Guarding and proclaiming the unchanging truth in a changing world

Deuteronomy Chapters Thirty-One and Thirty-Two

29th October 2020

When we think of hymns and songs we often think of praise and thanksgiving – which is good and right. But a young man in the church where I served, found it hard to sing upbeat songs every week as he battled leukaemia for twelve years. His sister wrote a song of ‘lament’ for him and she surely had scripture on her side. Here in Deuteronomy 32 we have a long song which could best be described as a ‘rebuke’. We have few songs like it!

As we come near the end of the book, there are some closing words from Moses and some closing words to Moses. We are still in the ‘decision’ section of the book (chapters 27-34) as everything is geared to being decisive in face of the future.

In chapter 31 Moses speaks first to the people to tell them that although he himself will not cross the river, that the Lord would cross over and fight for them and that Joshua would cross over and lead from now on (31:1-6). It’s important to notice again that Moses is not losing his salvation by missing out on the Land. He is safe in the Hands of Yahweh (Luke 9:30). And his words to “be strong…for the Lord your God goes with you” (31:6) are full of comfort and love for the people. Then he speaks similarly to Joshua. He also speaks to the Levitical priests to make sure that they read the law to the people – vital to their future (31:12).

The Lord then speaks very sobering words to Moses on how the people will soon forsake Him and “prostitute themselves” (31:16) to idols. Even more shockingly, He will “forsake” them for forsaking Him! (31:17). But He means that He will “hide His face” from them (31:18) for a time, till they repent and are restored. What a humbling thing it is to realise that not only does the Lord know the weakness of our profession of faith, but He also knows the sins still to be committed – and stays committed to see His people through to glory (Phil 1:3-6).

Then comes the long song which covers the complete gamut of sin and mercy.

  • (a) Remembrance. They are to sing this song remembering their corruptions and His perfections – the “faithful God who does no wrong – upright and just is He” (32:4).
  • (b) Rebellion. Their response of ingratitude earns this stinging question “is this the way you repay the Lord…your Father…who made you and formed you?” (32:6)
  • (c) Rescue. It was He who found them, guarded them, led them, carried them, and fed them (32:9-14) – “the Lord alone”.
  • (d) Rejection. They “rejected the Rock” (32:15) and “sacrificed to false gods” – because of which He would “reject them” (32:19-35) and “scatter them”. [It is worth noting the famous verse 32:35 “in due time their foot will slip” from which Jonathan Edwards preached his sermon ‘Sinners in the Hands of an angry God’. Those today who don’t like the sermon should remember that God did!].
  • (e) Relent. “The Lord will…relent concerning His servants” (32:36) – not only because of their hopelessness but to show “there is no God like Him” (32:39).
  • (f) Rejoice. Here the song calls on the “nations” to “rejoice” because He will “make atonement for His land and people” (32:43). See Hebrews 2:17 for the key to this.

These words (says Moses) “are not just idle words – they are your life” (32:47).
We might remember this as we sing the things that comfort as well as convict.


Heavenly Father, How much we have contributed to grieve and anger you. How thankful we are that your grace overflows to save and keep. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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