A very marvelous chapter it is — a song and a prophecy, in which the poet-seer seems to behold the whole future spread before him as in a map, and it is so vivid to him that he describes it rather as a matter present or past, than as a thing which is yet to be. It is the story of God’s dealing his chosen and peculiar people, Israel, from the beginning to the end. The commencement is exceedingly noble.
Deu_32:1-3. Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
All through, the song is for the glorification of God; not a syllable, indeed, in which man is held up to honour, but the Lord alone is exalted in his dealings with his people. He is the rock. All other things are the mere cloud that hovers on the mountain’s brow; but —
Deu_32:4. He is the rock,
Deu_32:4. His work is perfect:
Sometimes very terrible and very mysterious, but his work is perfect.
Deu_32:4. For all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
But as for his people, what a contrast between them and their God!
Deu_32:5. They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
What a stoop from the God of truth, without iniquity, to a people full of iniquity — a perverse and crooked generation. We never know so much of our own vileness as when we get a clear view of the excellency of God. What said Job? “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
Deu_32:6. Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
Who made the Jews to be a people? Who set Israel apart to be a nation? Who, but God, who bought them with a price when they came out of Egypt, and, in his fatherly care, led them through the wilderness?
Deu_32:7-8. Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
God’s first point in the government of the world was his own people. Everything else was mapped out after he had set apart a place for them — a place sufficient, large, fruitful, and in an admirable position, that there they might multiply and enjoy all the good things which he so freely gave them; and to this day dynasties rise and fall, kings reign or are scattered by defeat, only with this one point in God’s eye, and purpose in his mind —the upholding of the Church in the world — the spread of his glorious truth.
Deu_32:9-12. For the LORD’S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings: So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
This is the history of the tutoring of Israel in the wilderness. When they came out of Egypt they were a mere mob of slaves, degenerate by the debasing influence of long bondage. They had to be trained before they were lit to be a nation. Now in all this, let us try to see ourselves. What has God wrought for those of us who are his people in bringing us out from the bondage of sin? and how graciously does he this day preserve us as a man guards the apple of his eye! No sooner does anything come near the eye than up goes the hand instinctively to shield the eye. And let anything happen to the people of God, and the power of God is ready at once for their defense. An eagle has to teach her young eaglets to fly. She will take them on her wings, so they say; cast them off, and let them flutter, and then dash down and come reader them and bear them up again till she has taught them to use their wings. And the Lord has been doing this with many here — apparently casting them off, only that, when they fall, underneath them may be the everlasting arms. We have to be trained to faith. It is a difficult exercise for such poor creatures as we are. We are being trained for it at this day. After they had been thus tutored, they were brought into the promised land, which Moses never entered, but yet in his vision of prophecy he sees it all.
Deu_32:13-14. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.
It was a very fruitful land, abounding not merely in necessaries, but in luxuries. Palestine bear to its inhabitants all that heart could wish, and for a long time, while they were faithful to God, they lived in the midst of plenty.
Deu_32:15. But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked:
“The little holy nation” — for I suppose that is the meaning of “Jeshurun.” It is a diminutive word — “the little religious nation waxed fat. It abounded in prosperity. It grew stout and kicked.”
Deu_32:15. Thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
Alas! alas! alas! they set up calves in Bethel. They turned aside to Ashtaroth, and worshipped the queen of heaven.
Deu_32:16-17. They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils,
Demons — not to God.
Deu_32:17. Not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
There is nothing new in religion that is true. The truth is always old. But only imagine a new God! And verily we have had lately some new fashions brought up — some new styles of worship. I think they call them mediaeval. They certainly are no older then that — “new gods that newly came up, whom your fathers feared not.”
Deu_32:18. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
Israel was nothing apart from God — a little tribe of people — nothing to be compared with the great nations of the earth. Its only reason for existence was its God. He was its center, its light, its glory, its power. They had got away from him that formed them.
Deu_32:19-20. And when the LORD saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters. And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
There is the mischief — want of faith. Want of faith leads to all manner of sin. Oh! that we had a strong elastic faith to realize the unseen God, and keep to purely spiritual worship, not wanting symbols, signs, and outward tokens, all of which are abominable in his sight, but worshipping the unseen in spirit and in truth. But the Lord said: —
Deu_32:21. They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
And so the idolatrous nations came and conquered Judaea. One after another, they trampled down the holy city, and let them see that God could use the nations that they despised to be a scourge upon them.
Deu_32:22-25. For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains. I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them. They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.
Now read the story of the destruction of Israel and Judea the overthrow of these two kingdoms — and you will see how, word for word, all this came tame.
Deu_32:26-27. I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men: Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the LORD hath not done all this.
God always looks out for some reason for mercy when he is dealing with his people, and he found it here — that the heathen nations would not admit that God had thus been chastening his erring people, but would begin to ascribe their victories to their own demon gods; therefore, he said he would scatter them.
Deu_32:28-30. For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them. O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the LORD had shut them up?
That little people would have been victorious over all their enemies if God had still been with them, but they were defeated and scattered because they had grieved the Lord. Oh! what strength believers might have if they would but believe! If we could but cast ourselves upon God in simple, childlike faith, we might play the Samson over again and smite our thousands. But we, too, have little faith in God, even those who have most of it; and when the time of trial comes, we also are a stiff-necked and unbelieving generation, as our fathers were.
Deu_32:31-34. For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges. For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter: Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps. Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?
What an awful text! God lays man’s sins by — seals them up amongst their treasures, that they should not be forgotten, and he will bring them to account.
Deu_32:35-36. To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste. For the LORD shall judge his people,
He will not always let his enemies triumph over them. He will come back to his people whom he seemed to cast away. “The Lord shall judge his people.”
Deu_32:36. And repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
He seemed very angry, but how soon he comes back in love and tries his people over again.
Deu_32:37-39. And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me; I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.