“Love Rejected” – Deuteronomy 31:14-29

May 6th,  2018

Dt. 31:14-29

“Love Rejected”

Aux. Texts: Isa 53

Call to Worship: Psa 13


Service OrientationRejecting God is about the stupidist thing we can do.  And yet, every time we disobey God we are rejecting Him.   Allow the law of reciprocity and the fact of God’s patience, mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love compel you to always love and obey God.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week: . . . Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. — 2 Timothy 2:10-13


Background Information:

  • (v. 14) The placing of Moses and Joshua at the Tent of Meeting recalls how Moses had formerly met Yahweh there, the pillar of cloud signifying the divine presence (Ex 33:7-11; Nm 1:1). The Tent of Meeting also symbolized Yahweh’s presence with the people when they were on the march, organized in military formation (Ex 40:34-38; Nm 2:2, 17), and it was the place of theophany to all Israel (Nm 14:10).  The appearance of the Tent of Meeting at this point is important for an understanding of Deuteronomy’s concept of the presence of Yahweh, as it is brought into connection with the topic of the ark and indeed of the chosen place.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 440)
  • (vss. 14-15) At the commissioning of Joshua, Moses and Joshua presented themselves before the Lord at the “Tent of Meeting” (v. 14); and the Lord spoke of future apostasy of Israel, not only to Moses, but in the hearing of Joshua as well. In this way Joshua too was warned to resist the tendency of the people to turn to foreign gods.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 195)
  • (v. 23) It is significant that throughout these events Joshua never speaks. He only listens.  It would be a heavy experience to be informed beforehand that your mission as a leader would meet with mixed results.  Even the reading of the law every seven years would not be a deterrent.  Notice that the Lord does not speak of the coming apostasy as a possibility, but as an inevitability.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 309)
  • (vss. 24ff) Moses’ last words are replete with his warning (and the Lord’s) against apostasy.  This warning is directed to all the Israelites (29:2, 16-28; 30:17-19; 31:30-32:47), to Joshua (vv. 13-22), to the Levites (the priests) (vv. 24-27), and to the elders and officials (vv. 28-29).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 197)
  • (v. 26) Although readers of the OT often assume that expressions translated as “the law of the LORD “ refer to the Pentateuch as a whole, the default view should rather be that “the Torah of Yahweh” and “the Torah of Moses” refer particularly to the book of Deuteronomy. This book is the heart of the Torah that the priests were to teach and model, in which psalmists delighted, to which the prophets appealed, by which faithful kings ruled, and by which righteous citizens lived (Ps 1).

This was the book–long neglected–that Josiah’s officials found in the temple and which provided the theological impetus for his wide-ranging reforms (2 Kgs 22-23); this was the book that Ezra read to the community of returned exiles on the occasion of the Festival of Booths (Neh 8).  And as the light of OT prophecy was going out, this was the book to which Malachi called his people to return (Mal 4:4).  The book of Deuteronomy provides the theological base for virtually the entire Old (and New) Testament and is the paradigm for much of its literary style.  Lk 16:19-31 and Jn 5:19-47 illustrate the enormous stature of Moses in the tradition of Judaism at the turn of the ages.  In the Torah the Jews heard Moses’ prophetic voice, and in the Torah they read what he wrote.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 736-7)

  • Why should such emphasis be put on Israel’s disobedience? Part of the reason is to convince the Jews of a later period that their nation’s history of disobedience (and disaster because of it) had been no surprise to God.  Paul was equally convinced that the widespread Jewish rejection of Christianity, in his era, fitted into God’s design of history (Rom 9-11).  Another reason was reassurance, based on God’s foreknowledge of his people’s conduct.  If God had known all along how generations of Israelites would despise his laws, then he must have had long-range plans, beyond these rebellious generations.  Otherwise his laws, his design for life, could have no real purpose. So the generation reading Deuteronomy could be reassured of God’s favor, provided that they changed course as a nation, and sought to embody Deuteronomy’s laws in their daily lives.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 175)


The question to be answered is . . . Why is God through Moses so concerned about the Israelites rejecting God and His ways?


Answer: Because our natural default is towards our sinful, self-centered ways.  Without godly leadership, and regular reminders, and especially in the midst of prosperity; we will fall away.


The Word for the Day is . . . Reject


Why is it so easy to reject God and break covenant with Him?:

I-  Our natural default is towards our sinful, self-centered ways.  (Dt 31:16-17, 21, 27, 29; see also: Gn 6:5; 8:21; Dt 9:4, 7, 24; Ps 14:1-3; 51:5; 58:3; Isa 64:6; Jer 17:9; Rom 3:9-21)


How foolish of us to think we could ever deceive God about our true nature!  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  “I know what they are disposed to do,” the Lord said about his people.  Before the flood the Lord “saw how great man’s wickedness had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (Gn 6:5).  After the flood he said, “Every inclination of [mankind’s] heart is evil from childhood” (Gn 8:21).  Jesus understood sinful human nature too: “He knew all men,” John tells us.  “He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (Jn 2:24, 25).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 299)


In the NT there is predicted the apostasy of the church, just as it was predicted of Israel, and you and I are living in it today.  I have seen in my day that which curdles my blood.  I have watched church after church, which at one time was conservative, take the emphasis off the Word of God and finally depart from the faith.  And I have seen man after man, who at one time professed to be sound in the faith, turn away from the things of God.  (J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible Commentary: Dt, 192)


If there is to be a future at all, it must lie with God, not in the capacity of Israel.  That much has already been demonstrated by the previous generation, and there is no reason to expect future generations to be markedly superior.  God has no illusions (v. 21).  Neither has Moses (v. 27).  But then, neither God nor Moses nor the Bible as a whole deals in illusions.  The future prophetically described in the Song of Moses, whether predictive or retrospective, was no illusion, but a matter of historical fact as the centuries of Israel’s OT history unfolded and ultimately became the basis for an equally non-illusory eschatological theology of history and mission in the hands of Paul.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 297)


Here (Mt 18:21-35) Jesus depicts human beings, due to their sin, not as being $10,000 in debt or $40,000,000 in debt or even $75,000,000,000,000 in debt, but rather as being zillions of dollars in debt to God.  Which means what?  It means Jesus thinks deep down (and not so deep down) people are really, really bad.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 524) (red, bold, enlarged emphasis Pastor Keith)


I honestly cannot believe how many people think they can pay the debts they owe to God.  They think they can perform ten thousand deeds of righteousness to make up for their ten thousand debts of sin.  This is foolishness.  The debt is too huge and our so-called good works are actually filthy rags (Isa 64:6), good for nothing.  We absolutely need grace.  Since we have received it, we should be the last people to grab our brothers or sisters and demand that they pay their debts to us.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 556)


The Bible presents sin by way of major concepts, principally lawlessness and faithlessness, expressed in an array of images:  sin is the missing of a target, a wandering from the path, a straying from the fold.  Sin is a hard heart and a stiff neck.  Sin is blindness and deafness.  It is both the overstepping of a line and the failure to reach it–both transgression and shortcoming.  Sin is a beast crouching at the door.  In sin, people attack or evade or neglect their diving calling.  These and other images suggest deviance:  even when it is familiar, sin is never normal.  Sin is disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony.  Above all, sin disrupts and resists the vital human relation to God, and it does all this disrupting and resisting in a number of intertwined ways.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 5)


The old hymn, “Come, Thou Fount,” was written by Robert Robinson when he was just 23 years old.  The third verse contains a phrase, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”  Unfortunately, this phrase was prophetic for Robinson as his later life was characterized by lapses in sin.  While riding a stagecoach, Robinson was reminded of his sin when a woman began humming this hymn.  She later engaged him in conversation and asked what he thought of the hymn.  He was overcome with emotion and said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then.”


II-  Without reminders (leadership or cultural) we will fall away.  (Dt 31:16, 19, 24-29 ; see also: Dt 4:9, 23; 6:12; 8:11, 14, 19; 32:18)


God tells Moses that after his death the people will break the covenant, follow other gods, and receive the judgment of God in the form of numerous troubles.  When that happens, however, they will not interpret the meaning of the events but will assume that God has forsaken them.  Moses is therefore commanded to write the song given below in order to interpret the true meaning of events; it is God’s witness, the testimony in his defense (cf. vs. 21).  We have here, in other words, an attempt to explain the meaning and purpose of the song, and as well the tradition which ascribed it to Moses.  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 514-5)


When the people have apostasized and have experienced the threatened disasters written in the Torah, the written copies of the Torah and the Song of Yahweh (chap. 32) will declare his fidelity and their own infidelity.  A fuller treatment of the implications of the role of this song awaits an examination of the Song itself, but this chapter testifies to the power of a song.  Modern readers may be amazed that when the restraining influence of Moses is removed, God replaces him, not with a second Moses figure, but with a song.  People are what they sing.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 741)


Once produced, the Torah scroll was probably put in a clay jar or wooden box for safekeeping.  Ancient practices illumine the command to place the written copy of the Torah document beside the ark.  When two people or groups made a treaty, each party took a written copy home and deposited it in the sanctuary, in recognition of the deity’s role as guarantor of the covenant and for periodic retrieval to use in covenant renewal rituals.  The present act means Moses’ pastoral instructions are as binding as the Decalogue itself, though by placing the Torah scroll beside rather then inside the ark Moses ensures its accessibility.  While verses 9-13 require the Levites to read the Torah every seven years at the Festival of Sukkoth, it was probably also used in other worship events, not to mention the requirement of kings to copy it for themselves (17:18-20).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 733)


In a program-oriented movement the vision often vanishes with the retirement of the driver of the movement.  People drop off or lose interest when the leader leaves.  The aim of a good Christian leader should be to get people into the habit of receiving instruction and deriving strategy from the Word.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 643)


“Teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it” (v. 19) implies sufficient repetition to fix it in the minds of the people.  Only then would they be able to sing it, and only then would it be a witness to the Lord’s admonition, not only to those of that generation, but to their descendants who will not have forgotten it (v. 21).  The song was to be taught nationally from generation to generation.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 195)


In light of the previous speech, we might have expected Yahweh formally to pass Moses’ mantle to Joshua.  Remarkably, instead of appointing a pastoral successor to hold the nation together spiritually and to keep it on its covenantal course, he commissions a song.  Indeed verses 19-21 suggest that Yahweh’s primary reason for calling Moses and Joshua to the Tent of Meeting was to communicate to them this Song, which would serve as a sort of national anthem for the people.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 730)


Once the two are inside, and before the commissioning takes place, Yahweh turns to address Moses about another matter.  His words have an ominous tone, registering grave doubts about Israel carrying out the terms of the Horeb covenant.  An audience having listened to earlier Deuteronomic preaching may register surprise at what it hears, for while preaching up to this point has not failed to mention Israel’s disobedience during the wilderness trek, it has nevertheless remained upbeat, stating that Yahweh’s covenant demands can be met and Israel need only be warned about the consequences of disobedience.  The Deuteronomic preacher has not imagined that the covenant will be undone once Israel enters the promised land.  But now that is precisely what Yahweh says will happen.  Once Moses has passed from the scene, Israel will enter Canaan and go after the gods of the land, breaking the Horeb covenant.  Yahweh in holy wrath will then forsake his people, with the result that grievous troubles will meet them on every front.  In this future day people will realize that Yahweh is no longer in their midst.  Yahweh is firm in saying he will treat them with disfavor.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 842-3)


III-  Prosperity breeds contempt.  (Dt 31:20; see also: Dt 6:10-12; 8:10-20; 9:4-6; 32:15-16;  Hos 2:1-13; 13:6; Mt 6:24; Lk 16:13; 1 Tm 6:6-19; Heb 13:5)


Prosperity hardens the heart.  —William Wilberforce  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 90)


It is a melancholy fact, that constant temporal prosperity, as a general rule, is injurious to a believer’s soul.  We cannot stand it.  Sicknesses and losses and crosses and anxieties and disappointments seem absolutely needful to keep us humble, watchful and spiritual-minded.  They are as needful as the pruning-knife to the vine, and the refiner’s fire to the gold.  (J. C. Ryle; Holiness; 94)


Comfort and prosperity have never enriched the world as much as adversity has. —Billy Graham  (Harold Myra & Marshall Shelley; The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, 189)


It is not scientific doubt, not atheism, not pantheism, not agnosticism, that in our day and in this land is likely to quench the light of the gospel.  It is a proud, sensuous, selfish, luxurious, church-going, hollow-hearted prosperity.  (Frederic D. Huntington, Forum magazine as quoted by Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 65, 177)


Adversity makes men, and prosperity makes monsters. — Victor Hugo


The problem of poverty is to remain physically alive.

The problem of prosperity is to remain spiritually alive. — Herbert E. Drooz


Deuteronomy warns against apostasy in 6:12-15; 8:11-20, and in the Song apostasy followed the good life in Transjordan (32:15-18).  What a sated Israel should do is bless Yahweh, who gave it the good land (8:10).  See also Neh 9:25.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 841)


The apostasy was to come after the fulfillment of the promise made to their fathers that they would realize a satisfying and thriving economy in the land flowing with milk and honey (v. 20; Ex 3:8, 17; 13:5; et al.).  Under affluence they would become apostate, turning to other gods, rejecting the Lord, and breaking the covenant-treaty.  So when the many disasters and difficulties (as in v. 17) come on them, the Song of Moses would testify against them.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 195)


“This” is defined still further in vv. 20, 21:  if Israel, through growing satisfied and fat in its land, which was so rich in costly good, should turn to other gods, and the Lord should visit it in consequence with grievous evils and troubles, the song was to answer before Israel as a witness; i.e., not only serve the Lord as a witness to the people that He had foretold all the evil consequences of apostasy, and had given Israel proper warning (Knobel), but to serve, as we may see from vv. 20, 21 and from the contents of the song, as a witness, on the one hand, that the Lord had conferred upon the people so many benefits and bestowed upon them such abundant blessings of His grace, that apostasy from Him was the basest ingratitude, for which they would justly be punished; and, on the other hand, that the Lord had not rejected His people in spite of the punishments inflicted upon them, but would once more have compassion upon them and requite their foes, and thus would sanctify and glorify Himself as the only true God by His judgments upon Israel and the nations.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 460)


But when I shall have brought them.  In other words, God again enlarges upon the atrociousness of their iniquity, in that, when He had dealt liberally with the Israelites, they would turn His benefits into occasions of perversity, since nothing can be more base than such ingratitude.  He says, then, that He will perform to them, unworthy as they are, that which He has sworn, so that He might thus be faithful to His promises.  He commends the fertility of the land, since this striking pledge of His indulgence should have attracted them by its sweetness to love so beneficent a Father in return.  Hence, therefore, the perverseness of their nature is demonstrated, inasmuch as, when full, they would kick against Him, like horses which become intractable from high feeding.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 329)


Some of the prophets tell us that all too often there was an odious complacency in both Israel and Judah; a confident assurance that all was well between them and God.  There is nobody more beyond the reach of reason than a religious man; but at the last, Israel would wake up to the truth of their experience, their history and their need.  Christian Churches may need to learn similar lessons:  see, for instance, Rv 3:14-22, with its warning to a lukewarm and complacent local congregation.  (David F. Payne, The Daily Study Bible Series: Dt, 175)


Unfaithfulness is not always caused by unmet needs.  (2) in adversity Israel will remember God (v. 17).  (3) In prosperity Israel will forget God (v. 20).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 308)


When He says that He knew their disposition, or what they forged within them, it is apparent that He was by no means unaware how ill He was bestowing His benefits upon such unworthy persons, but that He thus contended with their unworthiness, in order that His goodness might be the more conspicuous; and also that He desired this instruction to be set before them, ungodly and hopeless as they were, which He knew they would despise, so as to render them all the more inexcusable by this test.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 329-30)


. . . “each revival has built within it the seeds of its own destruction, because as Christians put into practice the virtues of hard work and thrift, they prosper, and as they prosper they see less a need of God, and they see less a need of God they turn away from the very principles that led to their prosperity and the whole cycle must repeat itself.” —  John Wesley


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What are the consequences of rejecting God and breaking covenant with Him?:

A-  God will be angry with us and reciprocate our relationship with Him.  (Dt 31:17-18; see also: Dt 32:20-21; 1 Chr 28:9; 2 Chr 12:5; 15:1-7; 24:20; Ps 9:10; 37:28; Isa 59:2; Ezek 23:35; Micah 3:4; Mt 6:12; 7:1-5; 18:21-25; Lk 6:37; 2 Tm 2:12)


Yahweh will treat his covenant people as they treated him (v. 16), which is what the Song of Moses promises (32:20-21).  For the same antithesis, see 2 Chr 12:5; 15:2; 24:20.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 839)


For going a whoring after strange gods, the anger of the Lord would burn against them; for forsaking Him, He would forsake them; and for breaking His covenant, He would hide His face from them, i.e. withdraw His favor from them, so that they would be destroyed.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 1, 460)


The immediacy with which the people will turn to foreign gods after Moses’ death is reminiscent of the apostasy of the golden calf itself (Ex 32:1; Dt 9:12) and of the pattern of rapid relapse in Judges (8:33).  The sin of apostasy is characterized (only here in Deuteronomy) as “playing the harlot”, a term that is more frequent in Hosea and Ezekiel (but cf. Jdg 2:17; 8:27, 33).  Israel’s forsaking of Yahweh is met by his corresponding forsaking of them, a perfect negation of covenant mutuality, and by his “hiding his face”, a concept found in Deuteronomy only here and at 32:20 (being more common in the Psalms, e.g. 10:11).  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 440)


The people’s giving and feasting was to be an obedient response to God’s giving and blessing.  But at the same time, God’s blessing would be God’s continued response to their obedience.  It is impossible to separate the two.  It is inadequate to speak of obedience being the condition of blessing, or to speak of unconditional blessing unrelated to responsive obedience.  There is a dynamic reciprocity between the two.  The cycle of nature is mirrored in the cycle of blessing and obedience.  Only in this way your joy will be complete (v. 15)–another Deuteronomic jewel that is given a fresh sparkle in a Johannine setting (Jn 16:24).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 201-2)


When Yahweh hides his “face,” he refuses his attention; when the Israelites “face” other gods (cf. v. 20), they look to them for their security.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 730)



*    The measure you use, it will be measured to you  (Mt 7:1-5; Mk 4:24 & Lk 6:37-        42)

*      If you forgive others God will forgive you – Matthew 6:12

*      Proverbs as you give to the poor God will give to you  (Prv 19:17 & 22:9)

*      Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Mt 7:12)


The second example of “mirror-image theology” comes in 15:1-7, where the prophet Azariah addresses Asa and all Judah, following their remarkable victory over Zerah.   Three statements (in v. 2) emphasize the complementarity of God’s faithfulness to Judah and Judah’s to God, viz. (a) “The Lord is with you while [=as long as] you are with him”; (b) “if you seek him he will be found by you”–not as the mute object of a search, but as one who would be found; and (c) “but if you forsake him, he will forsake you”.  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 169)


Criminals claim that they were rejected by parents, neighbors, schools, and employers, but rarely does a criminal say why he was rejected.  Even as a young child, he was sneaky and defiant, and the older he grew, the more he lied to his parents, stole and destroyed their property, and threatened them.  He made life at home unbearable as he turned even innocuous requests into a battleground.  He conned his parents to get whatever he wanted, or else he wore them down through endless argument.  It was the criminal who rejected his parents rather than vice versa.  (Stanton E. Samenow, Ph.D.; Inside the Criminal Mind, 13)


B-  God’s presence (provision and protection) will be removed and we will become utterly corrupt with disasters and difficulties coming on us so we are destroyed.  (Dt 31:17-18, 29; see also: Dt 4:25-26; 6:13-15; 7:3-4, 16; 8:19-20; 9:8, 19-20, 25-26; 11:26-29; 23:14; 27:13-26; 28:15-63; 29:20-27; 30:1, 7, 18-19; Ps 30:7-8; Jer 1:16; 2:1-25; 9:12-13; 17:13; 18:17; 22:8-9; Ezek 20:8; Amos 5:14)


When the people forsake the Lord, he will forsake them in anger against their wickedness (vv. 17-18) and will hide his face from them.  Hiding his face (vv. 17-18; 32:20) is the converse of making his face to shine on his people and turning his face toward them as in the Aaronic blessing (Nm 6:25-26).  It is equal to saying that the Lord would hide himself from his people so that he and the help he could give them would not be available to them.  On the contrary, many disasters and difficulties would come on them (v. 17); and they will raise a rhetorical question about the reason for the disasters, which would indicate that they knew that the disasters came because God was not with them.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 195)


While Moses had spoken earlier of Yahweh’s anger and his abandonment of his people, the idiom “to hide the face” occurs here for the first time.  The expression signifies the withdrawal of favor.  In ancient courtly contexts, for a king to turn his face from a subject signaled disaster, though the idiom was often applied to gods as well.

As in extrabiblical texts, when a deity hid his face the effects were devastating (v. 17b).  Yahweh speaks of the resultant “disasters” and “difficulties” as carnivorous beasts that seek and devour prey.  To the disasters the people will respond with a curious rhetorical question:  “Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?”  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 729)


God promises not to forsake his people in battle in verse 6, and then promises that he will certainly forsake them if they give their hearts to false gods in verse 17.  It seems clear from the combination of these two passages that the first statement contains an implied but unstated condition:  “as long as I am your God.”  The blessings of the covenant, which included the presence of God at all times, did not apply to those who had broken the covenant.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 354)


Moses knew that the people of Israel would become utterly corrupt as they fell into the worship of idols that their own hands had made.  In God’s great love for them, he would permit disaster to fall upon them in his efforts to gain their attention.  To ensure that these dangers would never be far from their minds, Moses composed and recited the words of a song that would characterize their troubled history.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 352)


Verse 19b suggests the Song was to serve a legal function.  Indeed the scene envisioned fits the genre of a rîb (“legal dispute”).  Whereas earlier legal contexts had witnesses to a crime testifying, Yahweh intends for this Song itself to function as the witness.  It will testify for Yahweh by declaring his fidelity in the face of the people’s apparently inevitable infidelity (cf. V. 21); it will remind Israel that when they experience the covenant curses, this will be Yahweh’s just and predicted response for having trampled underfoot his grace.  This knowledge will be important in the future, especially when outsiders deduce from Israel’s disasters that their divine patron has either been unable or unwilling to defend his people against foreign powers and their gods.  As we will see, the Song combats such erroneous responses.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 730)


The sobering truth is that the greatest hindrance to the growth of Christianity in today’s world is the absence of the manifest presence of God from the church.  (Owen Roberts; Repentance, 16)


An unwillingness to extend mercy is proof that a person has never received mercy.  God’s forgiveness must of necessity create a forgiving spirit.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 178)


Yahweh’s faithfulness to his long-term covenant purposes for Israel is maintained in spite of his knowledge of Israel’s future covenant unfaithfulness (v. 21).  Even the promise of God’s presence (v. 23) is set alongside the expectation that sin will entail God’s absence (vv. 17f.).  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 296)


The Lord repeated a promise for Joshua that he’d spoken many times before, that he would make many times in the future.  When Jacob fled from his angry brother Esau, the Lord told him:  “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go” (Gn 28:15).  He called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt with the promise, “I will be with you” and gave him a sign so that he would know “it is I who have sent you” (Ex 3:12).  When Gideon asked, “Lord, how can I save Israel?  My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my family,” the Lord promised, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together” (Jdg 6:15, 16).  When he called Jeremiah as his prophet, the Lord said, “You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you” (Jer 1:7, 8).

Jesus followed his great command, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” with the great comfort, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt 28:19, 20).  When critics in Corinth opposed Paul and his preaching, the Lord spoke to him in a vision:  “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.  For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city” (Acts 18:6-10).  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 300-1)


In the years to come, when. . . disasters and difficulties plagued their national life, Israel would be unable to escape God’s witness against them because the song of Moses would not be forgotten by the descendants of the original generation that entered the land.  Its poignant reminders of God’s faithfulness and Israel’s treachery would make their guilt a present reality.  The fact that God knew what the people were disposed to do, even before they did it, testifies to the strength of his love and the weakness of their loyalty to him.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 351)


God is Light.  So when you turn away from God, you create the night.  When you turn away from His presence, night comes into your life.  When you turn away from His truth and away from His love, darkness comes to your heart.  And you end up dwelling in your own shadow, in the shadow of your turning.”

He paused a few moments before continuing to speak.

“So is the night,” said the teacher.  “What about the dawn?  What is the dawn?”

“Dawn is when the earth turns away from the darkness and back to the sun.”

“So how do you bring about the dawn?  How do you cause a sunrise?  You turn away from the darkness.  You turn away from your sins, away from substitutes and distractions and idols.  You turn away even from focusing on yourself and your own shadow.  And you turn back to the Light.  You don’t have to wait for the dawn.  You can cause the dawn to come.  (Jonathan Cahn, The Book of Mysteries, Day 308)


Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe, Who holds all the cards to your destiny and happiness.  Think about how stupid it is to make the God of the Universe angry with you through your rebellion, rejection, and pride.


This passage highlights the importance of reading and hearing the Word of God in worship.  If the call to formal communal worship is fundamentally an invitation to appear before the divine King for an audience with him (cf. 31:11), surely what he has to say to his people is more important than what they have to say to him.  The psalmist wrote, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as they did at Meribah, as you did that day at Massah” (Ps 95:7-8).  Since in hearing the Scriptures read we are hearing the voice of God, evangelicals in particular must rediscover that through reading the written Word of God, worshipers hear the voice of God.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 740)


The knowledge that God anticipated this apostasy would be an encouragement for the minority who choose to be faithful to God and persevere along the path of obedience when the majority is unfaithful.  This noble minority would often be tempted to give up, claiming that the situation is hopeless.  The knowledge that God anticipated this apostasy and ordained that the guilty will be severely punished would show them that obedience is the wisest and safest approach to adopt, that the now powerful apostate majority are following a foolish and destructive path.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 643)


Despite what creedal statements testify, the relative absence of the Scriptures is one of the marks of contemporary evangelical worship.  At best the Scriptures are read piecemeal and impatiently that we might get on with the sermon–as if the preacher stands in the place of Moses and his interpretation is as authoritative as the very words that proceed from the mouth of God.  At worst, we do not open the Scriptures at all.  In our drive to be contemporary and relevant, sometimes advertently and often inadvertently we dismiss the reading of the Scriptures as a fossil whose vitality and usefulness has died long ago.  In the process we displace the life-giving and life-declaring voice of God with the foolish and seductive babbling of mortals, and the possibility of true worship is foreclosed.  With Moses, Mal 4:4 [3:22] assumes that when people hear the Word of God, they will commit themselves to unconditional and total obedience to his will.  The mark of a true encounter with God and true worship is the transformed life.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 740-1)


If the Bible is true, then God has provided each of us with the opportunity to make an eternal choice to either accept him or reject him.  And in order to ensure that our choice is truly free, he puts us in an environment that is filled with evidence of his existence, but without his direct presence–a presence so powerful that it could overwhelm our freedom and thus negate our ability to reject him.  In other words, God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling.  (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, 31)


If in the presence of human superlativeness your self image comes crashing down around your ears, then even if you got into the presence of God who is pure love you would hate yourself.  You would say, I’m so cruel, I’m so unloving, I used to think that I loved people but now I know that I have never loved anybody.

Think about it.  If in the presence of human superlativeness your self image comes crashing down around your ears, how could it be different with God?  How could it be otherwise with God?   Here’s how you know when you have begun to get into the presence of the real God, that you’ve begun to have God move into reality.  You see that you are a sinner. You think you’re lost.   You see you are more capable of cruelty, more capable of evil, more selfish, more petty, more small minded, more impatient than you ever thought you were.  And you know you are a sinner and you know you need to be rescued by grace.  And if you say, “O that’s real negative.”

Come on, I just said to you, “If there is a real God (who is holy ) it would have to feel like that.”  How could it be otherwise?   It couldn’t be otherwise.

And if you say, “Well I just don’t believe, that you know, that people should feel sinful.”  Well then you haven’t been near God.  (Tim Keller; “The Gospel and Yourself”)


If somebody says, “O this will lead to low self esteem.”

People with low self-esteem, who actually get into the presence of God, realize, that to a great degree, their low self-esteem was self-absorption.  (Tim Keller; “The Gospel and Yourself”)


What then are we learning here about worship?  Simply this.  We violate worship when we turn a means of grace into a means of weariness.  And we enter into true worship when our hearts are revived through the finished work of Christ on the cross.  That kind of worship pleases God, our burden-bearer.

One would think that such a God would be irresistible.  But here’s the depth of our problem:  We long to save ourselves.  We want, with a compulsive craving, to deserve the good we get.  The logic of reciprocity runs deep in our moral psychology.  For example, when the Disabled American Veterans mail out requests for donations, the appeal draws out of the public a 19 percent response.  But when the mailing includes free personalized address labels, the response rate jumps to 35 percent.  Why?  The logic of reciprocity, of giving in order to get, really works in our minds.  It’s how we relate to one another all the time.  And we drag that way of thinking into our relationship with God.  We give in order to get.  Our natural drift is to worship God not to unburden ourselves but to obligate him.  That denies the very being of God.  (Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Preaching the Word: Isaiah, 289)


Gospel Application:  Jesus was rejected, spit upon, betrayed and forsaken; and yet continues to demonstrate His love to us by going to the cross for us.   God showed His heart of patience, forgiveness, mercy, grace and love in Jesus towards all those who will repent and return to Him as Jesus died the death we deserve.  (Isa 53; Ezek 18:30;  Rom 3:21-26; 5:6-19)


Judas and Peter both rejected Jesus.  The big difference in their eternal destinies is that Peter repented and came back whereas Judas did not.  —Pastor Keith


To expect to enter the sphere of God’s mercy without repenting from our sin is but wishful thinking.  And for the church to offer hope of God’s mercy apart from repentance from sin is to offer false hope through a false gospel.  God offers nothing but merciless judgment to those who will not turn from their sin to the Savior.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 192)


When you and I think, “Well, I haven’t sinned as much as this person or that person,” we show that we have no clue as to the extent of our own sin.  Our debt is deep–infinitely deep.  But Christ has paid it.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 246)


The Christian life is a broad road of happiness, joy, peace, blessing, success, significance, and contentment, which is ironically gained by choosing the narrow road of surrender, obedience, self-denial, self-sacrifice, truth, worship and service. (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 185)


What is the consequence of our sin against God? . . . the loss of a relationship.  But don’t forget, you realize what that means; for the son to lose a relationship with a mother, if he does not patch that up, he is going to have a lousy life.  If we don’t patch up our relationship with God—we were built for the presence of God, we have to have the presence of God to be human, to love, to think, to be utterly cut off from the presence of God, absolutely is agony, is hell.  But, what Jesus is beginning to experience, is way beyond that.

Now, you say, “What you mean way beyond that?”  Wait a minute, how can you say way beyond that, how could anything be way beyond that?

Well, think about this:  Remember when I said, “If a friend rejects you that is infinitely less harmful than if a spouse rejects you; as you certainly know.  If God rejects me, that is awful.  But, if the Father rejects Jesus (we have to realize) that the Father and the Son have a relationship of love that is infinitely greater than anything that we know.

The greatest marriage in the history of the world, compared to the love of the Father and the Son is like a dew drop compared to the Pacific Ocean.  No lover was ever so one with her spouse, no parent was ever so one with his child, no soul ever so one with its body as the Father and the Son were.  And so for the Son to even get on the outskirts of a loss of that love, to even get on the outskirts, to even get a whiff of that, meant that he began to experience a horror that . . . pushed blood out of his pores, even though He was the Son of God.  What must it have been like to actually DRINK the cup, if the sight of it, if the smell of it did this to Him.  That is what is going in the garden.

And so, why did he do it?  Why did he do it. . . .

Centuries ago, God put Adam in Garden with a tree.  And He said, “Obey me about the tree.  Don’t eat it.”

In other words, God says to Adam, “Obey and you will live!”   But he didn’t.

Centuries later, the second Adam, is in the garden:  Not Eden, Gethsemane.  And there is another tree.  This time it is a cross.  And God says, “Obey me about the tree.” But, I want you to see the contrast here.  The first Adam was told, “Obey me and you will live.”  The second Adam was told, “Obey me and I will crush you to powder.”   Jesus was told something that God has never said to anybody before and will never say again.  God has never said this before or again. But He said it once.  He said, “I want you to obey me, and if you obey me I will utterly abandon you.  I will utterly cast you off.  I will send You into hell.  I will send You into infinite sorrow.  Because our relationship was infinitely greater than a relationship between anybody else.  Your sorrow, your pain, your misery, will be infinitely greater than someone going to hell.

God says to the first Adam, “Obey and you will live.”  And he didn’t.  God says to the second Adam, “Obey and I will crush you to powder.”  But he did obey!  Why?  Why would he do that?

To get glory?  He had glory before.  To get a relationship with the Father?  Obviously not.  What did He get out of it?  Only one thing.  Us!  You.  Forgiven.  Loved.  A relationship.  Don’t you see when Jesus died, the minute He died, Lk 23:45, it says darkness was over the whole land for the sun stopped shining.  What does that mean?  The darkness came into him.  He took the darkness.  He took the consequences of what was done.  He took the darkness. . . . He died in the dark, the ultimate dark, so we could live in the light.  So we could have the light that never goes out.  (Tim Keller; The Hour of Darkness)


Spiritual Challenge:  Love God with all your heart, mind , soul and strength because of Who He is.  And, if you cannot love God for Who He is, love Him because of what He has done for you.  And if you cannot love Him for what He has done for you, love Him because you realize you are a selfish pig and don’t want to miss out on His blessing because you’ve been a prideful, foolish, idiot.  This will allow you to better understand Who He is.


No God, no peace.  Know God, know peace.


Obviously the doctrine of justification by faith only is absolutely essential.  There has never been a revival but that this has always come back into prominence.  This doctrine means the end of all thinking about ourselves and our goodness, and our good deeds, and our morality, and all our works.  Look at the histories of revivals, and you will find men and women feeling desperate.  They know that all their goodness is but filthy rags, and that all their righteousness is of no value at all.  And there they are, feeling that they can do nothing, and crying out to God for mercy and for compassion.  Justification by faith.  God’s act.  ‘If God does not do it to us,’ they say, ‘then we are lost.’ (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 55)


Just imagine if God kept count of my sins (not to mention yours).  Through Christ, God doesn’t keep count.  So don’t you keep count!  That’s the point.  Got it?  As God in Christ forgives us again and again and again, so we are to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ again and again and again.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 522)


This is what a Christian brother not forgiving a guilty but repentant brother looks like to God.  It’s despicable.  It’s disgusting.  It’s completely irrational.  And that’s Jesus’ point:  don’t act like this irrational idiot.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 527)


So What?Repent and follow God with all your heart.   God has a history of reciprocating your response to His covenant in a lopsided way in your favor.  You don’t want to go there if you reject Him.  (Gn 15: 9-18; Isa 54:8; Jer 29:11-14; 32:40-42; 34:18-19)


“Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God”; “Joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God”; and “Joy is the flag that is flown o’er the castle of our hearts when the King is in residence there.”  All three sentences stress the same point: because God is with us, we can continually rejoice.  His presence makes possible our hope–hope for how he will create good from even the negative elements in our lives (Rom 8;28) and hope for how we will discover that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the fulfillment of God’s promises as they will be revealed to us (8:18).  (Marva J. Dawn, Truly the Community:  Romans 12, 193)






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