The Old Testament has a lot of Scriptures that we probably tend to overlook. But one rises above the rest in significance and impact upon the Bible’s overall narrative.
In this two-part article, we look at that Scripture in its context and then examine what makes it so important.
This is an important message because of how it affects our understanding of other doctrines which we will look at in future posts. Don’t miss this message.
Welcome to part 6 of my series on rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these articles build on each other, if you’ve not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts before continuing here.
There is much to communicate here, so stay with me. It’s crucial that we understand these things.
I’ve included more Scripture than usual here for context, so this post is a bit longer.
Before we get to today’s topic, let’s quickly recap what we’ve covered so far. It’s important to keep the key points we’ve covered thus far fresh in our minds.
In “How to Clearly See the Big Picture of Scripture,” I introduced the concept of humanity’s challenge to get beyond the physical shadow to see the spiritual substance.
Using Galatians 4, we observed that GOD’s covenant with physical Israel is a shadow of His new covenant with spiritual Israel—the church of Jesus.
This principle—that the spiritual substance follows the physical shadow—is the central theme of this series of posts. Everything I have to say in this series revolves around the implications of this truth.
In this same post, we also observed how humanity’s challenge to live beyond the physical, in turn, creates our greatest struggle—to see GOD as He really is.
In “The Surprising Truth About the Evolution of Idolatry,” I explained how Christianity’s influence has caused the mutation, and not the elimination, of idolatry. Modern idolatrous practice is often to falsely ascribe erroneous characteristics, thoughts or will to a single god and call him “God.”
In “An Important Truth from GOD’s Promises to Abraham,” we saw that some aspects of GOD’s promises were not fulfilled physically, but spiritually. For example, physical Israel did not possess their homeland of Canaan forever (see Gen. 13:15; 17:8).
And in the previous post, “A Spotlight on the Shadows of Israel’s Exodus,” we looked back at Israel’s exodus from Egypt to identify the shadows those physical events cast regarding subsequent spiritual events and how this applies to our lives today.
From Egypt to the Jordan
Although we would benefit from detailing how the themes discussed so far relate to Israel’s journey between Egypt to Canaan’s borders, a brief overview must suffice.
The journey from Egypt to Canaan was one struggle after another, like riding a stubborn mule that refuses to go the right direction.
No sooner did Israel get on the other side of the Red Sea than they began complaining against Moses and GOD. At Sinai, Israel reverted back to its familiar idolatrous Egyptian customs by creating the golden calf and worshiping it.
At Canaan’s border, the faithless majority melted in fear because of the unfavorable report from the ten spies. They complained that they wished they had died in the wilderness.
So GOD gave them what they asked for. The nation wandered in the wilderness in punishment, unable to enter the promised rest. Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb (i.e., the faithful remnant) were allowed to enter the land.
Aside: How would you like to be the last living Israelite from that generation? You know everybody is just anxiously waiting for you to die so they can go into the land. Talk about being the least popular guy in town…wow!
Moses’ Last Day
Finally, the 40 years of wandering were complete.
As Israel was encamped across the Jordan River from Jericho, Moses, knowing his death was near, delivered a series of speeches to the people. These speeches are recorded in Deuteronomy.
The last of these speeches is incredibly important, both to the narrative of Scripture and to us today. The record begins like this:
9 Then Moses and the Levitical priests said to all Israel, “Be silent, Israel, and listen! You have now become the people of the Lord your God. 10 Obey the Lord your God and follow his commands and decrees that I give you today.”
11 On the same day Moses commanded the people:
(Deut. 27:9-11 NIV)
Moses then explained that, when they entered the land of Canaan, six tribes were to pronounce blessings upon the people and six were to pronounce curses. The reason for this peculiar action becomes clear as we continue reading.
Moses then pronounced a series of:
- Blessings if Israel obeyed GOD’s Law (Deut. 28:1-14).
- Curses if Israel disobeyed (Deut. 28:15ff).
In the midst of Moses’ explanation of these curses, we read:
45 All these curses will come on you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey the Lord your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. 46 They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. 47 Because you did not serve the Lord your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity, 48 therefore in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the Lord sends against you. He will put an iron yoke on your neck until he has destroyed you.
49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, 50 a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. 51 They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or olive oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. 52 They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the Lord your God is giving you.
53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. 54 Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, 55 and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating. It will be all he has left because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of all your cities. 56 The most gentle and sensitive woman among you—so sensitive and gentle that she would not venture to touch the ground with the sole of her foot—will begrudge the husband she loves and her own son or daughter 57 the afterbirth from her womb and the children she bears. For in her dire need she intends to eat them secretly because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege of your cities.
58 If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name—the Lord your God— 59 the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses. 60 He will bring on you all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded, and they will cling to you. 61 The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. 62 You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. 63 Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.
64 Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. 65 Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. 66 You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life. 67 In the morning you will say, “If only it were evening!” and in the evening, “If only it were morning!”—because of the terror that will fill your hearts and the sights that your eyes will see. 68 The Lord will send you back in ships to Egypt on a journey I said you should never make again. There you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.
(Deut. 28:45-68 NIV)
Two brief observations here:
- Thus far, we see the warnings if Israel disobeyed and rejected GOD (see Deut. 28:1, 15). If they rejected Him, He would destroy them.
- Do you think GOD was serious about the faithfulness and holiness of His people? Um… yes.
Moses then called the Israelites together and solemnly warned them:
9 Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do. 10 All of you are standing today in the presence of the Lord your God—your leaders and chief men, your elders and officials, and all the other men of Israel, 11 together with your children and your wives, and the foreigners living in your camps who chop your wood and carry your water. 12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today.
16 You yourselves know how we lived in Egypt and how we passed through the countries on the way here. 17 You saw among them their detestable images and idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold. 18 Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.
19 When such a person hears the words of this oath and they invoke a blessing on themselves, thinking, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way,” they will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry. 20 The Lord will never be willing to forgive them; his wrath and zeal will burn against them. All the curses written in this book will fall on them, and the Lord will blot out their names from under heaven. 21 The Lord will single them out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.
22 Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which the Lord has afflicted it. 23 The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, which the Lord overthrew in fierce anger. 24 All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”
25 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the Lord, the God of their ancestors, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. 26 They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. 27 Therefore the Lord’s anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. 28 In furious anger and in great wrath the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”
29 The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
(Deut. 29:9-29 NIV)
So any person who rejected GOD and the Law would bring disaster upon themselves and upon the land.
In fact, it would be so bad that people would see the land and ask why GOD did this to the land.
(By the way, have you visited or seen pictures of “the holy land” today? What does it largely look like? A wasteland, exactly. Hmm.)
Continuing, Moses said:
1 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, 3 then the Lord your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you.
(Deut. 30:1-3 NIV)
Ah, note Moses’ subtle change here.
From this point, Moses began to prophesy that Israel would indeed experience these curses in the future. They would be scattered and, when they repented and wholeheartedly sought GOD, He would gather them again.
This gathering is very important, and something we’ll expound upon going forward.
4 Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. 5 He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. 6 The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. 7 The Lord your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. 8 You will again obey the Lord and follow all his commands I am giving you today. 9 Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
(Deut. 30:4-10 NIV)
Here GOD reiterated His promise to Abraham from Gen. 17:8, that Abraham’s descendants would possess the land forever. We will expound upon this later as well.
Moses then repeated the warning to Israel:
15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.
17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live
(Deut. 30:15-19 NIV)
Note: It is very important to point out here that the word “earth” (see v.19) can be translated “land” in the Scriptures. Often, “land” is actually a better translation, when we consider its meaning in light of the promises to Abraham and the shadows we’ve been discussing. More on this later.
Moses then proceeded to officially turn over leadership to Joshua and GOD told Moses it was time for him to die.
Lovingly, GOD provided a very special and unique burial for Moses, events which provide great insight into GOD’s loving compassion and sympathy for Moses’ role of leading Israel to the border, but being unable to enter the land himself because of his own sin.
Note: It is also possible GOD was concerned that Israel would idolize Moses’ remains and relics, which may have contributed to this unique divine burial.
15 Then the Lord appeared at the tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the tent. 16 And the Lord said to Moses: “You are going to rest with your ancestors, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 And in that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and calamities will come on them, and in that day they will ask, ‘Have not these disasters come on us because our God is not with us?’ 18 And I will certainly hide my face in that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.
(Deut. 31:15-18 NIV)
Here, GOD reaffirmed what Moses already knew—the Israelites would not remain faithful.
So GOD gave Moses a memorial to pass to the Israelites in advance of that sad fateful day.
The Song of Moses: The Most Important Ignored OT Scripture
GOD continued speaking to Moses, saying:
19 “Now write down this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. 20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their ancestors, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many disasters and calamities come on them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.” 22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.
(Deut. 31:19-22 NIV)
So Moses called all the people of Israel together:
31:30 And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:
32:1 Listen, you heavens, and I will speak;
hear, you earth, the words of my mouth.
2 Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.
3 I will proclaim the name of the Lord.
Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect,
and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,
upright and just is he.
5 They are corrupt and not his children;
to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation.
6 Is this the way you repay the Lord,
you foolish and unwise people?
Is he not your Father, your Creator,
who made you and formed you?
7 Remember the days of old;
consider the generations long past.
Ask your father and he will tell you,
your elders, and they will explain to you.
8 When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance,
when he divided all mankind,
he set up boundaries for the peoples
according to the number of the sons of Israel.
9 For the Lord’s portion is his people,
Jacob his allotted inheritance.
10 In a desert land he found him,
in a barren and howling waste.
He shielded him and cared for him;
he guarded him as the apple of his eye,
11 like an eagle that stirs up its nest
and hovers over its young,
that spreads its wings to catch them
and carries them aloft.
12 The Lord alone led him;
no foreign god was with him.
13 He made him ride on the heights of the land
and fed him with the fruit of the fields.
He nourished him with honey from the rock,
and with oil from the flinty crag,
14 with curds and milk from herd and flock
and with fattened lambs and goats,
with choice rams of Bashan
and the finest kernels of wheat.
You drank the foaming blood of the grape.
15 Jeshurun [Tim: Jacob] grew fat and kicked;
filled with food, they became heavy and sleek.
They abandoned the God who made them
and rejected the Rock their Savior.
16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods
and angered him with their detestable idols.
17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God—
gods they had not known,
gods that recently appeared,
gods your ancestors did not fear.
18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you;
you forgot the God who gave you birth.
19 The Lord saw this and rejected them
because he was angered by his sons and daughters.
20 “I will hide my face from them,” he said,
“and see what their end will be;
for they are a perverse generation,
children who are unfaithful.
21 They made me jealous by what is no god
and angered me with their worthless idols.
I will make them envious by those who are not a people;
I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.
22 For a fire will be kindled by my wrath,
one that burns down to the realm of the dead below.
It will devour the earth and its harvests
and set afire the foundations of the mountains.
23 “I will heap calamities on them
and spend my arrows against them.
24 I will send wasting famine against them,
consuming pestilence and deadly plague;
I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts,
the venom of vipers that glide in the dust.
25 In the street the sword will make them childless;
in their homes terror will reign.
The young men and young women will perish,
the infants and those with gray hair.
26 I said I would scatter them
and erase their name from human memory,
27 but I dreaded the taunt of the enemy,
lest the adversary misunderstand
and say, ‘Our hand has triumphed;
the Lord has not done all this.’”
28 They are a nation without sense,
there is no discernment in them.
29 If only they were wise and would understand this
and discern what their end will be!
30 How could one man chase a thousand,
or two put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
unless the Lord had given them up?
31 For their rock is not like our Rock,
as even our enemies concede.
32 Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
and from the fields of Gomorrah.
Their grapes are filled with poison,
and their clusters with bitterness.
33 Their wine is the venom of serpents,
the deadly poison of cobras.
34 “Have I not kept this in reserve
and sealed it in my vaults?
35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay.
In due time their foot will slip;
their day of disaster is near
and their doom rushes upon them.”
36 The Lord will vindicate his people
and relent concerning his servants
when he sees their strength is gone
and no one is left, slave or free.
37 He will say: “Now where are their gods,
the rock they took refuge in,
38 the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their drink offerings?
Let them rise up to help you!
Let them give you shelter!
39 “See now that I myself am he!
There is no god besides me.
I put to death and I bring to life,
I have wounded and I will heal,
and no one can deliver out of my hand.
40 I lift my hand to heaven and solemnly swear:
As surely as I live forever,
41 when I sharpen my flashing sword
and my hand grasps it in judgment,
I will take vengeance on my adversaries
and repay those who hate me.
42 I will make my arrows drunk with blood,
while my sword devours flesh:
the blood of the slain and the captives,
the heads of the enemy leaders.”
43 Rejoice, you nations, with his people,
for he will avenge the blood of his servants;
he will take vengeance on his enemies
and make atonement for his land and people.
44 Moses came with Joshua son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. 45 When Moses finished reciting all these words to all Israel, 46 he said to them, “Take to heart all the words I have solemnly declared to you this day, so that you may command your children to obey carefully all the words of this law. 47 They are not just idle words for you—they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
(Deut. 31:30-32:47 NIV)
After speaking all these words, GOD called Moses up on Mount Nebo where he viewed the promised land from afar. There, upon that mountain, Moses died.