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God’s blunt song and Moses’ blessing song [How God feels about our fear – Deuteronomy 31-34, part 4]

21 Feb

Photo by Obafemi Moyosade on Unsplash

If God were to write a song to you, what do you think the lyrics would say? The first idea that enters my mind is that God would write a song about how much he loves us. But maybe I’m wrong about that. In Deuteronomy 32, we read a song that God wrote, and it is a strange song. The occurrence of God writing a song is unique by itself. But this particular song is really interesting.

Take a look for yourself. In the song, at times Moses is praising God, and at times he is reminding the people of how sinful they were.  The psalm goes on to talk about how God will discipline them.  Nice song, huh? Imagine that. God writes a song about how he will discipline his people.

Why not just celebrate and rejoice? Moses their great leader is dying. Why not have a celebration of life service? God has brought the nation to the Promised Land. Why not rejoice?

Because Israel needed something else. They needed honesty, just as we need honesty.  We need a true assessment of ourselves.

Think about all those who didn’t get to enter the Promised Land because of their disobedience, including Moses himself!  Think of the sorrow inside Moses about his own choices.

There is a healthy aspect to all the doom and gloom in the song.  This honest assessment of Israel is meant to point them in the right direction, to obey God.  In the song, both Moses and God are responding to what they know, to what they have seen of the people.  These are a stubborn, stiff-necked people who are inclined to rebel, who are inclined to give in to temptation and to follow false gods.  This isn’t some reverse psychology about a possible future.  It is a reaction to the reality of the past.  God is literally saying to them, “I know you, I know what you are capable of, and I want so much better for you!  There is a better way than the way of self-destructive behaviors.  There is a better way than self-indulgence.  That better way is following my way.” 

As we move from God’s song in chapter 32 to Moses’ song of blessing in chapter 33, Moses proposes, once again, that better way of God, as he blesses the tribes of Israel.  Chapter 33, then, records for us the final last words of Moses, and they are a blessing over the people with a warm tone. 

I encourage you to read the whole song, but in this post I want to focus on how Moses finishes his song. Look at Deuteronomy 33, verses 26-29, and finally now we have the last words of love between the leader and his people.  You can see the old man, perhaps with tears of great affection for his people, placing his blessing on them, guiding them one final time to place their hope and trust in God. 

With that Moses climbs Mt. Nebo where God shows him the Promised Land, and Moses dies.  There is perhaps a saving grace in Moses’ death.  He’s not in prison or in house arrest waving goodbye, with people uncertain about him.  Moses died, and the book is closed on his life and leadership.  Yes, there is a period of mourning for Moses. Verse 8 tells us it lasts a whole month, but Moses symbolically, but very clearly in verse 9, transfers leadership to Joshua, and the transfer seems to go very well!  The people listen to Joshua, and obey the Lord!

Perhaps there is a sense in which God’s blunt song and Moses blessing song worked well together. Perhaps we need both the honest assessment of who we are, along with the encouragement to pursue a better way. Both are needed and good.