January 27, 2015.
Reading: Deuteronomy 32-34.
Background: Deuteronomy 39-31.
Concepts and Connections.
The song of Moses: The majority of the text in this chapter is dedicated to the song of Moses that the Lord had given him to teach the people. Remember that this song was given as a witness for God against the people when they turned their hearts from Him, as they would do time and again, going through the cycle of being close to Him and falling far away. The song opens with its intent to teach, for it would be a warning to the people what would happen when they would fall away to serve other gods and idols. God is praised in the beginning, and credit is given to Him for all His great works and His justice. He is upright and true, though mankind dealt corruptly with Him. Jesus echoes the idea of the people being a faithless and twisted generation when His disciples could not heal a boy with a demon (see Matthew 17:17). Time and again there would be crooked and faithless generations who would turn from the Lord, repaying the Lord evil for the good that He had given them. Moses calls the people to stop and remember their history, noting all the things that God had done for them throughout the years and recognizing that they were returning evil for good. The Lord had come to the children of Israel when they were in a desert land and brought them up out of their distress, given them the land of promise. It was the Lord who did these great and awesome things, and no one else. Yet the people would soon turn to other gods who had not acted as the Lord had done, nor had they acted at all, since they were nothing. When the people of Israel would grow strong and fat, they would abandon their Lord, as in their hearts they would say they did not need Him. They would go after strange gods, foreign to them when the Lord brought them out of the land of Egypt, and sacrifice to demons who were no gods at all. They would be unmindful of the Rock, the God of their salvation. Because of this, the Lord would hide His face from them and give them over to the nations. He would let them call on their foreign gods in that day to see if any of them could save them; but they would not be able to. The Lord’s jealousy and anger would be provoked in that day because they had rejected Him, and His wrath would be poured out upon them. He would have gone so far as to utterly destroy them if that would not have sent the wrong message to the peoples surrounding them, making them think that the Lord could not save His people or that another god, that was no god, was victorious. The people of God in that day would be void of counsel, for they would not be wise to discern their end. There will come a time when the Lord takes His ultimate vengeance on those who do not follow Him, as Paul and the Hebrew writer quote fromt the latter portion of this song to show that vengeance belongs to God, not us (see Romans 12:19 and Hebrews 10:30). The Lord has and will vindicate His people. In that day, the false gods will be shown to have no power at all. Power and sovereignty belong to God, and none other, for there is no other Like Him. He will take vengeance on His adversaries and avenge the blood of His children. May we ever trust in Him.
Moses recites this song in the hearing of the people and then tells them to take the words to heart as a warning of the things that will come if they fall away from the Lord. Truly, these things would come to pass. After Moses is finished, the Lord speaks to him and tells him to go up on Mount Nebo so that he could see the promised land, but not enter it. Moses was not allowed to enter the land because of the incident at the waters of Meribah-kadesh (see Numbers 20:2-13). Moses was to die on top of this mountain.
Moses’ blessings on Israel: In this chapter, Moses gives his final blessings on the people of Israel before his death. He begins with the praise of the Lord for loving His people, bringing them out of the land and giving them His law, becoming their King. Then the tribes of Israel are blessed. Ruben is blessed with life, but with few numbers. Judah is blessed with the hand of the Lord to be a help against his adversaries. Levi is blessed with spiritual discernment because they had followed His word and kept His covenant. They were to teach the people of God His statutes. Benjamin is blessed with the presence of the Lord. Joseph is blessed with fruitful land and fine produce. Ephraim and Manasseh are specifically called in this blessing to be given power throughout the nations. Zebulun and Issachar are blessed with right sacrifices and hidden treasures. Gad is blessed with military might. Dan is compared to a lion’s cub and Naphtali is blessed with favor in their possession of the south. Finally, Asher is blessed with great strength. At the end of his blessing, Moses praises the Lord once again, noting that there is none like Him, and that He is a great help to His people. They were to dwell in His everlasting arms so that He would thrust out their enemies before Him. Israel was happy, for they had been saved by the Lord. They were shielded by Him and given triumph through Him. May we ever praise His name.
The death of Moses: With this chapter, Moses’ life comes to an end. He goes up on Mount Nebo as he was commanded to do, and the Lord shows him the land that He had promised to Abraham and his offspring (see Genesis 12:7), into which He was about to lead the people. Moses was allowed to see the land, but not enter it, and he died on the mountain at 120 years of age, full of vigor. The burial place of Moses was not known to the children of Israel. There was thirty days of mourning after the death of Moses. Joshua the son of Nun took over command after Moses just as he was commissioned to do. He was full of the spirit of wisdom, and the people obeyed the commands of the Lord. Moses was indeed an important figure in Israel’s history, as at the time of this writing, there had been no prophet to arise that was like Moses, through whom the Lord had done such great and mighty works. However, we must remember that it is not Moses who should be ultimately praised, but rather the Lord who used Moses to work out His great and awesome will.
Next Reading: Esther 6-10.
Praise be to the Lord.