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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Deuteronomy 32:19, 3639, 43comment (0)

November 24, 2011

By Eric Mathis

Related Scripture: Deuteronomy 32:19, 3639, 43


Bible Studies for Life
Instructor of Church Music and Worship Leadership, School of the Arts, Samford University

Adopt the Right Perspective
Deuteronomy 32:1–9, 36–39, 43

This month’s Bible study is a series of four lessons based on events in Moses’ life. Through it, we are examining ways in which we can make our lives count as we seek to bring about God’s kingdom in this world.  
Last week, we examined the Israelites’ complaints when they ran out of water and the poor response of Moses and Aaron. Through that narrative, we considered ways in which we can respond to difficult situations. This week’s lesson examines the song Moses recited at the end of his life. This song centers all of life in knowing and living under the greatness and graciousness of God. As we study this lesson, we will be called to make time for self-reflection, look at life’s big picture and determine what is and what is not important and worthwhile.

God Is Worthy (1–4)
Prior to Moses’ song, which begins Deuteronomy 32, Moses reminded Israel that Joshua was the one who would lead the people into the promised land (31:1–8). Moses also described how the Israelites would break the covenant, follow other gods and pay the price for doing so (31:14–30). In Chapter 32, Moses introduced his song, which functions both as a proclamation of Yahweh’s name and a word of caution to the Israelites.

The song’s first section boasts in praise of God. Moses calls all the heavens and the earth to hear the words he is about to proclaim. He uses water imagery to plead his instruction and speech to be heard by all and admonishes all people to follow his example in ascribing greatness to God. In its most simple interpretation, this passage might remind us that gaining perspective on life begins by first acknowledging God’s work in and through us. However, in the context of reminding Israel about its waywardness (Chapter 31), Moses is careful to remind the people that God is decisive, truthful, faithful and upright. Just as someone can find solidity and safety on a cliff, so we can find safety in God in the midst of our waywardness.

Humanity Is Willful (5–9)
Though initially offering praise to God, Moses’ song takes a decidedly critical turn to once again declaring the perverse and corrupt nature of God’s people (5). After questioning the unwise people’s commitment to God, Moses reminds them through another question that God is their creator (6). He calls them to turn toward the days and generations long past for solid reminders about God’s goodness (7). Finally Moses reminds the Israelites who they are: God’s chosen people (8–9).  

Although this passage recalls who Israel is as God’s chosen people, it is important to note that Israel’s special relationship with God does not mean God has rejected other people. It means that God, in person, has chosen to be committed to encouraging Israel. In spite of its faults — including service to other gods — God does not give up on it. And here we find a reminder for ourselves that it is hard to get God to give up. We can be stubborn as God’s people in a covenant relationship, but God is more stubborn than we are. God is faithful, true, upright and absolutely committed to being our God, even when we are not always His most faithful people.

God’s Ways Are Wonderful (36–39, 43)
The remaining verses in Deuteronomy 32 further recount Israel’s history (10–47). They describe God’s provision to Israel, Israel’s faithlessness and God’s rebuke to the people. Although God’s rebuke may at times mock the people’s faithlessness and waywardness (37–38), God remains faithful and compassionate when His people’s power is gone (36). More importantly, God remains the God of all gods who makes provisions for our life, healing and deliverance (39). In this truth, we can find great hope. No matter how far we stray or how faithless we might become, God will continue to be stubborn about us. God will continue to receive us and have compassion for us as His people. This is, indeed, the wonderful way and message of the gospel and the God who continues to create, redeem and sustain us. For this and all other blessings, we give thanks.

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