Summary: Moses used poetry and music to challenge Israel to remain faithful to God’s covenant.
You can hardly go to a sporting event without hearing the pounding beat—Boom, boom, BOOM! Boom, boom, BOOM! We shall, we shall ROCK you!” When I was younger, many of my favorite radio and television programs were sponsored by a company that guaranteed to make you as safe as the Rock of Gibraltar. Imagine my chagrin when, as an adult, I discovered that the actual Rock of Gibraltar was not only crumbling, but instead of being rock solid, was filled with a catacomb of tunnels in its role as military base. In traditional hymns, we sing of “Christ the Solid Rock,” and “Rock of Ages.”
Now, some of you may chide me for beginning this sermon by drawing from the idea of “rock” music—an art form that derives its satisfaction out of rocking people’s worlds, shaking familiar ideas and accepted customs to their roots or tearing down the establishment to build upon the rubble. I will admit that the great majority of rock music is not intended to glorify God—indeed, much seems deliberately intended to glorify ungodliness. But the Bible tells us that this was Moses’ SONG and we don’t have to read too far in order to see that he intended to rock the world of the Israelites. It really shouldn’t surprise us. If you want to know about people’s theology, today, listen to the hymns and choruses they sing. MOST importantly, pay attention to the words they sing.
Deuteronomy 31:30 tells us that Moses SPOKE the words of this song to everyone in Israel. Someone once called this the “rap song” of Moses because it uses poetry and imagery to help everyone remember the promise of being God’s covenant people—Israel of yesterday and the church of today. Even though Moses knew they’d sing the song at a later date and that it would be easier to remember as a song than as a sermon, he SPOKE this message loudly and clearly so that all could hear. Here, then, is an important word from God about what it means to be the People of God. No matter what God has in store for your church in the future; no matter what obstacles, difficulties and persecutions you face in continuing to survive as the fellowship of god; and no matter what special needs surround you or ministries God will inspire, God wants you to focus on the warnings and promises in this passage.
Read the text from King James Version.
31:30 And Moses spoke in the ears of all the assembly of Israel, the words of this song
until the end (goal, completion, perfection).
32:1 Give ear, heavens, and I will speak,
And let the land (earth) hear the words of my mouth.
32:2 Let my teaching drip like the rain and my speech trickle like the dew,
Like the raindrops upon the grass and like the showers upon the herb.
32:3 BECAUSE I proclaim the name of Yahweh,
Give glory to our God!
32:4 The Rock, His work, is complete (perfect, attained)
BECAUSE all His ways are justice,
God of faithfulness and without injustice,
HE is righteous and straight.
Verse 1 tells us that what Moses is sharing is of cosmic importance. God’s work within His people is of far more significance than the self-help personal transformation cults or relativist cultures of the modern day. A call is given out to the heavens because the stars, in the ancient world, were viewed as representative of persons in the heavenly court. They were witnesses to God’s contract with Noah, Abraham, and Moses, God’s dealings with Jacob, Joseph and Moses. Further, they were to act as an informal jury in considering how far Israel had failed in reaching her potential and achieving her purpose in partnership with God as part of that covenant.
I think it’s interesting that the Hebrew uses the word (eretz) that can be translated as either earth in general or land in specific in verse 1. The earth in general and the land promised to Israel in specific will judge her failure in reaching the potential for which God called her, even as the world in general and specific individuals around us will judge how we have lived up to our potential in God. When God saved us, there was a goal, a purpose in mind. When God saved us, we entered into a covenant, contract, partnership with God to be part of saving the world and bringing honor to His name. But like Israel, we need to see that we are in “breach of contract.” That’s what Moses will say in his song. But he doesn’t say it to make us feel bad. He says it so that we can do what the lawyers call “remedy.”
The “remedy” is to be found in one place—the ROCK. Verse 3 prepares us for this. God’s name—Yahweh (explain) is His essence. Glory is God’s significance—power and resources at our disposal. The ROCK is a poetic expression of God’s place in our lives—the completion, fulfillment, perfection of God’s purpose. He is a God of faithfulness. This is the root of the Hebrew word from which we get the word AMEN. You can build upon it, you can stand upon it, you can depend on it. God as creator, sustainer, and redeemer is the foundation upon which we build.