Kiss of death

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We can’t credit the Authorized Version with this one.  But it is from the bible.

And it goes back a lot further than people think.  Its origins don’t lie with Mafia bosses, nor even with Judas but with Moses.  Here’s how it happened…

Moses has finished the last of his Deuteronomy sermons to the Israelites.  Now it’s time for him to die.  You see, at a key point in the life of Israel, he “had not believed” in the LORD (Numbers 20:8-12).  Therefore, like the rest of his faithless generation, he had to perish in the wilderness.  Mr Law would fall short of the promised rest because of unbelief.  It would be Joshua (whose name means “Jesus”) who would bring them in.

But even though his death in the wilderness is a sign of the law’s inability to save, Moses himself is very dear to the LORD.  Moses himself is saved even if he symbolizes faithless perishing.

We’re left in no doubt about the LORD’s love for Moses when we read the details of his death in Deuteronomy 34.  Before he dies, the LORD allows him to see the promised land from the top of Mount Pisgah.  Just as the law pictures the Good Life but can’t produce it, so Moses can see the Good Land but can’t enter it.

And once he has surveyed the land of milk and honey, he dies “according to the word of the LORD.”  (Deuteronomy 34:5)  That’s the King James translation.  Here’s a more literal translation: Moses died “by the mouth of the LORD.”  It’s this that the ancient Rabbis picked up on.  They claimed that the LORD gave him a “kiss of death.”

Therefore kisses bookend the writings of Moses.  His five books are called the ‘Pentateuch’ or the ‘Torah’, meaning ‘Law’.  They begin with the kiss of life (Genesis 2:7).  But they end with the kiss of death.

If you have to die, it’s a nice way to go.  It’s the best death imaginable.  But still, it’s death.  It’s still a terrible tragedy that those created to share in the life of God, should perish in the wilderness.  But this is where the Law takes you – Pisgah but not Canaan.  It might get you a kiss of death, but it’s still death!

Where’s the hope here?

Well back in Deuteronomy 18 there was a promise of a Prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-20).  He would accomplish what the law never could.

And now, at the end of Deuteronomy, we see the demise of Moses.  So who will this Prophet be?

Could it be Joshua?  Well Deuteronomy 34:9 reminds us of Spirit-filled Joshua.  But even though Joshua would picture the work of the Messiah, he was not the One.  You see the Law ends with this assessment:

there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face (v10)

So clearly Joshua wasn’t it.  He was not the promised Prophet, the Accomplisher of the Law, the Bringer of Rest.  The Messiah was still to come.  And the people were still to look for Him.

When He finally came in the flesh, He retraced the steps of Moses in many ways.  And He too perished away from His community.  He too went up a mountain to die.  But it wasn’t a kiss for Jesus.  He would taste the full bitterness of death.  Curses were promised for our disobedience to the law.  And Jesus took the curses.  He drank down the cup of God’s wrath to its dregs. There was no face to face fellowship for Jesus as He called out to a black and silent heaven, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

If Moses’ death was the best way to go.  His LORD’s death was the worst.

But through it, we gain a face-to-face that is beyond death, and beyond imagining.  He took the death.  We get the kiss.

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