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Life of Moses

Final Words

Deuteronomy 32

Lesson audio

It is customary for a departing leader to make a farewell speech. In business this usually takes the form of a collection of platitudes. Moses, however, goes right to the heart of the problem remaining: how good the Lord is, how derelict his people in acknowledging it.

The Lord Portrayed As

The Rock

As previously noted, the Rock is a symbol for God. We might also point out that as such there is some human experience with “the rock” here:

  • It is a common description of a fortress (think of Masada.)
  • The Israelites have seen water flow from the rock on more than one occasion. In the desert, water is life.

In the New Testament this Rock (note the capitals) is identified as being Christ.[1] So we see for the contemporary Christian that Christ is both fortress and source of life.

Power

It is a source of amazement how the Israelites could see so many miracles with so little effect on their minds. So Moses reminds them of the power of God:

  • First, he says, ask your fathers. They’ve been around longer, seen a lot more and (theoretically) should be wiser. (And no, my kids wouldn’t either).
  • Then look at his providence – the working together of things for those who love him. Miracles are rare; providences much more common.
  • Looking forward, there will be enemies who will scourge Israel – and then vengeance will be taken on them by God. The time will come when you see them fall.

This is only a sketch, of course. But the modern Christian might well ask why he doesn’t see these things.

Truth

This goes deep into the nature of God: He is truth. We see it here in three ways:

  1. His works are perfect. This is more and more apparent the more we know about science – God’s laws are, as the physicists say, elegant.
  2. He is upright and just – the very idea of right and wrong comes from Him. As Job found out, there is no blame attached to him.
  3. Perhaps most important of all, God is infinite – and therefore there are no other gods.

So, is this a problem? Indeed it is. Look at verse 9:

Deu 32:9 NIV For the LORD's portion is his people,

Jacob his allotted inheritance.

Which doesn’t sound all that threatening until you see what the rest of the Scripture says about “the LORD’s portion.”

Num 18:28-29 NIV In this way you also will present an offering to the LORD from all the tithes you receive from the Israelites. From these tithes you must give the LORD's portion to Aaron the priest. (29) You must present as the LORD's portion the best and holiest part of everything given to you.'

We are to be the best and holiest, as God’s people. As will be seen, this is a target that is hard to hit.

The Depravity of Man

Moses shows us an increasing scale of man’s evil ways.

Blindness

The first thing you need to know about spiritual blindness is just that: it’s spiritual. It starts with a decision that says, “I won’t see.” In particular, it is a refusal to see where your conduct leads. Christian minds can see that the progress of sexual misconduct – adultery, homosexuality – leads next to pedophilia being the civil rights debate of the next decade. Our society denies this; they will not see it. But soon, blindness will see attractive again.[2]

Ingratitude

We often forget that we have been blessed by God. But should we not at least acknowledge our debts to Him?

  • He is our creator. Without Him, there is no universe. No universe, no “us.” We are contingent beings.
  • He has blessed us richly in the past.
  • He remains to this day our Rock – fortress, supply and shelter.

That’s a lot to forget! But we manage the trick, and can therefore be heard asking for big things without acknowledging who He is.

Infidelity

In the Old Testament, adultery was often used as the symbolic description of the idolatry of Israel. God is betrothed to Israel, just as the church is the bride of Christ. It is interesting to note that we have abandoned a women’s submission in marriage (it’s just “respect” now), and in parallel to that the church is no longer in submission to Christ. Rather, she adapts to the times around her. It is better to be “cool” than to be righteous, evidently.

But this can be a personal infidelity too. The most common, in my observation, is the love of money. Money is a useful servant; making it your god will ruin your life.

Reproof

Having explained the problems with much more poetry and power than I could ever create, Moses reproves the Israelites. Here are three themes in that reproof:

Adoption

If you are a child of God, you are required to separate yourself from the ways of this world.[3] Once you become a Christian you become a member of the family of God – just as the Jews did here – by adoption. This is why our Lord taught us to pray, “Our Father.”

But, as can be seen, if you are disobedient you forfeit this blessing. Verse 5 says it well:

Deu 32:5 NIV They have acted corruptly toward him;

to their shame they are no longer his children,

but a warped and crooked generation. [1]

(Baptists may now be permitted a few minutes of chanting, “Once in grace, always in grace.”) It seems some things never change.

Obligation

If for no other reasons than these, you are obligated to the Lord God Almighty:

  • It’s His universe. He is your creator. You borrow the very idea of existence from Him. I’m not sure just how much that obligates us, but it’s not “none.”
  • We are the recipients of His grace – the love given to a wayward child. Heaven and hell hang in the balance; do we see no advantage to heaven?
  • We are the heirs of promise – in particular the promise of the resurrection. He is faithful and will do it.

It is hard not to see obligation here.

Obedience

This is what it comes down to: obedience. Adoption provides our benefits; obligation is a motive for obedience.[4] Obedience to His commands signifies two things:

  • First, it signifies a love for God.[5] God does not beat you into submission; rather, He woos you with His love, asking your love in return.
  • Second, it is a mark of the follower of Christ.[6]

It is a simple thing, really – love God, and do as you please. You will be pleased to be obedient indeed.


[1] 1st Corinthians 10:1-4

[2] Proverbs 17:16

[3] 2nd Corinthians 6:17-18

[4] 1st Samuel 12:24

[5] 1st John 5:2-4

[6] John 10:27

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