Song of Moses (2)

Song of Moses (2)

Song of Moses (2).

Please read Deuteronomy 32:1-43.

AUTHOR. Around 1400 BC, by Moses, the mighty prophet, the fearless emancipator, God’s scribe, the miracle worker. Moses has already proven himself to be a poet and songwriter as well, judging from his Song at the Sea in Exodus 15 in celebration of the victory over the Egyptians. In some respects, it seemed like Moses didn’t technically compose this song. Apparently God sat him down and dictated the words of the song to Moses. However, God loves to use our giftedness as He demonstrates His wisdom and power, so there is a mystery of authorship here. God somehow used Moses’ gifts to compose this song. The words came from them both somehow. Moses turned out to be a gifted teacher as well as everything else. He knew that his instructive words would be more easily memorized if he put his words into song. So in Deuteronomy he switched from giving history lessons to singing their message for them. Moses is putting his higher education in Pharaoh’s house to good and practical use.

CONTEXT. Moses’ first song came at the beginning of their wandering (Exodus 15), and this last song came at the very end of that wandering, 40 years later. The people of Israel are assembled on the east bank of the Jordan River to hear the final charge of Moses before they enter the Promised Land. The book of Deuteronomy is comprised of three addresses and then a final song. These addresses probably took about two weeks to communicate, and then the song culminates Moses’ communication with his people. In Deuteronomy, Moses asks them to remember the power and goodness of God and what He has done for them through the years. Moses then reminded them of all the laws and principles that need to be obeyed for them to have a meaningful and fruitful life. Then Moses asked them to commit themselves to the one true God as they enter the Promised Land.

FLOW OF THE SONG. The Song of Moses reviews everything they need to remember about God’s character and activity. He then sings about the mistakes they made, the consequences of those mistakes, and then warnings not to repeat those mistakes. Moses closes with a hopeful word about their faithful God who will not abandon them to their enemies. Moses assures the people that God will intervene on behalf of the people of Israel.

TEACHER. After Moses wrote down all the words to the song that he and the Lord composed, he revealed his giftedness and intuition as a teacher. He introduced the song to the people in verse 2: “My teaching, let it fall like a gentle rain, my words arrive like a morning dew, like a sprinkling rain on new grass.” Moses had a serious word to offer the people. He knew he could come across like a downpour, a torrent of words and emotion coming down hard and fast. But he instead saw the wisdom of being gentle, more like the morning dew that arrives softly, like distilled droplets or a light sprinkling shower on the grass. Moses did not want to browbeat, overpower or intimidate the people. He wanted them to hang onto every word. Moses thought the words of the song would be more likely to be received eagerly if his presence was more nurturing and less harsh. He thought the words were more likely to sink in and be absorbed with the gentle approach. Also, just like that  morning dew soaking the whole plant, roots and stalk and leaves, Moses wanted to reach the whole person of each of his hearers, not just their reason. He wanted to appeal to their conscience, will, imagination, memory, motivation, and their heart. Moses wanted every part of each of these people to receive sustenance by the morning dew of truth.

THE ROCK. In verses 3 and 4 Moses immediately offers high praise to Yahweh, the name of that personal God who has become a friend of Moses, the God who introduced Himself to Moses at the burning bush. Moses interestingly calls Yahweh the Rock in verse 4. This was a relatively new way to refer to God. The only earlier time this occurred in the Hebrew Bible is in Genesis 49:24, when Jacob called God the “Rock of Israel” toward the end of his life. After all that time in the wilderness, Moses certainly believed the Lord to be strong, sure, immovable, a solid foundation and support. Later, Hannah picked up on this Rock image in her song of praise in I Samuel 2. And then of course King David wasn’t shy in making the Rock one of his favorite references to God throughout the Psalms.

THE WOMB. The Lord’s love is compared to both a father and a mother in verse 18: “You neglected the Rock who had fathered you, you forgot the God who had given you birth.” God’s parental love and their rejection of that love highlights just how thoughtless the sins of Israel truly were. This verse continues a thread through Scripture, that the Father has a mother’s love, that the Father has a maternal side to His love. In fact, the Hebrew word for “compassion” comes from the root word for “womb.” There is something motherly about the Father’s care and compassion for each of us. God’s compassion is the same as that of a mother who loves the child she has carried and borne. Isaiah says this in 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.” And also in Isaiah 49:15: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Even Jesus compares Himself to a mother hen in Matthew 23:37: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” God is referred to as Father, but He often displays the heart of a mother.

DOXOLOGY. Moses closes the song with a doxology of sorts in verse 43, inviting all people everywhere to worship God with joy and vitality. “Rejoice with Him, you heavens, and let all of God’s angels worship Him. Rejoice with His people, you Gentiles, and let all the angels be strengthened in Him!”

AFTERWARD. Like a good teacher, after Moses has sung his song over the people, he circles back and underlines the importance of the song’s words and message. He implores the people to take the words to heart, to take the warnings as commands to teach the children. Moses clearly states that these are not idle words, they are not empty sentiments. These words are full of life and truth, and obedience to them will assure them of a long and fruitful life in the Promised Land. Moses thus left them with a teacherly word to the wise.