Deuteronomy 32:1-4 This chapter is titled “The Song of Moses”. It covers the commitment of the people to the covenant and commandments of God and their failure to keep them. It also predicts their future failure, judgment, restoration and return the promised land. Israel will experience God’s judgment for their sin and when conviction and repentance comes, they will be restored. Israel will forsake their idols and rebellion and return and obey God once again. They will acknowledge that their God is righteous and true, and His discipline came for their good. They will see His faithfulness and confess that He is a God who does no wrong. It was not just a song for the generation about to enter the Land but for future generations. Its message would be a permanent warning to all of God’s people.
The first line of the song calls heaven and earth to hear the words and act as witnesses. When God’s people renewed their commitment and covenant with God, heaven and earth would witness their rededication. But when God’s people disobeyed God by breaking His covenant and commands, heaven and earth would stand in silent condemnation. The people were called to ask that this song would bear fruit by moving people to grow in the Lord.
God is to be praised because He is the Rock. Solid rock is a picture of a strong foundation. As the Rock, God’s works are perfect, and His ways are just. He is worthy of praise because He is faithful, and His word is as solid as rock. He does no wrong and is upright in all His ways.
Deuteronomy 32:5-6 Israel is indicted for her defection from God to idols. Their actions are polar opposites to God. Their rebellion would become so bad that they would no longer be considered the children of God. Does this mean that God’s people can lose their salvation and status as children of God? I don’t believe genuine children of God can lose their salvation. However, it shows that the fruit that flows from their lives demonstrate who are children of God. A good tree will produce good fruit a bad tree evil. The fruit produced in lives are a key indication that they are or not the children of God. The Scriptures speak of the “remnant” as an ongoing theme. The remnant teaching appears in connection with Israel’s apostasy and God’s judgment. God in His grace has always kept a faithful remnant in every spiritual crisis among His people throughout history and encouraged the remnant with the promises, privileges, and responsibilities of the covenant (Isa. 10:20-21; 1 Kin 19:18). These promises include that the Messiah would come for them (Jer. 23:3-6; Micah 5:2-9), establish His kingdom among them (Isa. 4:2-3; 11:11, 16) and through the remnant evangelize the world (Zech. 8:22-23). The song further described Israel as unthankful and living in ungodly ways characterized as foolish and unwise. They would neglect God, ignoring and rejecting Him as the Father who created them. In reading this we are called to ask ourselves if we are a part of the remnant today. If there is any doubt it is a call to repentance. All of us by nature are prone to wander.
Deuteronomy 32:7-9 True children of God will read and hear God’s Word which His Spirit uses in the hearts of His children. When His Word brings conviction, His children will acknowledge sin and worldliness in their lives and be renewed in their faith. Here Moses is calling Israel to look back at their history. The first step in repentance begins by looking back at God’s work in our lives. Here Moses explains to Israel that God appointed boundaries for the nations of the earth based on what He determined was needed for the sons of Israel. God chose Israel to be His people, His inheritance, His witnesses on the earth. This applies to us as well since God today has provided for our needs so we can be a testimony to the world.
Deuteronomy 32:10-14 Israel, like us were chosen by God’s grace, not because of anything inherently righteous in themselves (Eph. 2:8-9). Israel’s beginning as a nation is described here in the wilderness of Sinai after God’s great deliverance from Egypt. Even though redeemed they were a broken and undisciplined rabble. God used Moses to transform them through His Word into a people who would reflect His grace and truth to a lost and dying world. God is compared to an eagle caring for its offspring. This is the language that Yeshua used to describe Israel (Luke 13:34) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! God protected Israel on their way to the land He prepared. He supernaturally provided for them, bringing them food and drink and removed them from the idolatry of Egypt. God gave them victories over their enemies Og and Sihon the kings on the East bank of the Jordan who came against them and gave Israel their land. Israel received milk and cheese from the herds and flocks of their foes and vineyards they had not planted. They saw his provision every day in their journey from Egypt to the Land.
Deuteronomy 32:15-18 Their response to God’s kindnesses, was pride and ingratitude. Israel is named Jeshurun (a sarcastic title for Israel meaning “the upright one”). Instead of responding in love and thankfulness, Israel forsook God who had transformed them and rejected the Rock of their salvation. They began to look to the gods of their enemies and offered sacrifices to the demons they represented. This likely refers to event in Num. 25 when they were seduced by the women of Moab and Midian in the worship of their gods. This alludes to greater sins that would come in their future. We have a similar warning in the New Covenant (1 Ti. 1:19; 1 Ti. 4:1; 2 Tim 4:3-4; Heb. 3:8–12).
Deuteronomy 32:19-21 Because of their unfaithfulness the Lord would remove his protection and blessings and hide his face from them. He would allow them to see what happens when they walk in their own ways rather than His. The Lord’s anger came in response to their adultery through their idolatry. The Lord would use other nations to provoke Israel to anger and jealousy with nations that have not given the knowledge and wisdom that they had received. They are described as foolish and “not a people” Paul uses this language to refer to Gentile Christians who by faith have been made sons and daughters of God (Rom. 11:11-12). Jewish people pridefully see themselves as singularly chosen and their pride caused them to deem Gentiles as being “not a people.” This is an allusion to their ignorance of Torah and their supposedly “godly” traditions. But God will use humble Gentile Christians and their simple faith in Him and His Word to bring Israel back to Himself. He will use them to provoke Israel to jealousy through their personal relationship with God and His blessings on them.
Deuteronomy 32:22-25 The song of Moses continues with a description of the wrath of God’s judgment that would come on Israel in the future. The fire of His decree against them will burn to the depths of hell. Judgment will come on the land and its crops. The mountains will be shaken which seems to picture earthquakes and volcanic eruption. Disasters will come that include hunger, famine, pestilence, disease, plague, death, wild animals including poisonous snakes, war, terror, and death.
Deuteronomy 32:26-30 Despite his righteous wrath against Israel he will not totally remove them, even though they deserve it. He continues to have compassion and mercy on the nation. Though tempted to blot out their memory, he did not want their enemies to be puffed up in their pride against them. That God was contemplating this judgment proved that Israel was without sense or discernment. Ezekiel describes God’s thoughts (Ezek. 36:18-24). Even after God’s judgment fell on them, they still did not understand that these disasters were the result of their infidelity to the Lord. Verses 30-31 asks Israel to consider how such things were possible if the Lord was not behind it. Even their enemies recognize that their God was judging them. This prophetic word was fulfilled before the eyes of the world thousands of years later. Israel was destroyed through the Assyrians in 722 B.C, the Babylonians in 586 B.C, and the Romans in 70 AD. The world has also witnessed Israel’s prophesied restoration in their return to the Land in 1948. Israel is a living testimony of the accuracy and faithfulness God’s word through His prophets.
Deuteronomy 32:31-33 Moses now turns to Israel’s enemies and their gods. These nations acknowledge their gods could not stand before the God (“our Rock”) of Israel. They face the facts when they hear and see the works of Israel’s God. Moses describes their gods as poisonous vines, grapes, and wine. Comparing their fruit to the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. Worship of those gods and others leads to a toxic harvest resulting in a judgment similar to those two cities.
Deuteronomy 32:34-35 This was the key verse in Jonathan Edwards’ classic sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry God.” This portion of the song of Moses describes the judgment that will fall on the enemies of God’s people. His righteous wrath is being stored and will suddenly fall. Vengeance belongs to the Lord, and He will avenge the taunts and persecution against both Israel and those who have been grafted into her. These days are further clarified by the prophetic Word of God in both the Old and New Covenants. God’s judgment will fall on all ungodly and unrighteous people. All mankind is under judgment, but God will spare those who have received His righteousness through their faith in the work of Yeshua on the cross.
Deuteronomy 32:36-39 In contrast to the ungodly God will discipline His people with compassion. God’s people will be restored when their own strength and self-sufficiency is forsaken. Israel deserted God in their prosperity believing that it was through their own abilities. Paul likely had this verse in mind when he warned the Corinthian believers “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall (1 Cor. 10:11-12). Self-reliance and pride cause people to forget God as the source of their abilities and blessings so God needs to deal with our pride. That’s one of the reasons for His discipline. So that when it’s work is done, we will acknowledge our self-reliance. God calls us to abide in Him (John 15:1-5). God gave the Sabbath as a taste of what He has for His people every day in His kingdom, which is now, but not yet (Heb. 4:9-10).
Following Israel’s exile to foreign nations, they will realize the weakness of false gods and false worship. Sadly, for national Israel, that will not happen until the end of the great tribulation when they will acknowledge the “one whom they have pierced” Zech 12:10; Rom. 11:26.
Deuteronomy 32:40-43 The song of Moses concludes with the Lord making an oath of His commitment to Israel. He declares here that he will take vengeance on his adversaries, those who would enslave or attack Israel. His victory over His enemies will cause the righteous of the nations to rejoice with his people. In that day He will restore his land and people to his favor. This is His sovereign will and it shall be done. That day has not come yet but God’s Word says it will.
Deuteronomy 32:44-47 With Joshua standing by his side, Moses took the words of this song and exhorted Israel to apply it and God’s Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy) to their hearts and minds. Their lives individually and as a nation depended on how well they internalized and applied God’s law in their daily lives. They were called to obey all the words of this law, which likely refers to the covenant laid out in Deut. 5-26. By walking and keeping the covenant they would be blessed and live long in the land.
Deuteronomy 32:48-52 Moses now experiences the consequences of his own rebellion. As great as Moses was, he still was a sinful man. Jacob (James) in the New Covenant wrote: Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment (James 3:1). Moses as Israel’s teacher came under God’s judgment that had been pronounced earlier. This was because of the incident at Meribah (Num 20:7-13). Moses was an example to all generations and his failure there demonstrated a lack of discernment which brought God’s judgment and chastisement.
With compassion, mercy and tenderness, the Lord told Moses that he would die on the mountain and be gathered to his people just as Aaron had. This is the great hope that all of God’s faithful servants have. We also shall be gathered to our fathers and mothers in the faith (1 Thess. 4:13-18). God’s beloved servant Moses was allowed to see the promised land but would not enter the land at this time. He would later be in the Promised Land at the transfiguration of Yeshua on Mt. Hermon as described in Matthew 17.
Mount Nebo is on the East side of the most northern part of the Dead Sea. It has an elevation of about 4,000 feet above the Dead Sea. From Mt. Nebo Moses could see The Promised land north beyond the Sea of Galilee, west to the mountains of Judea, and south as far as the wilderness below the Dead Sea.