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GOD: MAJESTIC AND FAITHFUL
In these four verses the introduction of this song of Moses is both magnificent and beautiful. The heavens and the earth are called to hear the faithful words from the mouth of the Lord. His teaching drops as the rain, not like a cloudburst, but as the refreshing, nourishing dew on the land or as showers on the grass. How well it would be with us if we received it as such, appreciating its living value and refreshment. For it begins, not with what we may selfishly desire for our advantage, but with proclaiming the name of the Lord. The honor of His name is far above every other consideration.
Greatness belongs to Him alone (v.3). "He is the Rock," the perfect expression of strength and stability Since this is true of God, it is true of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4), who is God. Being Himself all powerful, God's work is powerful, and it is perfect (v.4). For not only is power seen in it, but pure justice, so great a contrast to the work of seemingly powerful men. He is a God of truth, with no shadow of injustice in His dealings. Consistently with this, the Lord Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). In Christ is the perfect expression of all truth: without Him, there is no truth whatever.
"Righteous and upright is He." In every relationship He is found He is unwaveringly consistent. Though men were created upright (Ecclesiastes 7:29), indicating that they should be morally upright too, in contrast to the beasts, yet men have stooped to every kind of evil. But this does not change the perfectly upright character of the Lord.
THE CONTRADICTION OF HIS PEOPLE
But this song must expose the sadly contrary condition of Israel. They had corrupted themselves, which involves using the great blessings God had given them in a false, evil way. In practice they were not His children, whatever claims they might make. We know today that a true believer is a child of God, but if one is acting rebelliously, would it be seemly for him to proclaim to others that he is child of God? In this case, he might well be answered as the Lord answered the Jews who claimed to be Abraham's children, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham" (John 8:39). But Israel was a perverse and crooked generation (v.5), perverting the best things to a depraved use and crookedly manipulating what truth they knew to justify their evil actions.
Verse 6 is a pleading appeal from God. How could they deal so foolishly with Him who is both a great God and a gracious Father who had bought them at so great a price? -- in fact being their Maker who had established them as a nation.
MEMORIES OF GOD'S GOODNESS
The song continues by a call to remember the days of old, the years of many generations (v.7), urging the present generation to question their fathers and the elders of Israel as to the work of the Most High dividing to the nations the inheritance He Himself had decided upon (v.8). At the time God separated the sons of Adam, when He confounded them by changing their languages, He set the boundaries of the nations in direct relation to Israel, for Israel was His chosen people and other nations were looked at as subservient to them.
But Israel did not immediately possess their land. God "found him in a desert land," the wasteland of a howling wilderness (v.10). Of course it was God who led them from Egypt into the wilderness, but He intends to emphasize the fact of Israel's being in a desolate, homeless state, in which God encircled him, instructed him and kept him "as the apple of His eye." This is not the same word as the fruit, but refers to the pupil of the eye, which is extremely sensitive and therefore guarded.
The wilderness experience too involved the caring, disciplining hand of God, for as the eagle stirs up its nest, hovering over its young, taking them on its wings, so the Lord dealt with Israel (vs.11-12). The eagle will not allow its young to remain idle for long in the nest, but will stir them up, pushing them out of the nest high on a mountainside, to teach them to fly. If they cannot fly at first, but begin dropping, the great eagle will fly quickly underneath them to catch them on its wings. Therefore the wilderness experience was necessary training for Israel, just as believers today need training too.
Yet with the training came gracious provision from the hand of God. "He made him ride in the heights of the earth" (v.13). God enabled Israel to rise above their circumstances even in the wilderness. He gave them necessary food, but also "honey from the rock," the sweetness that comes from the knowledge of Christ, who is the Rock. Also, "oil from the flinty rock," speaking of the Holy Spirit who has today come from the Lord Jesus in glory at Pentecost, to make our wilderness pathway one of real blessing and encouragement. Verses 13 and 14 merge into Israel's blessing in the land of Canaan, for only there did they enjoy the choicest wheat and the grape vines.
ISRAEL'S UNGRATEFUL REBELLION
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked" (v.15). Jeshurun means "upright," which was Israel's proper character, but they forsook this when they became wealthy. This is prophetic of their tenure in the land, when God prospered them by His pure grace. Taking ungodly advantage of their prosperity, they forsook the God who made them, and scornfully esteemed the Rock of their salvation. Of course this Rock is Christ, who, when He came, was scorned and rejected by His own nation, for they had chosen other gods, provoking God to anger by their abominable idolatries (v.16). This was not merely worshiping material things, but was sacrificing to demons (v 17). Ignorant as they were of such "gods." they were in a fit state to be deceived by them. They did not learn this from their fathers, so no doubt they felt they were advancing beyond the wisdom of their fathers. Such pride will make people easy victims of deception.
They had chosen to put Out of their minds the only stable, enduring Rock of salvation, and to forget the eternal God who had proven a Father to them (v.18). Of course this could only lead to total confusion.
RECOMPENSE FROM GOD
When the Lord saw this rebellion, He spurned Israel. They had spurned Him without reason, now He spurns them with good reason (v.19). They receive themselves something of their own treatment. His face had before been shining with pleasure upon Israel, now He hides His face from them, to see what their end will be (v.20), for if God's face does not shine with approval on His creatures, it is impossible for them to continue without serious repercussions. Their perverse lack of faith will reap a poisonous harvest.
Since they had provoked God to jealousy by confidence in false gods and idols, God would provoke them to jealously by means of a foreign nation (v.21). Thus God will use those whom Israel despised to chasten them and gain such ascendancy over them that Israel would become jealous of that nation. The fire of God's anger would burn to the lowest sheol and consume the land and its increase (v.22). It would also set on fire the foundation of the mountains. Typically the mountains are high authorities, and the very foundations of this authority in Israel would suffer the destroying flame.
Disasters of many kinds would be heaped upon them. God's arrows of penetrating judgment would torment them. They would be wasted with hunger and devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction. But also God would send wild beasts to attack them, and poisonous reptiles (v.24). Enemies from outside would attack with their swords and inside young and old together would be huddled in terror (v.25).
It would have been just for God to say He would dash them in pieces and destroy their very memory from among men (v.26). But He would not go that far lest the adversaries of Israel would boast of their own prowess having accomplished Israel's destruction, and give the Lord no honor for His hand in this (v.27).
ISRAEL'S IGNORANCE LAMENTED
Israel is now said to be a nation void of counsel and without understanding (v.28). Counsel was certainly available for them from the word of God, and there was no right reason for them to be without understanding. Their ignorance was inexcusable. Let us remember that the word "ignorance" comes from the word "ignore." Because Israel had ignored what was plainly taught them, they were ignorant. It was as true for Israel as it is for us today: "If anyone will to do His (God's will), he shall know concerning the doctrine" (John 7:17). An obedient heart will always have understanding.
Therefore how tenderly yearning are the words of verse 29, "Oh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!" How deeply we should be impressed by the consideration of how an obedient path will end in contrast to the end of a disobedient life! It is only wisdom to consider the end rather than the present selfish indulgence of fleshly desires.
Also, let them reason soberly, how could one enemy chase a thousand Israelites or two put ten thousand to flight unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had surrendered them? (v.31). Think of six million Jews being murdered in a short time in Germany! If they had been obedient to the word of God, would God have allowed any such thing? Certainly not! In fact, when obedient to the Lord, God promised Israel, "one man of you shall chase a thousand, for the Lord your God is He who fights for you" (Joshua 23:10). This is a simple matter for God, as is seen in David's faithful dependence on Him when defeating the giant Goliath and all the armies of the Philistines (1 Samuel 17:45-52). But when God withdraws because of Israel's disobedience, the opposite results will soon follow.
"For their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges" (v.31). What Israel's enemies depended on was empty vanity, for all power and authority was in the Rock of Israel. But what was He like? On the one hand, He would deliver Israel from their enemies with no difficulty On the other hand He might deliver them up to suffer utter defeat at the hand of their enemies. Even their enemies bore witness to this striking fact. But all depended on whether Israel was obedient or disobedient. God is indeed the Rock, which involves His firm, decided stand for truth. If believers ignore this, they will find themselves defeated in their practical lives.
The vine of Israel's enemies was the vine of Sodom (v.32). The vine, yielding grape juice, is typical of joy, and ungodly people count it joy to corrupt themselves as the Sodomites did, just as today those who debase themselves to homosexual practice call themselves "gay"! But in reality, "their grapes are grapes of gall," bitter in their end result, just as homosexuality may end in aids or other evils. The wine from their grapes was the poison of serpents (v.33). The serpents tell us of Satan's delusion, bringing the poison of death to its victims. This is the description of the spiritual delusion under which Israel's enemies in the land were in bondage. Was Israel so ignorant that they thought they too might indulge in such things without suffering dire consequences?
GOD'S VICTORY IN JUDGMENT
In contrast to Israel's ignorance we read in verse 34 of God's hidden wisdom which Israel could not discern, wisdom laid up in store, sealed up among God's treasures. Could evil ever discourage Him? Was he intimidated by it? 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 speaks of this "hidden wisdom" which centers in the wondrous death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, but which none of the rulers of this age knew. By that great work of sacrifice God would overthrow all the power of the enemy and gain a victory to be celebrated for eternity. The wisdom of this work was still sealed up inDeuteronomy 32:34; Deuteronomy 32:34, but nevertheless this section of the song makes abundantly clear the fact that God would absolutely triumph over Israel's sin, triumph over all Israel's enemies, and deliver Israel in marvelous grace.
Vengeance belongs to God, and recompense (v.35). However, in the meantime Israel's foot shall slip and the day of their calamity would come with its many distresses.
But the Lord's judgment involves His judging on behalf of Israel His people, having compassion on them when He sees that their power is gone (v.36). It is when one faces the fact of his helpless condition that God will intervene in grace. So long as Israel continues in a state of self-assertion and self-confidence, she will not and cannot depend on the grace of God, but when she is reduced to nothing and honestly realizes it, she will find God ready to deliver her.
Then God may well ask them the question as to where their idols are now, the pseudo-rock which they expected to be a refuge (v.37). Did their gods eat the fat of their sacrifices and drink the wine of their drink offerings? (v.38). Then let them respond by helping Israel now and providing the refuge they promised! How necessary it is for God to speak this way to probe their consciences in realizing the folly and evil of their idol worship. Well may Israel then speak with such words as are prophesied inHosea 14:8; Hosea 14:8, "What have I to do any more with idols? I have heard and observed Him."
Thus Israel will observe the glory of the Lord Jesus, who speaks in verse 39, "I, even I, am He, and there is no God beside Me. I kill and make alive, I wound and I heal, nor is there any who can deliver from My hand." Israel will indeed see that this is true. The Jesus whom they crucified is God, who has absolute power in His hand.
He, and He alone, can swear by Himself, raising His hand to heaven, saying, "As I live forever, if I whet My glittering sword, and My hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to My enemies, and repay those who hate Me" (vs.40-41). For the Son, not the Father, is the Executor of the judgment of God (John 5:22). He lives forever, just as the Father lives forever. For many centuries He has patiently borne with the rebellious wickedness of mankind, but His patience will give place to awesome, sudden judgment, with no sparing of those who have proven themselves enemies.
The language of the song is most graphic. God will make His arrows drunk with blood. His sword shall devour flesh with blood from many slain, from the captive to the heads of the leaders of the enemy (v.42).
But the noise of battle will be hushed to silence and Gentiles are bidden to rejoice along with Israel, for there will be Gentiles spared and delivered as well as Israel, by this great victory of the Lord Jesus over all enemies (v.43). He will provide atonement for His land and His people.
When Moses spoke the words of the song of this chapter, Joshua was identified with him (v.44), and Joshua was a witness as Moses gave one last exhortation to the people in verses 46 and 47 telling them to set their hearts on all the words given to them from God, and to command their children also to observe all the words of the law. It was not a futile matter, as Israel later came to think, but their very life by which their days in the land would be prolonged through obedience. Moses therefore can never be blamed for giving Israel unclear or insufficient instruction.
MOSES COMMANDED TO DIE
The same day that Moses gave Israel the words of the song, God commanded him to go up to Mount Nebo and die on the mountain. He did not die from illness or old age, but God simply took his life from him because he had disobeyed God's orders at the Waters of Meribah, striking the rock instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20:7-12).
Yet God told him he would see the land without entering it (v.52). There is a deeper reason than Moses' disobedience that he would not enter the land, for he was the lawgiver, and law cannot bring the people of God into their inheritance. Joshua, whose name in Hebrew is the same as the Greek name Jesus -- Jehovah Savior -- was the leader into the land of promise, for he speaks of the grace that is in Christ Jesus in contrast to law. The death of Moses did not take place, however, before he blessed all the tribes of Israel (ch.33).
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 32". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany