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The Song of Moses: Israel’s History and Several First Mentions

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson’s “The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History” series mainly looks at the book of Zechariah, with material similar to his previous Zechariah series.  However, the last message looks at the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, with an overall exposition and outline of this text and its panoramic look at the nation Israel throughout human history.

The Song of Moses has seven divisions:

  1. Exordium:  verses 1-3
  2. Theme:  verses 4-6
  3. Extol the goodness of God:   Verses 7-14
  4. Perversity of Israel toward God:  Verses 15-18
  5. Judgments of God:  verses 19-25
  6. Pleadings of Divine Mercy:  verses 26-33
  7. Apocalyptic Events:  interposition on the part of God, vindication of his nation, and atonement:  verses 34-43

In going through the different sections, several things are worth noting:

The two witnesses in the introduction are heaven and earth. (“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.”)  These two witnesses are there from the beginning of Israel’s history, and will be there at the end.  The Old Testament uses similar language in other places, regarding the permanence and lasting of creation itself.  I think of Psalm 89:36-37, His offspring shall endure forever, histhrone as long asthe sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies,” and the promises in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31), which again appeal to the enduring creation.

The song of Moses contains several “first mention” doctrines: the first time a particular idea is mentioned in the word of God.  In the theme, verses 4-6, we see the first scripture reference to God as a rock.  All later references in scripture to God as the Rock refer back to this first passage.  Verse 39 has the first use of the expression “I am He,” an expression found later as especially in Isaiah.

Verse 14 makes reference to the blood of the grape: probably the source of the use of wine at the Lord’s table, the wine representative of blood.

The Song of Moses is quoted in the New Testament, especially the last section dealing with God’s vindication (verses 34-43).  Verse 35 contains the well-known words, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  Paul quotes this in Romans 12:19, and Hebrews 10:30 references verses 35 and 36, “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again,  “The Lord will judge his people.”

Finally, verse 39 shows great hope, a hope found only in God.  the sequence is important: “I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal.”  The God with whom we must deal, does not “make alive and then kill.”  The Song of Moses is a wonderful text, showing Israel’s history along with application for us and our waywardness, as well as God’s Sovereignty, His Divine Plan and Purpose.  He will bring His people to Himself, punishing but then bringing redemption and salvation.

Christian Praise Songs: The God of Israel

December 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The more I read the Bible, especially the Old Testament passages, I notice disparity between scriptural language and that of modern hymns and praise songs. Certainly the church replacement theme has continued through Protestant history, as I observed previously here in reference to one current praise song with the line “Speak O Lord, till your church is built, and the earth is filled with your glory.”

A recent choir praise song, “Great is the Lord Almighty,” is another that contrasts with the language of the Bible.  It’s a great upbeat tune, with great words of praise overall, though without the depth of thought of traditional hymns.  See the full lyrics here.

The verses for this song briefly reference stories of the Old Testament:  at the drowning of Pharoah and his army at the Red Sea, and Joshua and the people at Jericho.  In each case, the lyric tells us, after these great deliverances they were singing – the chorus line,

Great is the Lord Almighty, He is Lord He is God indeed
Great is the Lord Almighty, He is God supreme

From my continual Bible reading, though, I observe that throughout the OT, the Israelites when they praised the Lord, used the phrase “the God of Israel,” with frequent reference to Him as the covenant keeping God of Israel.  A song with the above lines might be good enough for Gentiles in our modern times of songs lacking serious teaching, but to associate such simple lyrics with the Old Testament age is to betray vast ignorance of the strength and depth of their actual faith.

Indeed, a search in my Bible software (“The Word”) for the exact words “God of Israel” finds 201 references, mostly throughout the Old Testament.  Only two references occur in the New Testament, both in the gospel accounts (Matthew 15:31, Luke 1:68).  I also remember an old praise song, “The God of Israel is Mighty,” with other words of a more OT Israel style.

The New Testament, with a focus on bringing the Gentiles in, does not use that phrase, but several texts speak of the people of Israel, such as “the house of Israel” and “the Israel of God.”  Then Revelation 15:3 mentions the Song of Moses, and the words proclaimed by those saints who sing “the Song of Moses and the Lamb.”  Here the full purpose of God finds expression as God is praised as the “King of the nations,” the one that “All nations will come and worship.”  This is the God we worship, the God of Israel and the nations, the covenant keeping God — and we use words that convey these attributes of God instead of just simple lyrics about how great God is, yet without mention of the ways in which He is great.