Deuteronomy Chapters Thirty-Three and Thirty-Four
Perhaps I can indicate the appreciation I have for these final words in Deuteronomy if I tell you that I chose 33:26-29 for a final sermon to the church I served in for thirty years. They are rich and wonderful words and the famous “underneath are the everlasting arms” have been written and cross-stitched and printed and published and preached on for over three thousand years.
In Deuteronomy 33 Moses blessed the twelve tribes, just as years earlier, Jacob had blessed his twelve sons (Genesis 49). He had a special word for each tribe and then a final word (33:26-29) for all twelve of them. It is testimony to God’s character that His servant Moses – representing Him – wanted to bless them not curse them! They had caused both God and Moses great grief but their welfare is the priority here.
First, there is “no one like the God” they belong to (33:26). If people are looking for a God to trust and follow, then I always say choose the God who showed up - and Yahweh had shown up. (cf. John 1:14-18). When Moses says that God “rides across the heavens to help you” (33:26) there is no clearer fulfilment of this than the coming of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11).
Second, God surrounds His people. He is first above them (33:26), ‘on top of everything’, then He is around them as “refuge” (33:27) – not distant or aloof, He is underneath them (33:27) and He is ahead of them (33:27) - going before to guarantee safety and security. This comprehensive ‘surrounding’ finds its fulfilment in the frequent description of a Christian as “in Christ”.
The “everlasting arms” that are unstoppably “underneath” contrast with Moses’ weak arms that had to be propped up (Exodus 17:12). And because the Lord’s arms are underneath it means that a Christian can never sink into sadness, humiliation, trials or even death and be TOO LOW FOR GOD TO SAVE.
After preaching these final words Moses was given a sight of the Promised Land as a sign and proof that God could be trusted. And then he was buried on Mount Nebo.
As I was driving home after my last Sunday it struck me that though I had preached on these words and the ministry chapter was over, that the words of 33:26-29 remain permanently necessary and relevant and timely. On any day and in any place, the Lord’s people will need to lean on Him and find Him faithful and sufficient. You can forget the sermon but never escape the great truth.
Spurgeon says “if you had fifty kingdoms burdening your brain, if you carried the politics of one hundred nations, if you were loaded with the cares of a thousand worlds, you might safely leave them with Him – so lean hard brothers and sisters, underneath are the everlasting arms."
Heavenly Father, Fill our minds with this assurance and our mouths with worthy praise – in Jesus’ Name. Amen.