Deuteronomy 32 - "Moses' Song"
We’re in our last sermon in the book of Deuteronomy and I hope you have seen how this book not only anticipates the coming of the Messiah, but also finds its completion in Jesus. That is, all the particulars of Law and the curses that fell upon God’s people fell upon Jesus. And by taking the curses of the covenant upon himself, the blessing of life with God is made available.
Deuteronomy 32.1-14 God’s Gracious Provision
Seven times God is referred to as a Rock in this chapter. In order to help us understand how constant God is, he uses things we know. He stoops down to help us understand. Of course, these are analogies and they will always break down because the finite cannot contain the infinite. What is seen helps us grasp with feeble minds the fact that God is constant, he is steady. He is like the Rocky Mountains that do not move. When the rest of the world is covered in snow or flooding or earthquakes. He is sure and solid.
Note a Contrast // Vv. 4-5: God is perfect and just. We are blemished and crooked. This fact alone should make us slow to judge God’s ways. If our ways are crooked and temporal, how can we presume to know what God is doing in the midst of difficulty and trial? After all, he’s the one who created us and is our Father (vv. 6-7).
Moses then begins to remind the people of God’s grace in unlikely places. V.10: He found him [i.e., Jacob, aka his people] in the desert wasteland. Another analogy here: Like an eagle, the Lord protected his people from the scorching sun and enemy destruction. V.13: He brought honey out of a rock and rich oil from the hardened rock.
But who have we read is this rock? Moses has already said that The Lord is the Rock, his way is perfect (v.4). I can’t help but think that Moses is pointing us to a deeper truth here. Good things come from God. At this point, Israel had been eating manna, which was white and tasted like honey (Ex 16.31). They are to put this manna in the ark of the covenant to remember God fed them in the arid wilderness.
One of the indictments Israel made against Moses and God was the perpetual provision of manna. They focused on the fact that day after day they ate the same thing. They grumbled that they didn’t have variety in their life. They essentially got bored with the miracle. Instead of being amazed at eating honey-flavored grain that settled on the rocky places, they complained that they had to gather it. Knead it. Bake it.
Everyday when you get up. It’s the same bed. The same blankets. They are a constant reminder of God’s miraculous provision for you. Instead of thinking of all the things you don’t have, think of how reliable God’s provision is.
Once Israel crosses the Jordan River, they will be fed with garden variety and milk and honey and wine and the finest of wheat (v.14). You would assume that more elaborate gifts would elicit more elaborate praise. You would assume that getting nicer stuff would cause Israel to shout for joy everyday—remembering the brick pits from which they were redeemed. We see the actual response.
Deuteronomy 32.15-18 — Israel’s Response to God
When I was a kid, I played games on an Atari. Then we got a Nintendo. And I was amazed. Then a Sega Genesis came out and I was frustrated because I didn’t get one. Is this not similar to what we see here with Israel?
There’s a play on words here with the song. Jeshurun is a poetic name for Israel and means “upright one”. But they did what was evil. Have you ever wondered why Israel sacrificed to idols—“demons that were no gods”? I mean, really?!? Their parents had seen the Sea part and Pharaoh’s army destroyed, not by their hand. They were going to soon see the Jordan River parted. They ate miraculous manna everyday in the wasteland. Have you ever thought: If I had seen those things, I would never have done what they did? We ought not be too quick to judge.
As I mentioned already, God provides food for you. Shelter. Friends. Family. And as we saw earlier in [Deut 8.17-18] “If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.” // We so quickly forget that the air that you don’t have to think about breathing and the heart that pumps without your forcing it to…these are God’s perpetual gifts to you everyday.
I have become convinced now more than ever that each of us is at risk of walking away from all that God has revealed to us. Whether you’re 10 years old or 90 years old. Everyday is a battle to put to shame what the world values and show the supreme worth of our Rock and Savior. This is why we need to remind ourselves and each other of where we have come from. // How can you do this? Go to lunch with someone and tell them what your life was like before you became a Christian, how you came to know Jesus, and what your life looks like right now with Jesus. Remind each other what God has done for you by saving you. V.18: You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.
How much of your conversation is talking about Jesus? If you grow accustomed to living your life without reference to your Rock, you will forget him. You will forget it is he who gives you strength.
Deuteronomy 32.19-33 God’s Response to Israel
We see in this large section how God responded. God says in V.20: “I will hide my face from them.” Then, he sends them to exile V.21: “I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.” So he judges his people by giving them over to the lusts of their flesh. God punishes them by giving them what they really want.
God reminds them that they have run after the foolish idols of everyone else, he would let them serve that foolishness in a foreign land. The essence of Israel’s rebellion was pride and forgetfulness (as we looked at Deuteronomy 8-9). In a wisdom that depended on itself for how to understand the world, Israel became fooled. V.29-30: If they were wise, they would understand this; they would discern their latter end! 30 How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had given them up? // There was no way for two people to put ten thousand to flight unless the Lord had been with them. God was telling them to just get still for a moment and think!
What is God at pains to remind his people of? His power? His justice? His might? His glory? Yes, but at ground zero, God wants to remind you and me of his nearness. V.31: For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.
But it’s not as though God turns a blind eye to the foolish nations who do not live in reference to him or give thanks to him.
Deuteronomy 32.19-33 God’s Response to Babylon
God waits until the other so-called gods are exhausted and then he brings judgment on the heads of Babylon and the other foolish nations. But why? Why all this work and concern and all these words? Why wouldn’t God just wash his hands and let the world just spin without being involved? I mean, I would’ve given up, wouldn’t you?
Because everything we’re experiencing is not ultimately about us. Our marriages that are in need of more grace. Our physical ailments. Our spiritual maladies. Our success. These aren’t ultimately about us. Sure. It may seem like your life is riddled with questions and doubts and fears and are rocks too heavy to carry on your own. They are.
All of these battles we are engaged with, with the flesh, with our sin, with the sin of others. They are ultimately about God’s Name. Go back to Vv.26-27: I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces; I will wipe them from human memory,” 27 had I not feared provocation by the enemy, lest their adversaries should misunderstand, lest they should say, “Our hand is triumphant, it was not the LORD who did all this.”’
This is the same rationale Moses gave for not destroying Israel in the desert. If the Lord didn’t bring them to the Promised Land, the nations would say that God was unable to do what he promised (Num. 14). Redemption isn’t ultimately about you.
Deuteronomy 32.39-43 God’s Glorious Reputation