God wants us to succeed. He wants us to do well. He knows we are prone to sin, to take the easy way or the flesh gratifying way. But He gives us the tools to make the right choices. Ancient Israel did not have the Holy Spirit indwelled in each person. God put His Spirit on a few and the rest were meant to trust Him and follow Him via these leaders and prophets. But they were given the Law, the priests, and the prophets. They were given the feasts and they were given prayers and songs.
In yesterday’s devotional The Lord had told Moses to write the song He would give him and teach it to Israel so that they would sing it through the generations and remember what He had done for them and not turn to idolatry as they were inclined to do (Deuteronomy 31:19-22). Chapter 32 is the song.
Deuteronomy 31:30 reads,
Then Moses spoke the words of this song until they were finished, in the ears of all the assembly of Israel:
Verses 1-3 read,
“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak,
and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
2 May my teaching drop as the rain,
my speech distill as the dew,
like gentle rain upon the tender grass,
and like showers upon the herb.
3 For I will proclaim the name of the Lord;
ascribe greatness to our God!”
When the song was sung both The Lord and the people were called to hear it. God was the audience to the obedience of the singer and the listeners. Israel was to listen and learn from the words, the words written by The Lord Himself to proclaim His greatness, to reveal His character to people so that they might avoid sin and thus avoid the consequences their sin would bring.
How often do you think, “If only I had listened…?” Would your teenaged self have skipped a huge amount of turmoil if you had heeded your parents’ warnings? Would you have avoided much of your suffering had you heeded the words of God? How much sin do we commit when we choose to ignore the counsel of The Holy Spirit and the wisdom of the Word of God?
Verses 4-6 remind us of God’s perfect justice.
“The Rock, his work is perfect,
for all his ways are justice.
A God of faithfulness and without iniquity,
just and upright is he.
5 They have dealt corruptly with him;
they are no longer his children because they are blemished;
they are a crooked and twisted generation.
6 Do you thus repay the Lord,
you foolish and senseless people?
Is not he your father, who created you,
who made you and established you?”
God is perfect Justice and He made the way for Israel to be forgiven of sin and be counted as righteous. But they perverted worship, they perverted the sacrifices, and they sinned. It came to the point that God could no longer consider Israel separate and holy because although they venerated themselves as His chosen nation, they were worshipping idols and laws above the One True God. They forgot God in their religion. This song was to remind them God created them, He called Himself their Father. They could repent and turn to Him or they could suffer for their sin. It reminds believers too, not to leave the Lord out of religion.
. God can make a holy nation and Chosen people from anyone or anything. It was His choice to make Israel His own. It was His choice to make you and me His own.
The Lord commanded Israel to remember what their ancestors, the first singers and hearers of this song had gone through and what He had done for them. He chose them. He called them. He gave them their identity as His own. Verses 7-14 read,
“Remember the days of old;
consider the years of many generations;
ask your father, and he will show you,
your elders, and they will tell you.
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
9 But the Lord's portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted heritage.
10 “He found him in a desert land,
and in the howling waste of the wilderness;
he encircled him, he cared for him,
he kept him as the apple of his eye.
11 Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
that flutters over its young,
spreading out its wings, catching them,
bearing them on its pinions,
12 the Lord alone guided him,
no foreign god was with him.
13 He made him ride on the high places of the land,
and he ate the produce of the field,
and he suckled him with honey out of the rock,
and oil out of the flinty rock.
14 Curds from the herd, and milk from the flock,
with fat of lambs,
rams of Bashan and goats,
with the very finest of the wheat--
and you drank foaming wine made from the blood of the grape.”
God’s provision is rarely just the bare necessities; it is full and complete. The Promised Land flowed with milk and honey, it didn’t trickle. God pours out provision and blessings. He is the One Who Overcomes our obstacles, He is the One Who Gives, and He is the One Who Lavishes. We are the ones who look at our success and prosperity and forget that it could only have come from The Lord. Enough success and we somehow forget God and take credit for it ourselves.
Those people who write books about how to get rich and stay rich, how to succeed in business, or how to make friends and influence people, they think they are the ones responsible for their success and so they think they can make money by sharing their wisdom and skills. The secret to success is not learning how Mr. Moneybags got rich; it is in remembering who The Lord God is. When we forget to give God the credit, the glory for us and who we have become, we get lazy. We forget God. We turn to idols like money, ourselves, and other religions. That happened to Israel time and again. It happens to so many of us repeatedly. We forget where our strength comes from and think we can do anything without The Lord because we are strong, have great resources, wisdom, or whatever. Verses 15-18 say it this way,
“But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked;
you grew fat, stout, and sleek;
then he forsook God who made him
and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.
16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods;
with abominations they provoked him to anger.
17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods,
to gods they had never known,
to new gods that had come recently,
whom your fathers had never dreaded.
18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you,
and you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
Jeshurun is another name for Israel. It means upright, just and straight. Success made Jeshurun grow from upright, just, and straight to fat, stout, and sleek. That may have looked attractive as her wealth showed, but it made her forsake God; it caused her to scoff at the idea that The Lord was her Salvation and Creator.
Believer, whatever success you enjoy, wealth, wisdom, or spiritual gifts, be careful to remember it is not you, but God. You could never be good enough to be saved. Jesus saved you. You are not the source of the prophesies, good works, wisdom, healing, or evangelism that you perform. The Holy Spirit manifests Himself in you. You couldn’t even have chosen Christ without the Father having called you. Without God, all those things that make you so great are just a harsh and meaningless noise (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
When we choose to turn to ourselves instead of The Lord, He lets us. He will hide His face from us and let us struggle without Him. He wants us to learn to depend on Him, to come back and be the sons and daughters He made us to be. Verses 19-25 read,
“The Lord saw it and spurned them,
because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters.
20 And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them;
I will see what their end will be,
for they are a perverse generation,
children in whom is no faithfulness.
21 They have made me jealous with what is no god;
they have provoked me to anger with their idols.
So I will make them jealous with those who are no people;
I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
22 For a fire is kindled by my anger,
and it burns to the depths of Sheol,
devours the earth and its increase,
and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
23 “‘And I will heap disasters upon them;
I will spend my arrows on them;
24 they shall be wasted with hunger,
and devoured by plague
and poisonous pestilence;
I will send the teeth of beasts against them,
with the venom of things that crawl in the dust.
25 Outdoors the sword shall bereave,
and indoors terror,
for young man and woman alike,
the nursing child with the man of gray hairs.”
If prosperity and success make someone fall away from the Lord, then suffering often brings them back to Him. I know many people who only pray when they are at the end of their rope. When they have nothing left to do but cry out to God, that is the only time they talk to Him. Their prayers are one-sided dirges and monologues of grief. But sometimes their desperation begins a relationship and dependence on The Lord. And too often that relationship lasts for only the duration of the suffering. Do you depend on God through good times and bad, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health? Or do you only talk to Him when He is all you have left to turn to?
God can make a whole new nation for Himself, He can take the stones and trees and turn them to a worshipping people. But doing that would mean losing the chance that the sinner will repent. It would mean letting the people he used to exact justice think they were righteous gods. He will never leave us or forsake us, even when we have forsaken Him. Verses 26-27 read,
“I would have said, “I will cut them to pieces;
I will wipe them from human memory,”
27 had I not feared provocation by the enemy,
lest their adversaries should misunderstand,
lest they should say, “Our hand is triumphant,
it was not the Lord who did all this.”’
God loves Israel. God loves ISIS. He loves you and He loves your enemies. He wants the best for you. He wants salvation for each and every person. So often the discipline He uses to bring you back into walking rightly with Him is also being used to call the lost He used to work the discipline. He understands that they don’t have His Holy Spirit and they need to see Him work in you and bless you with his mercy and grace. Maybe they will want that mercy and grace too, and they will call upon His name. Verses 28-33 read,
“For they are a nation void of counsel,
and there is no understanding in them.
29 If they were wise, they would understand this;
they would discern their latter end!
30 How could one have chased a thousand,
and two have put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
and the Lord had given them up?
31 For their rock is not as our Rock;
our enemies are by themselves.
32 For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
and from the fields of Gomorrah;
their grapes are grapes of poison;
their clusters are bitter;
33 their wine is the poison of serpents
and the cruel venom of asps”
He has given each person the chance to repent. He gave you that opportunity and He gave the lousy neighbor, the one who cut down the tree on your property and whose dog pees in your roses the opportunity. He gives the punished and the punisher the chance to repent and be saved. When someone refuses that gift, God will give them what they deserve. It’s not up to you or me to take revenge. Every person will pay the price, either with her own blood or the blood of Jesus. God’s vengeance is fierce and it will not be pretty or light. It will not be a simple elevator trip to Hell. Hell is not like a biker bar where people will hang out with sinners forever. It will be more horrific than we can imagine. Verses 34-38 read,
“‘Is not this laid up in store with me,
sealed up in my treasuries?
35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
and their doom comes swiftly.’
36 For the Lord will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.
37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise up and help you;
let them be your protection!”
You can’t save yourself. Buddha, Mohammed, Baal, Satan, Money, or a bright smile cannot save you. Only the Lord God, Jesus Christ can save. One day every person will realize that Jesus Christ is Lord. At the name of Jesus every knee will bow (Philippians 2:10). Will it be in triumphant worship or in dreadful realization that your god is powerless and bogus? Verse 39-43 read,
“‘See now that I, even I, am he,
and there is no god beside me;
I kill and I make alive;
I wound and I heal;
and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
40 For I lift up my hand to heaven
and swear, As I live forever,
41 if I sharpen my flashing sword
and my hand takes hold on judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries
and will repay those who hate me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
and my sword shall devour flesh--
with the blood of the slain and the captives,
from the long-haired heads of the enemy.’
43 “Rejoice with him, O heavens;[
bow down to him, all gods,
for he avenges the blood of his children
and takes vengeance on his adversaries.
He repays those who hate him
and cleanses his people's land.”
God is awesome! He is The LORD! Do you know it? Do you need to be reminded? Let His Word shape you before suffering and discipline must teach you. Know who God is now, before The Day of the Lord demonstrates it for you. God’s Word is a gift to us. Believers are indwelled with The Holy Spirit, so that we can understand it, write it on our hearts and live it out for the world. Do not forget who God is or who you are in Him. Verses 44-47 read,
Moses came and recited all the words of this song in the hearing of the people, he and Joshua the son of Nun. 45 And when Moses had finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words by which I am warning you today, that you may command them to your children, that they may be careful to do all the words of this law. 47 For it is no empty word for you, but your very life, and by this word you shall live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess.”
After Moses taught Israel the song and exhorted them to live by God’s Word, he was reminded that he would not be with them. Moses had to pay the price for his disobedience and trust God to be God for Israel. Verses 48-52,
That very day the Lord spoke to Moses, 49 “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel for a possession. 50 And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people, as Aaron your brother died in Mount Hor and was gathered to his people, 51 because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel. 52 For you shall see the land before you, but you shall not go there, into the land that I am giving to the people of Israel.”