24 November 2016

Deuteronomy 31.30 – 32.14

“The Rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are just.” (v. 4)

Psalm: Psalm 56


Chapters 31-32 of Deuteronomy portray Moses' final words to Israel. His words are handed down in two forms - the law and a song. The editor of these two chapters has struggled to weave these together in a coherent narrative. Deuteronomy 31:19-22 prepared the way for today's passage - which is the first part of Moses' song (Deuteronomy 32:1-43).

The song in its present form has developed over many centuries while Israel was settled in Canaan, up to the time when Deuteronomy was written in the seventh century BC.

Verses 1-3: Moses calls heaven and earth (everything and everyone that exists) to hear his song. It is life-nourishing for Israel - like dew or a gentle shower watering a garden (verse 2). It proclaims God's character ("name" (v. 3)) and God's greatness.

Verses 4-9: God is stable and durable, like a rock; God is perfect and just in all God's actions, and reliable. God is "your father, who created you, who made you and established you" (v. 6). From of old, God apportioned land to the many nations of the world and put them under the oversight of lesser deities (verse 8). But Israel was God's own, specially-loved people (verse 9).

Verses 10-14: Out of love, God sustained and guided Israel in the wilderness, after the liberation from slavery in Egypt (verse 10). God cared and provided for Israel like an eagle for her young (verse 11). Israel was brought into a wonderfully fruitful and joyous life in Canaan (verses 13-14).

So the mystery is posed: How is it that Israel has proved to be perverse and crooked, foolish and senseless, dealing falsely with the God of faithful love who kept Israel like the apple of his eye (verses 5-6, 10)?

To Ponder

  • In Christian worship, the main sources we use and interpret to discern God's will and ways are the Scriptures (Old and New Testaments), the sacraments and the rich traditions of psalms, hymns and songs. How significant for you is congregational singing? In your experience, are there hymns or songs which communicate the gospel to you with special power?
  • The mysterious and stubborn tendency in us all to contradict God's ways, or to indulge ourselves in life-style choices that we find to be delightful even though they are manifestly at odds with what we sing and pray about in church, makes for a Christian community that needs constant reformation. Who in your setting has proved particularly challenging and helpful in keeping the Church true to its calling? 

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.