Introduction: Moses began his sermon in the book of Deuteronomy preaching obedience. He concludes his sermon with a song of praise that also preaches obedience. Yet, Moses also recognized that obedience when done out of obligation can lead to a cold heart. This is exactly what happened to the religious leaders that Jesus confronted. Moses therefore used a song to express that obedience should be the outgrowth of your love and praise for the Creator. From the song of Moses, you can learn seven important lessons for your walk with God.
First, listen to God’s Word, and let your heart sing praise at His Holy name. If our obedience does not stem from love and adoration, it will become cold and meaningless to Him. Second, your obedience should never allow you to become prideful. You are by nature sinful. Make your obedience be driven by gratitude because He loves you even though you are sinful. Third, if you ignore or take for granted all that He has done for you, you will inevitably turn to disobedience. Disobedience in turn brings only sorrow into your life. Fourth, motivated by love, Spirit-led obedience also includes being salt and light to the wayward society around you. Fifth, part of guiding people in need includes directing them to the one person who can cleanse their sin, Jesus. Sixth, for the faithful believer who is motivated to be obedient out of love, God promises a prolonged life on Earth. Finally, through the symbolism of Moses’ inability to enter into the Promised Land, God warns that obedience to the Law is not enough to gain salvation. Instead, faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only means to enter the eternal Promised Land.
Let heaven and Earth bear witness to the power and love of God’s Word. Moses begins the song of praise by commanding the heavens and Earth to bear witness to his words: “1 Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” (Dt. 32:1). The word for “give ear” or “ha’azinu” is a commandment to listen. Why would Moses as a mere human command the heavens and Earth to listen to his words? Because Moses was prophetically speaking God’s Word. In the prior chapter, God told him to write down the words of His prophetic song (Dt. 31:22). In the Bible, two is a number of confirmation (2 Cor. 13:1). Both the heavens and Earth attest to His glory: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (Ps. 19:1(b)). “How majestic is Your name in all the earth,” (Ps. 8:1(b)). “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” (Ro. 1:20). Do you treat the Word of God with the respect owed to the Creator of the heavens and the Earth? Are you listening for God to direct you through the Word?
Let the Word of God be the “rain of life” to you. Moses advised that God’s teaching in the Torah had fallen from heaven to Earth with the same life-giving properties as rain: “2 Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb.” (Dt. 32:2). Jesus was in fact the Word that became flesh (Jo. 1:1, 14). He was also the life-giving Manna that rained down from heaven (Jo. 6:30-35). He is also the light of the World (Jo. 8:12). Are you filling yourself with the Word of life that will guide you? Or, are you living off the dead things of the flesh?
Respond to God’s Word by proclaiming His holy name. As an example of praise for every believer to follow, Moses proclaimed the power of God’s name as the “Rock” of justice and faithfulness that you can depend upon: “3 For I proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God! 4 The Rock! His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.” (Dt. 32:3-4). Although the Hebrew Bible is remarkable for the number of names used for God, it sometimes does not use a specific name at all. Generic references to the “name” of God include the power of all His many names (e.g., Gen. 12:8; 13:4; 21:33; 26:25; Ex. 20:7; 33:19; 34:5; Lev. 13:21; 22:2, 32; Dt. 5:11). Jesus is our Rock (1 Cor. 10:3-4). For those who pray in faith, He has given us the equivalent of a power of attorney to pray in the power of His name: “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. (Jo. 14:13-14(b)). “[W]hatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” (Jo. 15:16(b)). “[I]f you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you.” (Jo. 16:23(b)). Are you proclaiming Jesus’ holy name to others? Are you singing and praying in faith in the power of His holy name?
Repent because you have at times repaid God’s love with evil. As he had done repeatedly, Moses repeated God’s prophetic warning of future times of apostasy: “5 They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation. 6 Do you thus repay the Lord, o foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you. 7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations. Ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you.” (Dt. 32:5-7). Jesus is both the groom of Israel and the Church (Jer. 31:32; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 21:2; 2 Cor. 11:2). Here, Moses makes reference to God as Israel’s eternal Father (Matt. 6:9). The Jews needed to repent of their apostasy and seek the guidance of their Heavenly Father. Is there any sin in your life that you need to repent of? Have you repaid God’s love with evil behavior?
Let God be the inheritance that you long for. In exhorting Israel to be obedient, Moses reminded the Jews that they were privileged to have God as their inheritance: “8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel. 9 For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.” (Dt. 32:8-9). This was a better inheritance than land because God would never leave them or forsake the Jews (Dt. 31:6). Through Christ, every believer can now partake in God’s inheritance for the Jews: “to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel,” (Eph. 3:6). Even when you sin, He will never leave you nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5). Are you trusting in God and longing for the things of the Spirit? Or, are you longing for the things of the flesh?
You are the apple of God’s eye. Part of the Jews’ special inheritance is the promise that God would protect them as instinctively as an eyelid protects the pupil or “apple” of the eye: “10 He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil [“apple”(KJV)] of His eye. ‘11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions.” (Dt. 32:11-12). The Hebrew word “ison” is translated in the King James Version as “apple.” Other modern translations use the word “pupil.” This verse is the origin of the English phrase “apple of my eye.” In addition to protection, it is also a term of endearment. For example, Shakespeare used the term to refer to something that is most precious – “Flower of this purple dye, hit with Cupid’s archery, sink in apple of his eye . . .” (“A Midsummer Night's Dream”). Like an eyelid, God also protects His people like an eagle protects its young in its wings: “Let me dwell in your tent forever; let me take refuge in the shelter of your wings.” (Ps. 61:4; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7; 91:4). God’s love is unconditional. He found His people in a “desert area,” namely Egypt and cared for them like a mother protects its young. Yet, He wants believers to reciprocate. He wants you to protect the Ten Commandments in your life the same way an eyelid protects its pupil: “Keep my commandments and live, and my teaching as the apple of your eye.” (Prov. 7:2). He also promises to be a “shield” to those who take refuge in Him (Ps. 18:30; Prov. 30:5). Are you taking refuge in God so that He can protect you like His own eyelid? Are you protecting the Ten Commandments that way an eyelid protects a pupil?
God alone has provided for you. Another part of Israel’s special inheritance is God’s promise to guide them and provide for them: “12 The Lord alone guided him, and there was no foreign god with him. 13 He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and He made him suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock, 14 Curds of cows, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs, and rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the finest of the wheat and of the blood of grapes you drank wine.” (Dt. 32:12-14). God guided the Jews by a visible pillar of light both by day and by night (Ex. 13:21-22; 14:19). He also transformed the waters of Marah to provide drinking water (Ex. 15:22-27). He then provided both manna and quail in the wilderness (Ex. 16:1-8). He even protected the Jews’ feet from swelling (Dt. 8:4). Jesus is our manna and our food (Jo. 6:35; Matt. 6:31). He is the “rock” who gives us the water of contentment in our spiritual wilderness (Jo. 4:14; 6:36; 7:37-38; 1 Cor. 10:3-4). He clothes us (Matt. 6:30). He is also “the rock of our salvation” (Ps. 95:1; Dt. 32:3-4; Isa. 26:4). Likewise, He is a rock and a shield for all who take refuge in Him (Ps. 18:30; 2 Sam. 22:3, 31). Jesus says not to worry about your provision (Matt. 6:34). You must “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). If you are lacking in anything, are you seeking first after Christ’s righteousness? Or, are you trusting in yourself and your own abilities to solve your problems?
Don’t let God’s blessings cause you to backslide in your walk. Moses warned not to let God’s blessings cause you to become fat, complacent, and back-slide in your walk: “15 But Jeshurun [“the upright one”] grew fat and kicked– you are grown fat, thick, and sleek– then he forsook God who made him, and scorned the Rock of his salvation. 16 They made Him jealous with strange gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. 18 You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth.” (Dt. 32:15-18). This prophetic warnings spoke to future kingdoms of Israel (a once upright country) that would turn its back on God after benefiting from His provision and protection. America has also been blessed with God-given riches and protection. Yet, it also has “neglected the Rock” who created it (Dt. 32:18). Has God’s blessings left you hungry for more of Him? Or, has His blessings caused you to become complacent in your walk?
God’s warning that He would hide His face from the Jews. Although God promised that He would never permanently forsake the Jews (Dt. 31:6), He warned that their disobedience could cause Him to temporarily “spurn” them and hide His face from them: “19 The Lord saw this, and spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. 20 Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; for they are a perverse generation, sons in whom is no faithfulness.” (Dt. 32:19-20). This repeated a warning that Moses gave in the prior chapter: “But I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they will do, for they will turn to other gods.” (Dt. 31:18). This meant that if Jews were in open rebellion, God would not “hear” their prayers: “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15). Today, a believer’s sins can also temporarily “hinder” the believer’s prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). Yet, if you are sinning and you repent of your sins, God is faithful to forgive you (1 Jo. 1:9). Are there any sins in your life that you need to repent of?
God’s prophesy that He would make the Jews jealous through His love for the gentiles. Moses also warned of a future time when God would use another people to make the Jews jealous to win them back to Him: “21 ‘They have made Me jealous with what is not God; they have provoked Me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation,”’ (Dt. 32:21). Paul later quoted this verse to explain that God had used the gentiles to make the Jews jealous: “But I say, surely Israel did not know, did they? First Moses says, ‘I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you.’” (Ro. 10:19). Christians should never assume that God has rejected the Jews simply because they rejected Jesus: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (Ro. 11:1). In the end times, there will be Jews who will be saved after accepting Jews as the Messiah (Rev. 7:1). Do you know the Torah well enough to help the Jews to accept that Jesus is their Messiah?
God’s prophesy that the disobedience of His people would bring destruction and sorrow. Through Moses, God also warned that He would judge His people for their sins if they failed to repent: “22 For a fire is kindled in My anger, and burns to the lowest part of Sheol, and consumes the earth with its yield, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains. 23 ‘I will heap misfortunes on them; I will use My arrows on them. 24 ‘They will be wasted by famine, and consumed by plague and bitter destruction; and the teeth of beasts I will send upon them, with the venom of crawling things of the dust. 25 ‘Outside the sword will bereave, and inside terror both young man and virgin, the nursling with the man of gray hair. 26 ‘I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces, I will remove the memory of them from men, 27 Had I not feared the provocation by the enemy, that their adversaries would misjudge, that they would say, our hand is triumphant, and the Lord has not done all this.”’ (Dt. 32:22-27). Because God is fair, He judges His people before He judges others: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God . . .” (1 Pet. 4:17). Even saved Christians shall still stand before the judgment seat of Christ to account for their deeds (Ro. 14:10). “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10). Believers must never use God’s mercy and grace as a license to sin: “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!” (Ro. 6:15). “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” (Gal. 5:13). Are you praying for the nation to repent? Are you setting the right example with your conduct for those around you?
God’s people are looking for someone to guide them. Knowing that God’s people will be judged, He encourages believers to guide the lost toward the path of righteousness: “28 For they are a nation lacking in counsel, and there is no understanding in them. 29 Would that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would discern their future! 30 How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up? 31 Indeed their rock is not like our Rock, even our enemies themselves judge this.” (Dt. 32:28-31). Those who do not know Jesus suffer from spiritual blindness: “[Y]ou will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness . . .” (Dt. 28:29(a); Is. 59:10(a); Job 5:14; 12:25; 38:15; Lam. 4:14(a); Amos 8:9). “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Prov. 4:19). Each believer is commissioned to bring light to the people groping in the dark: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matt. 5:14). Are you a light to the lost around you? Or, is your light a bad reflection of what Jesus represents?
God’s warning that an unguided society will return to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. Moses warned that unless society is guided from darkness it will resort to the same sins that brought God’s judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah: “32 For their vine is from the vine of Sodom, and from the fields of Gomorrah; their grapes are grapes of poison, their clusters, bitter. 33 Their wine is the venom of serpents, and the deadly poison of cobras. 34 ‘Is it not laid up in store with Me, sealed up in My treasuries? 35 ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, in due time their foot will slip; for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them.’” (Dt. 32:32-35). God specifically warns against people deviating from God’s Law to follow whatever feels right in their own eyes (“relativism”) (Jdgs. 17:6; 21:25). He also warns against those who would seek to redefine what the Bible defines as evil and good (Is. 5:20). Today, the same conduct that brought judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah is now celebrated as a civil right. Is there any reason to think that God will not judge the same sin again? (Matt. 10:15).
God will rescue His people when they humble themselves. God promises to have compassion upon His people. Yet, they must first humble themselves and repent: “36 For the Lord will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free. 37 And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge? 38 ‘Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, let them be your hiding place!” (Dt. 36-38). If “My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chr. 7:14). “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (Jam. 4:10). “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.” (Lk. 1:52). Are you setting an example of humility and selflessness for others to follow?
God’s prophesy of the wounded one who would heal and give life. Through Moses, God also foretold of Christ’s resurrection from the dead: “39 ‘See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand. 40 ‘Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, as I live forever,” (Dt. 32:39-40). This prophesy foreshadows Christ being slain, resurrected, and giving life to others: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.” (Is. 53:5). “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.’” (Jo. 11:25). “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (Jo. 3:16; 1 Pet. 1:3; Ro. 8:11; 10:9). Are you fulfilling the Great Commission to direct the unsaved to Christ? (Matt. 28:16-20).
God’s prophesy of judgment upon the nations. Through Moses, God also warned of a coming day of judgment that would bring destruction upon the unrepentant nations: “41 If I sharpen My flashing sword, and My hand takes hold on justice, I will render vengeance on My adversaries, and I will repay those who hate Me. 42 ‘I will make My arrows drunk with blood, and My sword will devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives, from the long-haired leaders of the enemy.’” (Dt. 32:41-42). Christ will come again destroy the evil nations with a sharp sword that will come forth from His mouth when He speaks: “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.” (Rev. 19:15; 13:8; 20:11-15; Jo. 12:48). Many can be saved before this day happens. Yet, Jesus lamented that: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” (Matt. 9:37(b); Lk. 10:2). Are you willing to become a worker in Jesus’ harvest?
The remnant will be spared. Not every nation will be destroyed during the coming day of judgment. Those that remain faithful to God will be spared: “43 Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people.” (Dt. 32:41-43). The remnant that survives will dwell with Christ during the Millennial Reign (Rev. 20:1-6). If you have accepted Christ, you already have reason to rejoice for being saved. Because your life was bought at a terrible price, what should you be doing to show your gratitude? (Ro. 12:1-2).
Spirit-led obedience motivated by love brings an abundant and happy life. In concluding his song of praise, Moses again exhorts God’s people to be obedient. Moses reminded the Jews that obedience to God’s Word could “prolong” their life on Earth: “44 Then Moses came and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he, with Joshua the son of Nun. 45 When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, ‘Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even all the words of this law. 47 For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life. And by this word you will prolong your days in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”’ (Dt. 32:44-47). God had already promised a “prolonged” life for those who follow the Fifth Commandment by honoring their earthly parents (Ex. 20:12; Dt. 5:16). For believers in Christ, this promise extends to any place on Earth, not just the Promised Land: “Honor Your Father and Mother so that it may be well with you, and that you may live long on the earth.” (Eph. 6:2-3). In Moses’ closing words to his song, he simply extended this promise to those who honor their eternal father. This was also a promise that God had made through Moses in other parts of the Torah: “Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess.” (Dt. 5:32-33; 4:40; 6:1-2; 12:28; 22:6-7; 25:13-16; Lev. 18:5). We see the fulfillment of this promise by examining the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua. Because of their Spirit-led obedience and their faith, God rewarded all of them with long lives. Each lived to be at least 110 years or older. Are you willing to believe God’s many promises?
The lesson for you. God is not promising that you will live to be old if you follow the Law. You could die at any moment. He is instead promising to prolong the length of time you would normally have on Earth. This could be a month, a year, a decade or longer. It is a promise that you must believe by faith. In heaven, you will learn how much longer of a life God gave you for your obedience. Yet, if you are obedient for self-gain or if you doubt God’s promise of a prolonged life, should you expect God to grant it? (Jam. 1:6-7).
Moses was barred from the Promised Land because he could not keep the Law. Finally, from Moses’ example, we learn the one limit to obedience to the Law. Just as Moses could not enter into the physical Promised Land by trying to follow the Law, no believer can gain entry into the eternal Promised Land by trying to follow the Law: “48 The Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying, 49 “Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho, and look at the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession. 50 Then die on the mountain where you ascend, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51 because you broke faith with Me in the midst of the sons of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, because you did not treat Me as holy in the midst of the sons of Israel. 52 For you shall see the land at a distance, but you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel.” (Dt. 32:48-52). Because Moses gave the Law, he symbolized it. The people therefore had the right to expect that he would live by the standards that he preached. Yet, like everyone else, he was not able to avoid breaking the Law. At one point toward the end of the 40-year-journey in the wilderness, he broke God’s directive to “speak” to a rock to draw out the water (Nu. 20:8). Instead, out of anger toward the Jews, he “hit” the rock (Ex. 17:6). The lesson is that no one is righteous enough under the Law to enter into the eternal Promised Land (Rom. 3:23). By faith alone, you are saved (Jo. 3:16; Acts 16:31; Eph. 2:8). Moses sang God’s praise even though he was barred from the Promised Land. Every believer has sins that are worse than Moses’ sins. Will you sing God’s praise for your undeserved gift?