SONG TO REMEMBER
Lord, we sing of Your unfailing faithfulness!
Read DEUTERONOMY 31:14–29; 32:48–52
Israel’s Rebellion Predicted
14 The Lord said to Moses, “Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the tent of meeting, where I will commission him.” So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the tent of meeting.
15 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. 16 And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.
19 “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. 20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” 22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.
23 The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”
24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord: 26 “Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the Lord while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! 28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call the heavens and the earth to testify against them. 29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and arouse his anger by what your hands have made.”
Moses to Die on Mount Nebo
48 On that same day the Lord told Moses, 49 “Go up into the Abarim Range to Mount Nebo in Moab, across from Jericho, and view Canaan, the land I am giving the Israelites as their own possession. 50 There on the mountain that you have climbed you will die and be gathered to your people, just as your brother Aaron died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people. 51 This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites. 52 Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
What hymn or song best captures the essence of your relationship with God at this juncture in your journey? Sing your song!
Promises of deliverance (31:3,5) are replaced by prophecies of “disaster” (17,29). Comforting assurances (31:6–8) give way to warnings that God would “forsake” his people and “hide” his face from them (17,18). While God’s grace is both unconditional and inexhaustible, hardness of heart can bring us to a point of no return, where we render ourselves unable to receive it. Concluding his public ministry Jesus warned: “Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you,” after which he “hid from them” (John 12:35,36, NRSV). However, the predictions of disaster are not self-fulfilling prophecies. Human beings are never hapless puppets: they are image-bearers of God, enjoying the dignity of choice (Deut. 30:15–20). God simply says, “I know what they are disposed to do” (21). With loving forethought, longing that all be saved (John 3:16,17; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4,3), God both warns against sin and makes gracious provision for forgiveness when we do sin (1 John 1:8–10).
Sandwiched in between warnings of disasters wrought by disobedience (15–18) and instructions about preserving the Book of the Law (24–29) lies an unexpected, almost lighthearted, divine mandate: write down a song (19)! Its theme is God’s unfailing faithfulness in the face of his people’s unfaithfulness. Though replete with warnings of judgment, grace nonetheless abounds. The song concludes with a prophecy that sees its fulfillment in Jesus: “he will… make atonement for his land and people” (32:43).
One of many strands of remembrance woven into Deuteronomy, this is truly a song to remember (31:21)! It sounds the trumpet call of judgment, but is also a melody that beckons lovingly to sinners. Above all else, it is the love-song of a God who constantly seeks to woo and win his bride-people back to covenant love (Hos. 2:14–23).
Read the whole song in Deuteronomy 32:1–43. How is the Spirit convicting you through these ancient words? What life-lessons is he teaching? What comfort is he offering?
Lord, unlike Moses, we will not only see the promised land from afar in Your Bible, but we will also enter therein and enjoy eternally what You have prepared for us.
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