Scripture: “Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” Numbers 20:25-26 ESV
Observation: Chapter 20 begins with Miriam’s death and closes with Aaron’s passing, marking the transition of a generation in preparation for entering the Promised Land. Having circumnavigated Edom, being rebuffed by their ancestral family from the line of Esau, they now draw near to the Jordan in south-central Moab. At the base of Mount Hor, the Lord speaks to Moses and Aaron and informs them that the time has come to gather Aaron to his people. So he commands Moses to take Aaron and his son Eleazar up the mountain where Aaron will vest Eleazar in Aaron’s holy garments. After completing the ceremonial transfer of priestly leadership, the Lord takes Aaron to his heavenly home. Then, upon returning to the base camp without Aaron, they weep with the nation for thirty days over their deceased high priest in honor of his nearly forty years of service.
Takeaway: Amid mourning over the loss of his only two siblings, Moses also grieves the missed opportunity to lead his people into the land flowing with milk and honey. Still, he witnesses his Lord’s merciful act of kindness peacefully transitioning Aaron from his earthly home to his eternal resting place. And he observes God’s grace in granting Aaron the privilege of vesting his son to carry on the mission before his passing. And this sacred ceremony took place at the height of a glorious mountain top. Surely this would provide a sense of solace to Moses in knowing that his Lord would soon pour out his mercy and grace on him. Indeed, Yahweh would draw near his faithful servant in his sunset of life and show him the Promised Land from the vantage of Mount Nebo before gathering him to his people (Deuteronomy 34:1-8).
The takeaway? While most of us will not have a say in how we will die, we can make provisions for how we will leave a legacy—how we will bless others in our passing. And we can lead ourselves well in those last days and moments of our lives by leaning on the comfort of our Holy Spirit and the solace of our community of believers. For example, Christian recording artist and writer Michael Card shares how his dear friend and mentor, Dr. William Lane, relocated to Michael’s fellowship in Tenessee to witness to the community how a Christian can lean on the Lord and the company of believers in dying well. Both Dr. Lane and the community experienced the mercy and grace of the Lord through this bittersweet season of life.
Still, we will not succeed if we submit to fear over faith and isolate ourselves. In a February podcast, Dr. Tim Keller, who is undergoing therapy for pancreatic cancer, stated that the real battle is not with cancer but with sin: succumbing to his fears over trust in God’s goodness. Keller is a pillar of the faith and refreshingly candid about his struggles. For Tim, talking them out, bringing them into the light, disempowers those internalized thoughts that lead to sin. And we will bless others who may secretly struggle in the same or similar way. So if we cry out to God and seek the comfort of his Holy Spirit and that of trusted friends and loved ones, we will find the strength to hold fast to our faith over fear, trusting in our Lord’s goodness, grace, and mercy—even in our last days and hours.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who modeled trust in your goodness with every step of his mission to his last breath. And we thank you that he exhibited transparency in his final hours in the Garden of Gethsemene, working through anticipated separation from you when soon bearing our sins in his body. Would you please help us similarly lean on you, your Holy Spirit, and the community of believers in exercising our faith over fear as you one day prepare us to transition to your eternal home with mercy and grace? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling