GOD’S JUDGMENT (AS REFLECTED IN MOSES’ SONG AND HIS OWN DEATH) IS DESIGNED TO PROMOTE THE SPIRITUAL LIFE OF FUTURE GENERATIONS
Gerald Gerbrandt: One may speak of the Song as having a double role. First, it has an educational function as it encourages Israel to obey, reminding it of the nature of God on the one side, and of the tendency of human nature on the other. Second, when Israel sins, the Song serves as a witness, as a formal indictment of the people. Although a hymn of praise witnessing to God’s greatness and compassion, it simultaneously becomes an indictment in a time of sin. Both roles of the Song (v. 46a) have as their goal obedience to the sermon of the larger book, the words of this law (v. 46b), and long life in the land. . .
Despite Moses’ greatness, his special role in teaching God’s instructions, and the uniqueness of his leadership (cf. 34:10), even he did not trust God fully. Perhaps it is intimating that if blessing and reward require full obedience, no one would ever receive them. God remains with his people, but this is due solely to his compassion and honor, not the people’s obedience. And so Moses must die away from the land, along with all the other Israelites of his generation – the only exceptions are Caleb and Joshua, the one who now will lead the people into the land.
Jack Deere: If they would meditate on the certainty and severity of the judgment that the Lord would send on them for their apostasy, the Song of Moses could serve as a powerful deterrent to future rebellion. The threat of the Lord’s retributive justice was given for their spiritual health.
I. (:44-47) TESTIMONY OF MOSES’S SONG –
APPLICATION OF THE LAW IS CRITICAL AND MUST EXTEND TO SUCCEEDING GENERATIONS
Michael Grisanti: Looking back on the message of this song in particular and the law in general, Moses charges the nation of Israel to live in accordance with the Lord’s expectations. Not only must they wholeheartedly obey Yahweh’s demands, but they must also pass on to each successive generation that passion for genuine conformity of heart to his law. Only then will they and their descendants enjoy long tenure in the Promised Land.
A. (:44) Recitation of the Song
“Then Moses came and spoke all the words of this song
in the hearing of the people, he, with Joshua the son of Nun.”
Duane Christensen: As a final charge to the people of Israel, Moses and Joshua together remind them to take to heart all the words of this Torah and the Song of Moses and to see that this teaching is handed on to their children in generations to come. Nothing is more important.
Eugene Merrill: this verse forms the closing frame of the song of Moses. The opening frame (31:30) states that Moses recited the words of the song, and that is the message here. Unless one understands that the song is spoken all over again, a view that has little to commend it, it seems best to see the present verse as a rounding off of the pericope in which the song is embedded.
Warren Wiersbe: Much of this song is a warning to the people that they were prone to forget what God did for them and to turn from God to idols. We do not know how often they sang this song, but we do know that they did not take it to heart. Do God’s people today pay attention to what they are singing?
B. (:45-46) Exhortation to Obey and Indoctrinate Future Generations
“When Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 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.’”
Peter Pett: This is probably to be seen as referring to all his words in the song, but some see it as referring to all his words in Deuteronomy. Now his final great task of preparing the people for his death and for the entry into the land was accomplished. It was all over. There remained but the final exhortation.
Daniel Block: Echoing the sequel to the Shema in 6:6–9, Moses emphasizes how seriously they must take his instruction. From the inside out they are to commit themselves to all the words with which he has admonished them, and they are to pass on all his teachings to their children, charging them to keep all the words of this Torah by doing them.
Eugene Merrill: Over and over again the people of Israel were reminded that the faith and commitment of any one generation were not sufficient for all the generations to come. Each must have its own time of covenant renewal (cf. Deut 4:9-10; 5:29; 6:2,7; 11:19,21; 12:25,28; 30:19).
John Gill: it was not enough to hear them, but they were to lay them up in their hearts, and retain them in their memories; and not only so, but reflect on them in their minds, and closely apply to the consideration of them, and get the true knowledge and sense of them, and put it in practice… (They were) to transmit to their children, and enjoin them the observance of, that so religion might be perpetuated in their posterity.
C. (:47) Obligation to Obey
1. Essential Value
“For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life.”
Eugene Merrill: Finally, Moses pointed out that the words of covenant requirement were not “idle” words, flippant or offhanded matters of opinion (v. 47). Rather than being empty and worthless words they were, in fact, words that led to life. The same sentiment appears earlier in Deuteronomy, where the point is made that “man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut 8:3; cf. 30:20). By feeding on them, that is, by obeying them explicitly, Israel could face the prospect of long life in the land of promise (cf. Deut 4:40).
Peter Craigie: The law did not bind men in a straitjacket of legalism, but pointed toward that life which God purposed for them. In the law lay the secret of Israel’s longevity and prosperity in the Promised Land which they were soon to possess.
John Gill: It was no light and trifling matter, but of great importance and consequence, obedience to it being attended with rewards, and disobedience with punishment… if obeyed, the means of a comfortable and happy life, in the enjoyment of all good things, of the preservation and continuance of it to a length of time; and long life was always reckoned a great temporal mercy:
2. Enduring Legacy
“And by this word you shall prolong your days
in the land, which you are about to cross the Jordan to possess.”
Daniel Block: In verse 47 Moses reiterates the importance for Israel’s future of heeding his instruction. Stated negatively, they are not to treat his teaching as frivolous or trivial; stated positively, Moses’ words are the keys to Israel’s life; their existence in the land they are about to enter depends on their commitment to these words (cf. 6:24–25; 30:20; 31:12–13). In identifying his words with the revelation of God, Moses provides his people with the key to their future.
Earl Kalland: Previously Moses had said that the Lord was the people’s life (30:20); here he said that “all the words I have solemnly declared to you,” “all the words of this law” (v. 46), are their “life” (v. 47). This was so because by adherence to the revelation the Lord had given them, they were to live under his covenant in the land across the Jordan.
These words were not to be taken lightly, as though the people could follow them or disregard them with no great change in their welfare in either case. Not so! The revelation in covenant-treaty form was to be obeyed in all its detail, with a willing adherence and devotion both to the words and spirit of the law and to its giver – the Lord their God. He was their life, and his words were their life. Without the words there would be insufficient knowledge of him or of his way of life for them. Commitment to the Lord and to his word would insure a long national life for Israel in the Promised Land.
II. (:48-52) TESTIMONY OF MOSES’ DEATH –
APPROPRIATION OF GOD’S PROMISES DEPENDS ON OBEDIENCE
“And the LORD spoke to Moses that very same day, saying,”
A. (:49) Vision of the Promised Land from Mount Nebo
1. Vantage Point — Go Up
“Go up to this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo,
which is in the land of Moab opposite Jericho,”
2. View — Look
“and look at the land of Canaan,”
3. Victory by God’s Grace
“which I am giving to the sons of Israel for a possession.”
B. (:50-51) Vindication of God’s Judgment on Moses
1. (:50) Denial of Entrance into the Promised Land
a. Sentence of Death Applied to Moses
“Then die on the mountain where you ascend,
and be gathered to your people,”
Peter Pett: Dying in a mountain to which he was called by God appears to indicate a glorious death, a death near to heaven. He had to be punished but God still cherished His faithful servant, as He had Aaron.
b. Sentence of Death Applied to Aaron
“as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor
and was gathered to his people,”
2. (:51) Disqualifying Sins
“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,”
Eugene Merrill: He had done two things to disqualify himself:
(1) he had “broken faith” with the Lord at Meribah Kadesh, and
(2) he had failed to “uphold the Lord’s holiness” (v. 51).
The former term (Heb. m al) has the basic idea of treachery or unfaithfulness, suggesting here that Moses, as covenant mediator, had proved to be disloyal to that covenant commitment in a time of unusual trial. The verb occurs in numerous other places where the issue of covenant is central (cf. Lev 26:40; Num 31:16; 1 Chr 5:25; Ezek 17:15-19; 20:25-27). Whatever else may have happened at Meribah Kadesh, the place where Moses struck the rock in anger (Num 20:11), the whole episode is summarized as an act of rebellion (m râ) against God (Num 20:24; cf. 27:14; 1 Sam 12:15). Such an act by the very leader of the covenant community was unthinkable, so, tragically enough, Moses was barred access to the land to which he had led the people.
Failure to “uphold holiness” (l qidda tem ôtî) with respect to the Lord (also associated with the Meribah Kadesh incident; cf. Num 20:12; 27:14) was failure to give proper consideration to who he is. That is, it was a denial of his transcendent uniqueness and lordship and an attempt, conscious or not, to reduce him to a human level. Again the covenant implications are clear, especially in Moses’ act of rebellion. The Lord had told him to speak to the rock (Num 20:8), the mere act of speaking being designed to demonstrate the power of God who creates by the spoken word. To strike the rock was to introduce an interruptive element and thus to diminish the significance of the powerful word. By doing this, Moses betrayed not only anger and disobedience but he correspondingly reflected on the God whom he served by implying that God could not bring forth water by the divine word alone.
“because you did not treat Me as holy
in the midst of the sons of Israel.”
C. (:52) Verdict of God’s Judgment Reiterated
1. Remote View
“For you shall see the land at a distance,”
2. Rejected Entrance
“but you shall not go there,
into the land which I am giving the sons of Israel.”
Michael Grisanti: The text specifies two reasons for this painful reality. In the first place, Moses “broke faith” with Yahweh. This verb signifies a breach of a relationship of trust between persons or with God (Wakely, NIDOTTE, 2:1020). The covenantal mediator’s conduct at Meribah represented disloyalty. That whole episode was regarded as an act of rebellion throughout Israelite history (Nu 20:24; cf. 27:14; 1Sa 12:15). Second, Moses failed to “uphold holiness.” His actions at Meribah did not demonstrate a proper recognition of Yahweh’s absolute sovereignty and uniqueness. In spite of this offense, Yahweh will allow Moses the privilege of viewing the long-anticipated land before he dies.
John Schultz: We suppose that, at this point, Moses was more overwhelmed with the sadness of earthly failure than with the joyful anticipation of entering the heavenly glory. . .
On this day Moses left the pictures behind in order to enter into the reality of God’s presence. From now on he would be fully satisfied with the glory of which he had only had a foretaste before. God’s punishment for Moses was that, instead of being allowed to enter Canaan on earth, he was ushered into the real Promised Land. Moses’ failure to enter Canaan was on account of his sin. God reminded him: “This is because both of you broke faith with me in the presence of the Israelites at the waters of Meribah Kadesh in the Desert of Zin and because you did not uphold my holiness among the Israelites.” But how can we say that Moses failed, if he entered into the presence of God? By a miracle of God’s grace, his failure on earth precipitated the consummation of his life. Grace is, indeed, amazing!