“Moses’ Song: A Love Song Part 2” – Deuteronomy 32:22-47

May 20th,  2018

Dt. 32:22-47

“Moses’ Song:  A Love Song – Pt 2”

Aux Text: Mt 7:21-27

Call to Worship: Psa 119:161-168

 

Service Orientation:  God loves it when we are living in the reality that God is everything for us.  We honor Him when we trust Him.   Do we hang on God’s every Word knowing that true love and true life comes only through Him?  

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  This is the one I esteem:  he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.  — Isaiah 66:2b

 

Background Information:

· (v. 24) The word “wasting famine” occurs only here in the OT.  That this parade of deadly divine weapons should be headed by “famine” reflects the role of starvation in ancient warfare.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 759)

· (vss. 26-27) Another bold anthropomorphism, but von Rad points out that deliberations in the mind of God are not rare in the OT (Gn 6:5-7; 18:17-21; Hos 6:4; 11:8-9; Jer 31:20).  They occur, he notes, when a decision regarding Israel’s salvation or judgment is at issue.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 892)

· (v. 27) God’s decision is to exercise restraint, not because Israel deserves it, but because His honor is at stake.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 316)

· (v. 29)  It is not clear in this verse which nation (Israel or the enemy) is in view, or who is speaking.  There is in fact a subtle interplay between the accusation of the enemy and that of Israel in vv. 28-35.  This seems to be a deliberate effect of the poetic expression here.  If the enemy is foolish because of its inadequate gods, it must not be forgotten that Israel, too, is foolish because it has spurned Yahweh.  As a continuation of vv. 27-28, v. 29 refers to the enemy; yet in its formulation as a wish of Yahweh it reminds one of his desire for Israel.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 457-8)

· (vss. 30-31) The antecedent of “their” changes from Israel to the enemies of Israel as the NIV’s change of capitalization indicates.  The pronoun “their” in v. 30 is Israel; in v. 31 it is the enemies.  In v. 30 “their Rock” is the Lord; in v. 31 “their rock” is the enemies’ god, and even the enemies concede that the Lord is superior to “their rock.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 211)

· (v. 32) Throughout the OT it is the moral corruption and ungodliness of the Israelites, and never the vices of the heathen, that are compared to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The Israelites who were forsaken by the Lord, were designated by Isaiah (1:10) as a people of Gomorrah, and their rulers as rulers of Sodom (cf. Isa 3:9); the inhabitants of Jerusalem were all of them like Sodom and Gomorrah (Jer 23:14); and the sin of Jerusalem was greater than that of Sodom (Ezek 16:46 sqq.).  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 3, 485)

· (vss. 32-33) While the image of Sodom and Gomorrah as places renowned for agricultural productivity is ancient (Gn 13:10), by linking Israel’s enemies with these cities Yahweh recognizes their great potential:  tendrils derive from the stock of Gomorrah.  But how different is the promise from the fulfillment!  Instead of finding Vitis vinifera yielding grapes for wine, those who picked the fruit discovered these were wild plants that produced lethal and bitter fruit (cf. 2 Kgs 4:38-40).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 763)

· (v. 35) Foot slippage is a biblical idiom for misfortune (Driver; cf. Ps 38:17[16]; 94:18; cf. 66:9; 121:3; also Job 12:5; Ps 25:15 [cf. Pss 18:37(36); 37:31]), expressed in the Prophets as “stumbling (and falling)” (Hos 4:5; 5:5; 14:2[1]; Isa 3:8; 8:15; 31:3; Jer 6:15[=8:12], 21; 20:11; 31:9; Ezek 3:20; 7:19; 14:3, 4, 7).  When the foot of the righteous begins to slip, one is upheld by Yahweh (Ps 94:18); for the wicked calamity follows quickly.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 897)

· (v. 40) To lift up the hand is explained in two ways; for some suppose it to be a manifestation of power, as men are wont, by the uplifting of their hand, to glory, when they are confident in their strength, and despise their enemies.  Others, however, more correctly state it to be a form of adjuration God, who is exalted above all heavens, cannot, indeed, be literally said to lift His hand; but it is no new thing for Him to borrow modes of expression taken from men’s common habits and customs, especially when He suddenly rises again to sublimity, after having appeared for a while to sink below the level of His greatness.  Certainly the words which follow contain in them an oath, “I live for ever;” and hence it is probable that the elevation of His hand was expressive of His taking the oath.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 370-1) 

· (v. 42) Ancient swords had “mouths” at the hilt, as we now know from swords excavated in northern Syria, southern Mesopotamia, and northwestern Iran.  Blades are represented as tongues sticking out of an open-mouthed lion or dragon carved into the hilt (Lundbom, 104-5).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 902)

· Israel’s national anthem ends on a festive note, appealing to the nations to join in the celebration of Yahweh’s gracious acts on behalf of Israel.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 767)

· The song thus ends where it began, in the cosmic realms, but with a vision that encompasses the intersection of God’s cosmic rule with history, first through the election and redemption of Israel, but ultimately in the praise of all nations for God’s righteous acts of salvation.  Such is the profound power of this song in the light of the rest of biblical history that it offers us an integration of creation with redemption, of God’s cosmic purposes with God’s historical action, of the historical particular with the eschatological universal, of judgment with salvation, of past event with future vision, of wrath with grace.  The song encompasses the whole of Israel’s OT history in its scope, but only the cross and resurrection of Israel’s messiah ultimately plumbed its depths and resolved its questions and paradoxes.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 305)

 

So what is a Christian worldview?  Simply put, there is a living God, and He has revealed himself in Scripture.  Therefore as Christians, we believe that we can find absolute truth from the Bible, regardless of what is politically correct, regardless of what we feel is right or not right.  We base our beliefs on what the Bible teaches.  That is what it means to have a Christian worldview.  — Greg Laurie

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What perspective or world-view is God looking to promote through the Song of Moses?  What is preventing us from adopting this position?   How can we obtain it?

 

Answer: God wants us to always honor Him and see Him for what He really is:  the Way to love, the Truth, and the Life.   Pride, self-confidence, our sinful nature and the whole world prevents us from coming to this position.  As far as I know, the only way to have a complete change of mind and heart on this issue is to plead to the God of the Universe to give it to you.    

 

That book, sir, is the rock on which our republic rests.  —Andrew Jackson

 

The NT is the very best book that was or ever will be known in the world. — Charles Dickens.

 

It is impossible to righteously govern the world without God and the Bible. — George Washington.

 

Within the covers of one single book, the Bible, are all the answers to all the problems that face us today—if only we would read and believe.  —Ronald Reagan.

 

The greatest weakness in the church today is that it no longer believes that Scripture is where God invests His power.  Everyone is looking for power in a program or a methodology–everywhere but where God has placed it, in His Word.  The power of the Word of God is His power and His alone.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 176)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Honor

 

What should we learn from Moses’s Song?:

I-  God passionately dishonors us when we dishonor Him. (Dt 32:22-35; see also: Ex 32:12; Nm 14:13-16; 20:12; 27:14; Dt 9:28; 1 Sm 2:30; Isa 29:13; Bk of Mal; Mt 15:8; Mk 7:6; Jn 5:23; 15:8; 17:4-5; Rom 3:23)

 

The anger of God is an awesome and terrible thing because it follows from a rejection of the equally pervasive love of God.  (P. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy, 384)

 

Christians must always bear in mind that sin will be punished.  And sometimes it may be necessary in the face of powerful evil to point to those powerful people and tell the faithful that those people will be punished.  It will give wisdom to the faithful about the folly of compromising obedience in order to fall in line with the schemes of wicked people.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 665)

 

The God who is Israel’s unshakable, ever reliable Rock (32:4) has chosen to sell them, to give them up.  Romans talks about how God gave up on humanity in general after humans chose to dishonor God (1:24, 26, 28).  When he gave up on humanity, he did so with the hope of choosing Israel so that Israel would become the means through which God’s message would go to the world.  But when Israel also rejected God’s ways, she, too, was rejected by God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 662)

 

What would Israel’s enemies think when they would see Israel defeated and disgraced?  They might conclude that their victory over Israel was their doing, so the Lord had to make it clear that his people’s defeat was his judgment.  If Israel’s amazing triumphs against overwhelming odds could be explained only by the Lord’s almighty assistance, what else could Israel’s crushing losses be attributed to, but the withdrawal of God’s power?  Even Israel’s enemies admitted that their gods were no match for the Lord.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 316)

 

God’s decision is to exercise restraint, not because Israel deserves it, but because His honor is at stake.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 316)

 

This may seem to be unworthy of God, for it looks like God is taking revenge against his enemies.  This is not revenge in the bad human sense.  Justice demands that sin be punished.  God will not be holy and good if he does not punish the wicked.  This is why after mentioning vengeance the song goes on to say, “. . . and recompense.”  And verse 41, after talking of vengeance, says “[I] will repay.”  The vengeance of God is punishment for wrong, a repayment according to the laws of justice.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 663)

 

Grace is suffused with pity when God sees the utter destitution of the people (v. 36b), but it is not without rebuke, as God reminds them of the futility of their useless idols (37f.).  The divine irony is in play again:  the very gods the Israelites looked to for rocklike strength and shelter have left them weak and defenseless. Such is always the way of idolatry in human society, ancient and modern.  False gods never fail to fail.  Sadly, we never fail to forget.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 303)

 

Oh, that those who live in open rebellion against God would realize that God’s judgment is sure, that their arrogant disregard for his principles is earning for them a terrible judgment.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 667)

 

They reject the God who was like a Father to them and worship “strange gods.”  In God’s love for the people he responds to this disloyalty with holy jealousy at their rebellion, just as a loving and faithful husband would respond to his wife’s unfaithfulness.  This is a theme that has already occurred several times in Deuteronomy (4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 29:20) and will occur once more in this chapter (32:21).  We are made for loyal commitment to the God who created us, saved us, and made us his own.  When someone forfeits that through sin, the loving God is stirred to holy jealousy.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 652-3)

 

But we don’t ponder how much his anger is also a function of his love and goodness.  The Bible tells us that God loves everything he has made.  That’s one of the reasons he’s angry at what’s going on in his creation; he is angry at anything or anyone that is destroying the people and world he loves.  His capacity for love is so much greater than ours–and the cumulative extent of evil in the world is so vast–that the word wrath doesn’t really do justice to how God rightly feels when he looks at the world.  So it makes no sense to say, “I don’t want a wrathful God, I want a loving God.”  If God is loving and good, he must be angry at evil–angry enough to do something about it.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 177)

 

The covenant love of God demands exclusive loyalty and faithfulness on our part.  God promises that he will never leave us or forsake us (Dt 31:6, 8; Josh 1:5).  But when we become unfaithful, God’s anger is kindled, and he says, “I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be” (Dt 32:20a).  Why?  “For they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness” (32:20b).  Real love can never be satisfied with rejection.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 659-60)

 

32:19-21a.  Israel’s defection caused the Lord to act in justice toward his sons and daughters and to hide his face from them.  Because they proved to be a perverse generation (children who are unfaithful), he determined to detach himself and see what their end would be.  In violation of the covenant, Israel made Yahweh jealous by their devotion to worthless idols.  His jealousy stemmed not from the imagined virtues of pagan deities, but from his recognition that Israel’s actions insulted him and guaranteed that their lives would be filled with hardship.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 360)

 

. . . . the authority of the Bible is no longer recognized.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, 14)

 

God again represents Himself in the character of a man, as if He were mediating opposite determinations, and restrained His vehemence in consideration of the impediments He encountered.  What it amounts to, however, is this, that God suspended His final judgment upon them for no other reason but because He had regard to His own glory, which would else have been subjected to the taunts of the Gentiles.  Hence the Jews were reminded that, whereas they had deserved certain destruction, they were preserved on no other grounds but because God was unwilling to give the reins to the insolence of the Gentiles.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 357)

 

God’s judgment–also his salvation–comes not soon, but quickly (Isa 5:26; 29:5-6; 30:13; Jer 4:20; 6:26; 15:8; 18:22; 51:8; Hab 2:3; Isa 60:22; 1 Thes 5:2-4; Rv 22:20).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 897)

 

By the expression, “latter,” their exceeding stupidity is censured:  since not even by many and long experiences were they aroused to reflect on the causes of their calamities; whereas length of time extorts some sense at last from the very dullest, and almost idiotic persons.  It was, therefore, a sign of desperate stupidity that they were still without understanding after so many years; as if by experience itself they had grown callous, when they ought to have shaken off their lethargy, and to have bestirred themselves to earnest inquiry.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 359-60)

 

Now, when, though in great numbers, they are conquered by a few, this change plainly shews that they are deprived of God’s aid, especially when a thousand, who were wont before, with a little band, to rout the greatest armies, gave way before ten men.  Moses, therefore, condemns the stupidity of the people, in that it does not occur to their minds that they are rejected by God, when they are so easily overcome by a few enemies, whom they far exceed in numbers.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 360)

 

I think it was far from the intention of Moses, as some make it to be, to refer to the punishment which the Israelites deserved; but that he rather inveighs against their corrupted morals, and obstinate disposition.  But metaphorically he calls them an offshoot from the vine of Sodom and Gomorrah, inasmuch as they resemble in their nature both those nations, as much as if they had sprung from them, just as grafts of the vine produce fruits similar to the stocks from which they are taken.  God complains by Isaiah that, when He looked for good and sweet grapes from His vineyard, it brought forth wild grapes  (Isa v. 2).  And also by Jeremiah that, when He had planted a trustworthy and genuine seed, it was turned into the branches of a strange vine, (Jer 2:22) but Moses goes further here, that the people was not merely a degenerate vine, but poisonous, and producing nothing but what was deadly; and therefore he adds, not only that their clusters were bitter, but that their vine was the poison of dragons and asps; whereby he signifies that nothing worse or more abominable than that nation could be imagined.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 362)

 

God’s avenging wrath rests on his sense of righteousness.  He will mete out righteous judgment whether in punishment or in defense.  Requital and recompense stem from his inherent divine virtue.  In this the attitude of the Lord God differs from human reactionary vengeance that seeks retaliation because of wounded pride or overweening resentment.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 211-2)

 

27-35.  The verb “I said” signals the start of an embedded speech in which the audience overhears Yahweh contemplating the implications of his actions against Israel.  In the end we learn why he did not utterly reject his people, despite their horrendous ingratitude and rebellion.  The strophe begins with a past conversation that Yahweh had with himself.  He admits that he had intended to “scatter them” and to “blot out their memory.”  This second line is shocking.  While it involves different vocabulary, Yahweh would do to them what they were to do to the Canaanites (7:24).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 761)

 

Verse 27 explains why Yahweh backed off from this plan:  He feared provocation (NIV “taunt”) from the adversaries of God’s people.  Apparently Yahweh was troubled by the possibility that the enemies would draw false conclusions regarding their role in Israel’s demise.  The Song declares the enemies’ response through direct speech by an interlocutor.  The first clause reflects the gesture of a victor raising his hand in triumph.  The second represents the opposite side of the coin.  Despite all the first person verbs in verses 19-25, they will say that it was not Yahweh who destroyed Israel.  Yahweh would not tolerate this besmirching of his reputation (9:28; cf. Ex 32:12; Nm 14:13-16).  The enemies’ declaration produces a change in the divine Sovereign’s disposition, as the object of his ire shifts to those he had sent as agents of his people’s punishment.  Ultimately, Yahweh spares Israel to salvage his reputation.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 762)

 

Tradition records Yahweh threatening in the wilderness to completely destroy Israel and begin all over again with Moses (9:13-14; Ex 32:9-10; Nm 14:11-12).  Moses rejected the idea, and it was not carried out.  The remnant idea occurs often in the 8th-cent. prophets, particularly Isaiah, in whose time Judah was nearly exterminated by the army of Sennacherib (Isa 1:9; 4:3; 10:20-23; 11:1-9; 37:4, 31-32; Mic 2:12; 4:6-7; 5:6-7[7-8]; 7:18).  The idea is carried on in Jeremiah, who witnessed the destruction of the Israelite nation (Jer 24; 29; 30:10), and it survived in postexilic Judaism (Hag 1:12-14; 2:2; Zech 8:6, 11-12).  In the NT, see Rom 11:5.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 892)

 

30.  The poet asks rhetorically just how a numerically superior Israel could have been put to flight by a force considerably smaller, but then answers his own question by saying it could only have happened because Yahweh sold them into enemy hands.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 894)

 

Jonathan Edwards used v. 35 about the foot of the enemy slipping as a text for his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” preached at Enfield on July 8, 1741.  Actually, the sermon was on the entire conclusion to the Song, where the Lord promises judgment on the wicked.  Edwards took these words as referring to the punishment and destruction of wicked Israelites, not their enemies, and began his riveting sermon by describing how the foot will slide when the day of judgment arrives.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 908)

 

Powerful people in society seem to get away with so much wickedness, and those who challenge their wickedness are crushed and defeated.  These powerful people in society seem to be invincible.  The righteous could end up very bitter over this.  But there is no need for bitterness.  These people will be punished severely.  There will be no escape for anyone on the day of judgment.  We need to keep reminding ourselves of this in order to have the courage to go against the stream and pay the price of righteousness.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 661)

 

Sodom and Gomorrah, of course, were very wicked and were destroyed by God.  Not only do they reap future judgment, they do not even satisfy in the present because “their grapes are. . . poison; their clusters are bitter.”  Even on earth, powerful people will not be happy.  Their victories will turn sour.  The fact that they have temporarily defeated the people of God should not cause us to join them.  They are not happy in the present and are depending on the wrong things for the future.  Let those who envy successful wicked people remember this.  Their power is not as powerful as it seems, and their success is not as satisfying as it seems.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 663)

 

The doctrine of judgment upon the wicked helps us to remain righteous and not be bitter about the success of the unrighteous.  Just as this song of Moses was going to become part of the folklore of the people, we too must include the fact that the wicked will be judged in our ordinary conversation and singing.  The doctrine of judgment is a key feature of the Biblical armor against assimilation into evil world systems.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 665)

 

II-  God is honored when we see Him as Lord over all. (Dt 32:36-42; see also: Dt 4:39; 10:14; 1 Sm 2:6-8, 30; 2 Kgs 5:7;  1 Chr 29:11-14; 2 Chr 20:6; Job 9:12; 12:9-17; Ps 24:1; 47:2-3; 50:10-12; 75:6-7; 89:11; 113:4; 115:3,16; 135:5-6; Isa 40:22; 43:10-15; 45:7; Jer 18:1-23; 27:5-6; 32:27-28; Ezek 17; 24; Dan 2:20-21, 47; 4:3, 17; Hag 2:8; Jn 19:11; Acts 17:24-26;   Rom 11:36; Eph 1:22-23; 4:6; 1 Tm 1:17; Rv 4:11)

 

God’s goal in judging Israel is not to annihilate her; it is to bring her to the point where she understands that “there is no God beside Me” (v. 39).  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 316)

 

The Lord is the real news maker on our planet.  This world isn’t actually being run by political somebodies in Washington or Moscow or London or Baghdad.  Paul reminds us that God “placed all things under [Christ’s] feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph 1:22, 23).  We have the very best friend in the highest possible place!  He rules the world for the benefit of his people!  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 318)

 

37-38.  The Lord asks his people, in this dreadful condition, where those gods are–those gods they took refuge in, those gods they thought were a rock, those gods that they worshiped with the fat of sacrifices and the wine of drink offerings, which supposedly the gods ate and drank.  The fat of sacrifices and wine of drink offerings should have been offered to the Lord instead of to gods that could not help them.  In a proper and effective bit of irony, the Lord suggests that those gods should arise and help them and give them shelter.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 214)

 

In a strong anthropomorphism the Lord applied to himself the taking of an oath by raising the hand toward heaven (Gn 14:22; Ex 6:8; Nm 14:30) and declaring, “As the LORD lives, I will” (cf. Jdg 8:19; 1 Sm 14:39; et al.).  Now, however, the formula is adjusted to the occasion by the Lord himself authenticating his oath by lifting his hand and declaring, “As surely as I live forever” (cf. Nm 14:21, 28; Isa 49:18; Jer 22:24; Ezek 5:11; et al.).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 215)

 

Let us learn from this passage that God is defrauded of His right, unless He alone is pre-eminent, all idols being reduced to nothing; and also that our faith is then truly fixed in Him, and has firm roots, if, amidst the various changes which occur, it does not stagger or waver, but surmounts such obstacles, so as not to cease to hope in Him even when He seems to “slay” us, as Job says, (13:15).  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 370)

 

While these agents appear in the covenant curses (28:20-22, 48) and the names originate in pagan demonology, in orthodox Yahwism the entities involved have all been thoroughly demythologized.  Yahweh is in complete control of all forces of death, including those that other peoples identify with malevolent spirits from the netherworld.  However, Yahweh also has other more natural weapons at his disposal.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 760)

 

The first line speaks literally of sharpening “the lightning of my sword.”  But Yahweh’s weapons of war are also weapons of judgment.  If the first half of verse 41 sets the stage, the second half announces the action.  Alluding back to verse 35, Yahweh declares that he will repay his enemies.  The sword he had placed in the hands of Israel’s enemies (v. 25) he will now wield against them to restore ethical balance.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 766-7)

 

God is taking an oath and swearing by himself!  Eugene Merrill comments, “The Word of God by itself is sure, but when he swears by his own life and reputation, there can be no doubt about the fulfillment of his intentions.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 667)

 

III-  God is honored when His people repent and God can restore them.  (Dt 32:43; see also: Ps 51:17; Isa 66:1-2; Zech 1:1-6; Jn 15:8; 1 Cor 6:20) 

 

The honor of God’s name is wrapped up in the history of the people who bear his name.  When they fail, it looks like God has failed.  It is therefore desperately important for God’s people to be vindicated.  But God cannot do this without punishing them for their rebellion.  So he first punishes them and then restores them.  In this way neither the holiness of God nor his love are compromised.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 665)

 

For Paul, the amazing mystery of God’s purpose is that the very judgment of Israel for their unbelief will lead to the extension of salvation to the nations, which in turn will lead to the repentance and restoration of Israel.  It is a missiology with broad roots throughout the OT, and at least one of its roots lies here in Deuteronomy 32.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 301)

 

Viewed as a whole, verse 43 presents the hosts of heaven and the nations with three reasons to celebrate and pay homage to Yahweh:  (1) Yahweh has restored his relationship with Israel; (2) Yahweh has taken vengeance on Israel’s (and his own) enemies; (3) Yahweh has made atonement for the land.  In so doing he has reversed the earlier dissolution of the tripartite relationship involving deity–nation–people precipitated by Israel’s idolatry.  This is cause for celebration not only by the Israelites beneficiaries of the divine action–as in this song–but also by the hosts of heaven and the nations, indeed the entire universe.  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 769)

 

The point seems to be that Yahweh is now compassionate toward Israel after seeing that support from neighboring peoples (and their gods) is gone, leaving Israel powerless.  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 898)

 

Love yearns for the restoration of those who have spurned our love and God’s love.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 666)

 

Because Israel was His nation, the Lord judged it in such a manner as not to destroy it, but simply to punish it for its sins, and to have compassion upon His servants, when He saw that the strength of the nation was gone.  (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the OT Vol 3, 488)

 

What he is saying is that the damage done by the complete destruction of the people would be too great and too damaging.  It would bring dishonor to God that would be damaging all around.  The welfare of the world depends on people knowing who God is and what he is like.  For people to be deprived of that vision would be a serious problem.  Even more serious is the problem created by a very wrong picture of God being communicated by God’s own actions.  As J. Orr says, “There is more honor to God in saving them than in destroying them.”  Often, then, God pardons and restores his people, not because we deserve it but because God’s name would be irreparably dishonored by our downfall.  The church has survived in spite of itself, and only because of the mercy of God.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 661-2)

 

He here calls them His servants, not because they had deserved His pardon by their obedience, but because He condescends to acknowledge them as His own; for this honor has reference to His gratuitous election; as when David says, “I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid,” (Ps 116:16) he assuredly arrogates nothing peculiar to himself; but only boasts that he from the womb had been of God’s family, just as slaves are born in the house of their masters.  At the same time we must observe that, whenever God declares that He will be merciful to His servants, He only refers to those who heartily seek for reconciliation, and not to the reprobate, who are carried away to destruction by their desperate obstinacy.  In short, to the end that God should repent of His severity, repentance is required on the part of sinners; as He teaches elsewhere:  “Turn ye unto me,. . . and I will turn unto you” (Zech 1:3).  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 366)

 

There is a direct correlation between the number of times the Bible teaches about a particular issue and our inability to live it.  —Steve Brown

 

Gipsy Smith told of a man who said he had received no inspiration from the Bible although he had “gone through it several times.” “Let it go through you once,” replied Smith, “then you will tell a different story!”

 

God’s Anger and Pity.  AUGUSTINE:  He is God, so he also takes pity.  He gets angry, and he takes pity.  He gets angry and strikes; he takes pity and heals.  He gets angry and does to death; he takes pity and brings to life.  In one person he does this.  It’s not that he does some people to death and brings others to life, but in the same people he is both angry and gentle.  He is angry with errors; he is gentle with bad habits put right.  “I will strike and I will heal:  I will kill and I will make alive.”  One and the same Saul, afterward Paul, he both laid low and raised up.  He laid low an unbeliever; he raised up a believer.  He laid low a persecutor; he raised up a preacher.  Sermon 24.7  (Thomas C. Oden, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, Vol. 3, 335)

 

Doubtless the object of Moses is to encourage the hopes of the pious, who have profited by God’s chastisement, by shewing that He will mitigate His severity towards His elect people, and in His wrath will remember mercy (Hab 3:2).  Thus, then, Moses here teaches the same thing which God afterwards more clearly unfolded to David:  “If thy children forsake my law,. . . I will visit their transgressions with the rod of man,. . . nevertheless my loving-kindness will I not take away from them” &c. (Ps 89:30, 33; 2 Sm 7:14, 15).  For nothing is more fitted to sustain us in afflictions than when God promises that there shall be some limit to them, so that He will not utterly destroy those whom He has chosen.  Whenever, therefore, the ills which we suffer tempt us to despair, let this lesson recur to our minds, that the punishments, wherewith God chastises His children, are temporary, since His promise will never fail that “his anger endureth but a moment,” (Ps 30:5) whilst the flow of His mercy is continual.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 366)

 

It is indeed true that the Law, as being the sure rule of righteousness, does not deceptively promise salvation to men; but, since there is no one who actually performs what God requires, through the accidental guilt of men, life is turned into death; but, when all are plunged beneath the curse, a new remedy supervenes, and by God’s gratuitous pardon they are so reconciled to Him, as that their obedience, such as it is, becomes acceptable.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, vol. IV, 376)

 

Land is polluted by idolatry, idolatrous practices, and the shedding of innocent blood (Lv 18:24-30; Jer 3:1-2, 9; Ps 106:38) and can only be atoned for by shedding the blood of polluters, or designated individuals or animals in their stead (Dt 21:8-9; Nm 35:33; 2 Sm 21:1-14; Ezek 36:17-18; Joel 4:19, 21[3:19, 21]).  (Jack R. Lundbom, Deuteronomy, A Commentary, 903)

 

IV-  God is honored when we take seriously and honor His Word.  (Dt 32:44-47; see also: Dt 6:24-25; 8:3; 30:20; 31:12-13; Josh 1:8; 1 Kgs 11:28; 1 Chr 28:8; 2 Chr 34:8-31; Neh 8:5; ; Ps 1; 19:7-14; 99:1; 119; Prv 30:5; Isa 66:1-5; Mt 4:4; 7:21-27; 13:1-23; Jn 17:17; Rom 10:17; 2 Tm 3:15-17; Heb 4:12; 1 Pt 1:23-25) 

 

These words were not to be taken lightly, as though the people could follow them or disregard them with no great change in their welfare in either case.  Not so!  The revelation in covenant-treaty form was to be obeyed in all its detail, with a willing adherence and devotion both to the words and spirit of the law and to its giver–the Lord their God.  He was their life, and his words were their life.  Without the words there would be insufficient knowledge of him or of his way of life for them.  Commitment to the Lord and to his word would insure a long national life for Israel in the Promised Land.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 3, 216)

 

The word of God is truth.  And we need to meditate or ruminate on truth until it becomes food for us.   That is why Jesus said that His food was to do the will of His father and Jesus also echoed the words of Dt 8:3 in that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

     Are we taking in and chewing God’s word until it becomes food for our souls?  I feel the reason so many of us are spiritually malnourished is because we are not taking in God’s Word like this.  — paraphrase of Tim Keller

 

The word of God, when no further qualification is added, is his speaking, his communicating.  When God speaks, he expresses his mind, his character and his purposes.  Thus God is always present with his word.  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 159)

 

Faith means taking the bare Word of God and acting upon it because it is the Word of God.  It means believing what God says simply and solely because He has said it. — Martyn Lloyd-Jones

 

I believe it is more important for you and me to read Leviticus than it is for us to read the best Christian book ever published, because Leviticus has a quality and produces an effect that no book in the Christian marketplace can compete with.  If we want to know the glory of God, if we want to experience the beauty of God, and if we want to be used by the hand of God, then we must live in the Word of God.  (David Platt, Radical, 192)

 

“Whatever pretenses men make of thankfulness for the Word of God, however they speak of it as a privilege to have light and the means of grace, if they do not yield obedience to the light and conform themselves to the commands of it, they are practically unthankful and do in effect cast it behind their backs (Neh 9:26).  (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation, 127)

 

I study my Bible like I gather apples.  First, I shake the whole tree that the ripest may fall.  Then I shake each limb, and when I have shaken each limb, I shake each branch and every twig.  Then I look under every leaf.  I search the Bible as a whole like shaking the whole tree.  Then I shake every limb—study book after book.  Then I shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters.  Then I shake every twig, or a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences and words and their meanings.  — Martin Luther.

 

You may have been told that it is good to read the Bible through every year and that you can ensure this will happen by reading so many verses per day from the Old and New Testaments.  If you do this you may enjoy the reputation of one who reads the Bible through each year, and you may congratulate yourself on it.  But will you become more like Christ and more filled with the life of God?  It is a proven fact that many who read the Bible in this way, as if they were taking medicine or exercising on a schedule, do not advance spiritually.  It is better in one year to have ten good verses transferred into the substance of our lives than to have every word of the Bible flash before our eyes.  Remember that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6).  We read to open ourselves to the Spirit.  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 212)

 

I saw more clearly than ever, that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was, to have my soul happy in the Lord.  The first thing to be concerned about was not, how much I might serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord:  but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man may be nourished…I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the Word of God and to meditation on it.  Ps 19:8, 10-11 (John Piper; Desiring God, 122)

 

The song was intended to lead people to the whole Law.  It was intended to help create an attitude of devotion and obedience, which would lead people to the whole Word.  That is an important aim of preaching and singing.  We could never tell people everything there is to say.  But we can point them to the path of faithfulness, so that they will enter into a lifetime of study of and obedience to the Word.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 668)

 

The Chief End of Man.–Very nearly the most solemn word sever attributed to Moses are his final admonition as here recorded.  Lay to heart all the words which I enjoin upon you this day. . . For it is no trifle for you, but it is your life.  The reality of religion is not evident under purely material categories, but neither are the categories of truth, goodness, justice, and beauty sufficient.  These are themselves subsumed under a higher reality, viz., faith in God and the right relationship of man to man.  Herein are comprised the value, meaning, and purpose of human life.  Therefore religion is man’s chief concern.  To trifle with it is to court disaster.  To treat it as of secondary importance is to lose it altogether, for unless religion is life’s paramount issue, it is not religion at all.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Mt 6:33).  (George Arthur Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible Vol 2, 526-7)

 

In his Treatise to the Councilmen of All Cities of Germany That They Establish and Maintain Christian Schools, Luther wrote: 

God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been.  It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing.  Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk.  Rome and the Latins had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Pope.  And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay.  Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can.  (Mark E. Braun, The People’s Bible: Dt, 313)

 

In verse 47 Moses reiterates the importance for Israel’s future of heeding his instruction.  Stated negatively, they are not to treat his teaching as frivolous or trivial; stated positively, Moses’ words are the keys to Israel’s life; their existence in the land they are about to enter depends on their commitment to these words (cf. 6:24-25; 30:20; 31:12-13).  (Daniel I. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Dt, 769)

 

An African woman was asked if she enjoyed reading her new Bible.  She replied, “Sir, I am not reading this Good Book.  This Book is reading me!”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 669)

 

Worship Point:  God alone can help you see the truth and allow that truth to set you free (Jn 8:31-36).   Give praise, honor and worship to the God Who is Lord over all.

 

The Bible (God’s own self-disclosure and revelation)–not our own innovations, imaginations, experiences, opinions, and representations–is to be the source of our idea of God.  By the way, this is why Protestant houses of worship have historically been plain, bereft of overt religious symbolism and certainly without representations of deity.  The Bible is to be central in forming our image of God and informing our worship of him.  And since the how of corporate worship contributes to our image of God, it is exceedingly important that we worship in accordance with the Bible.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 31)

 

The absence of authority in much contemporary preaching is directly attributable to the absence of confidence in the authority of the Bible.  Once biblical authority is undermined and eroded, preaching becomes a pretense.  The preacher stands to offer religious advice on the basis of the latest secular learning and the “spirituality” of the day.  The dust of death covers thousands of pulpits across the land.

     But when the Bible’s authority is recognized and honored, the pulpit stands as a summons to hear and obey the word of God.  True worship takes place when the authority of the Bible is rightly honored and the preaching of the word is understood to be the event whereby God speaks to his people through his word, by the human instrumentality of his servants–the preachers.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 118)

 

To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us.  God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship. — James Montgomery Boice

 

“A bored and unenthusiastic tour guide in the Alps contradicts and dishonors the majesty of the mountains.”  (John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching, 53)

 

A concern for true biblical worship was at the very heart of the Reformation.  But even Martin Luther, who wrote hymns and required his preachers to be trained in song, would not recognize this modern preoccupation with music as legitimate or healthy.  Why?  Because the Reformers were convinced that the heart of true biblical worship was the preaching of the word of God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 108-9)

 

The sheer weightlessness of much contemporary preaching is a severe indictment of our superficial Christianity.  When the pulpit ministry lacks substance, the church is severed from the word of God, and its health and faithfulness are immediately diminished.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 110)

 

Anything that comes from me that has its origin in my own being can do nothing but corrupt.

     Only that which comes from the Holy Spirit can be of any blessing to man.  That is why so many sermons are unprofitable.  They consist of human thoughts, human philosophy, human imagination; and they are worthless.  That is why I always recommend to young ministers and theological students that they refrain from being preachers and that they become teachers.  That is why I am sure that the only type of ministry which can prove of real blessing to any human heart is the expository teaching of the Word of God.  Our Lord has never promised to bless man’s word, but He is bound by Himself to bless unto us the teaching of His Word.  He said:  “It is the spirit that makes alive; the flesh profiteth nothing:  the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life (Jn 6:63).  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Man’s Ruin, God’s Wrath, 225)

 

Gospel Application:  There is no way we can ever achieve, earn, merit or deserve to have God’s heart and mind.  But through the life and death of Jesus, (Jn 8:31-36; 14:6) He has made us worthy of receiving this miraculous transformation (Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 5:17-21) which allows us to be filled with God’s Spirit so we can have the heart and mind of God Himself and get a life.  (Jn 5:39-40; Rom 12:1-2; 1 Cor 2:16)

 

The Bible is more than a record of the human quest for God; it’s the revelation of God’s quest for us.  (Margaret Feinbert, Scouting the Divine, 10)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Dying to self and being filled with the Spirit is not a one and done event.  Minute by minute we need to surrender to the Spirit of God Who convicts us of our weakness, sinfulness and depravity.  This is best encouraged through seeking God in His Word.  (Eph 5:18-21; Col 3:15-17)

 

A walk in the Spirit will of necessity be a walk in accordance with the Word the Spirit has inspired. The parallel between Eph 5:18-21 and Col 3:15-17 is significant. The same results are said to flow from being filled with the Spirit in the first case, and being filled with the Word in the second. To remain filled with the Spirit, and thus enjoy His continuing sanctifying work, will mean continuing to be filled with the Word.  The relationship is obvious.  (J.O. Sanders, Enjoying Intimacy with God, 91)

 

The quest for the lost soul of Christianity always leads us back to the Bible.  But rediscovering the wonders of Scripture requires more than reading.  That’s where the quest begins, but that’s not where it ends.  Not if you want to get it into your soul.  You have to meditate on it.  Then you have to live it out.  Meditating on it turns one-dimensional knowledge into two-dimensional understanding.  Living it out turns two-dimensional understanding into three-dimensional obedience.  (Mark Batterson, Primal, A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, 72)

 

We will be spiritually safe in our use of the Bible if we follow a simple rule:  Read with a submissive attitude.  Read with a readiness to surrender all you are–all your plans, opinions, possessions, positions.  Study as intelligently as possible, with all available means, but never study merely to find the truth and especially not just to prove something.  Subordinate your desire to find the truth to your desire to do it, to act it out!  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 210)

 

The reason for this Bible centeredness is obvious:  faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17).  It is by the word that we are born again (1 Pt 1:23-25).  We grow by the “pure milk of the word” (2:2).  We are sanctified by the truth of God’s word (Jn 17:17).  God’s word is profitable and equips us for every good work (2 Tm 3:16-17).  God’s word is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).  It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16; cf. 1 Cor 2:4; 1 Thess 1:5).  It performs its work in us (2:13).  It is “like fire…and like a hammer which shatters a rock” (Jer 23:29).  It does not return void, God says, “without accomplishing what I desire, / and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 275)

 

If you have only the Word, you dry up.  If you have only the Spirit, you blow up.  But if you have both, you grow up.  (Jim Cymbala; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, 152)

 

How can anyone sit under the Word of God and get nothing out of it?  How could we even hear the Word read and get nothing out of it?  If we get nothing out of it, that ought to spark an alarm in our brain that maybe we are unconverted.  A converted person feasts upon the Word of God, no matter how poorly it is communicated.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 176)

 

In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus compared the Word of God to seed, and the hearts upon which it falls, to soil.  Without one key ingredient, though, the seed cannot germinate.  That ingredient is water.   What water is to the seed, the Spirit of God is to the Word of God.  When the two come together in the human heart, a miracle happens.  The seed springs to life. (Ken Gire; The Reflective Life, 63)

 

If you are seeking Jesus, if you want to come to faith, be admonished by this earnest Scripture: “Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word…lest they should believe” (Lk 8:12).  Whatever temptation there may be, either from the world or in your own heart, remember to always keep and cling to the Word.  Do not let the Devil take it away from you.  Let the precepts and promises of the Word be your meditation day and night.  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:16) (Andrew Murray; How to Strengthen Your Faith, 83)

 

The Spirit of God

Leads the People of God

To Submit to the Word of God.  — Alistair Begg

 

The Bible was not given to increase our knowledge but to change our lives. — D. L. Moody

 

Bible study by itself will not produce spirituality.  In fact, it will produce carnality if it isn’t applied and practiced.  — Gene Getz

 

It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer. The truth is that in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying. The less we read the Word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray. (George Muller;  A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Muller)

 

So What?: If we could learn to seek, love, obey, and trust in the Lord with all our heart; then we could enjoy the fruit of God’s Spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22-23).  God and His Word is our life.  (Dt 32:47; Psa 1; 19:7-14; 119; Isa 66:1-5; 2 Tim 3:16-17; Heb 4:12)

 

There are books that people make but the Bible makes people.  —Thomas Ramundo

 

Show me the man you honor and I will show you what kind of man you are.  —Thomas Carlyle

 

He has told us that His Word is…

*    A Mirror:  Therefore, I need to read to see myself as I really am in the light of what the text is saying.

*    A Seed:  I permit the Word to be implanted deep in my heart and then envision what the fruit will be if I water and nurture it with care.

*     A Sword:  The two-edged kind that pierces through all the externals and reveals the deepest secrets and motives.  In this metaphor it is essential to let the Word cut where it will and to honestly admit and submit to its surgery.

*    A Lamp:  It gives guidance and direction in the darkness of life.

*     Bread For My Soul:  I need to let the Word of God nourish my soul through reading it to feed me, not just to inform me.  When my soul is touched by a truth, encouragement, comfort, reproof, or insight from God’s Word, it’s a moment of feeding.   (Joseph M. Stowell, Experiencing Intimacy With God, Discovery Series, 30)

 

Have you ever wondered how long it would take you to read the entire Bible?  If you read it out loud at a pace that is easy to understand, you could travel from Genesis to Revelation in 78 hours.  Divide that out over the course of one year and you would discover that God’s Word could be completed in 365 days by reading it just 12 minutes a day.

 JESUS:

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

 

 

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