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Bible Commentaries

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

Numbers 27



Verse 18


‘Lay thine hand upon him.’

Numbers 27:18

I. Even a good man’s life may be shortened by his sin.—Note the solemn repetition of the statement that Moses’ death was due to his transgression. In government God is ever just and equal. His broken law has no respect for persons. Should zeal for the Kingdom, unbalanced by prudence, lead to transgression of the laws of health, those outraged laws will assert themselves, quite regardless of our high motives. Or, should that same zeal, unbalanced by faith, betray some generous spirit into a habit of anxiety for the work of the Lord, the serious consequences, bodily and spiritual, that always follow unbelief, will certainly be felt. So let us, warned in time, go out to live soberly, regarding with reverence every law and every commandment.

II. In His grace, God glorifies the very punishment which He, as King, must inflict.—Moses must die for his sins. True; but see what grace is given him to accept his bitter disappointment in perfect meekness, and, see, too, that absolute selflessness that thinks only of the people, and who is to lead them! Also, he is allowed to see the land; and, as he stands there on Pisgah, alone with God, in the peace of the forgiven, is he not satisfied? Yes, and when at last he enters the land—in glory and with Jesus Himself—is not the grace of God to him wide as the ocean, high and fathomless as the very heavens?


(1) ‘As throughout the forty years the thought of Israel had been next Moses’ heart, so now his anxiety is still for the people whom he had loved so much, and had served so well. His prayer is for them. He entreats Jehovah, the God of the Spirits of all flesh, to set a man over the congregation, that they might not be as sheep without a shepherd. This request was answered by the command to take Joshua, and to set him apart as his successor before all the congregation, and before the high priest. Moses was to put on Joshua some of the honour he himself had won, that, after his departure, due obedience might be given to his successor. It was done with all solemnity, and the anxiety of Moses was so far at rest.’

(2) ‘How eager was Moses for a suitable successor! God honoured and answered his request, so that his work should not be dissipated. There was a distinction between himself and Joshua, who received his office from the hand of Moses, and sought counsel from Eleazar. God had honoured his faithful servant after a unique fashion. “Them that honour me I will honour,” is a maxim true of all dispensations. What a word is that, “God of the spirits of all flesh,” especially when compared with the assertion of our Lord, that the Father has delegated that power and authority to Him. The spirits of men can never find rest and satisfaction till they come to rest in God in Christ.’

(3) ‘Thus Moses drew his life work to a close. Behind him, a long and glorious life; before, the ministry and worship of the heavenly sanctuary. Here the shekinah; there, the unveiled face. Here, the tent and pilgrim march; there, the everlasting rest. Here, the promised land, beheld from afar, but not entered; there, the goodly land beyond Jordan entered and possessed. What though it was a wrench to pass away, with the crowning-stone not placed on the structure of his life; to depart and be with God was far better.’


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Bibliography Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Numbers 27:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

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