuteronomy, which also closes out the record of Moses and the Pentateuch, we encounter the conclusion of Moses’ life falling short of entrance in the Promised Land because of his disobedience (Numbers 20:10-12; Deuteronomy 31:51-52). Surely this was heartbreaking for the man who met with God face to face as a friend, given all that he had gone through in leading a rebellious people out of bondage to Egypt, across the wilderness, having been given the law and experienced Sinai, and now forbidden from reaching the (earthly) goal.
Moses recounted the will of the Lord in denying his entrance to the land in Deuteronomy 31:1-6, there specifically telling the people that he would not go over, however the Lord would go before them and would appoint Joshua as their head. At this, Moses commanded the regular reading of the law, commissioned Joshua, and was instructed by God to compose a song in order to teach the people and to prophesy of their upcoming rebellion.
Given these events and their historical nature, there is also a profound illustration for us to notice as well. However, we ought to be cautious with our illustrations, lest they devolve into spiritualizing and allegorizing the Scriptures. Nevertheless, there appears to be a clear connection between Moses, the Promised Land, and Joshua.
On the one hand, Moses is certainly a historical figure – the leader chosen by God to deliver His people from bondage and in this way he serves as a “type” of Christ, a point developed in Hebrews 3 & 4 (see A.W. Pink’s Gleanings in Genesis for a further development of this typological relationship). However, on the the other hand Moses is representative of the Law as noted in the Transfiguration of our Lord – Moses (Law)/Elijah (Prophets), John 7:23 – where it is called the “Law of Moses” (see also Acts 13:39, et.al.), as well as other passages where the connection between Moses and the law is made.
As it relates to the Promised Land, that is the physical geographic land promised to the Patriarchs and given to Israel, it too has a typological connection that is worth mentioning. It has a connection to rest, along with how it looks back to the shadow of Eden and forward to the light of the New Heavens and New Earth, a connection also more fully developed in Hebrews 4 (see also Revelation 21 & 22).
Finally, there is a typological relationship between Joshua and our Lord Jesus Christ beginning most naturally with their names: Joshua = Yeshua in Hebrew, meaning ‘Yahweh is salvation’ and Iesous (Jesus) in Greek. More fully, it is Joshua who leads the people into the Promised Land, not Moses. Joshua led the people into the land as their forerunner conquering and eliminating enemies along the way. Christ our Lord, the Greater Joshua is likewise the forerunning of our salvation, Hebrews 6:20, Who has conquered the enemies of sin, Satan, and death.
From a passage simply noting God’s denial of entrance for Moses into the Promised Land, there is much, much for us to meditate on. From Moses to Joshua and the Promised Land to our Lord securing salvation for His people and entrance into the heavenly, greater, promised land of the New Heavens and Earth. From this perspective, the law was a tutor leading Israel to the Promised Land, but entrance was obtained and secured by another means. So too, Eternal salvation does not come by works of the law, but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord. It is through our Yeshua, Jesus Christ, the Greater Joshua and through Him alone – having fulfilled the law and suffered the punishment of God’s wrath that we deserved – that we gain entrance into eternal rest (Hebrews 4:8-13).
With Moses, as representative of the law, we find a very clear and poignant picture of the reality that the law of God will not, indeed cannot, lead you into the promised land of eternal life. It serves a purpose, primarily as a tutor pointing towards the need for a savior, a Joshua, The Joshua – Jesus Christ. It is in and through Him that we have access, by grace through faith, and entrance into the heavenly Promised Land, the New Jerusalem.
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.Romans 8:3-4