Sunday School Lesson
Lesson 6 (KJV)
Song of Moses
Devotional Reading: Exodus 14:21–31
Background Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:30–32:47
Deuteronomy 32:3–6, 10–14, 18
3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
5 They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
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?
10 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.
11 As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
12 So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
13 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;
14 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.
18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
He said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.—Deuteronomy 32:46
God’s Exceptional Choice
Unit 2: Out of Slavery to Nationhood
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Recall ways that the Lord had blessed His people.
2. Determine the identity of “they” in Deuteronomy 32:5.
3. Compose a personal song of thankfulness to the Lord.
How to Say It
A. Sing and Remember
A friend spent years caring for his mother as she experienced the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s. Over time she lost her recollection of events and decades-old relationships—even relationships with her own children.
Despite the loss of certain memories, my friend’s mother retained some ability to sing. As a devoutly religious woman, she had sung hymns all her life. Those hymns were deeply embedded; so even as she experienced the dramatic symptoms of Alzheimer’s, she could still sing of her comfort and hope in God. Her faith—and the faith of her children—was strengthened by hymns and songs of worship. The destructive nature of Alzheimer’s could not dismiss the eternal truths found in hymns, deeply instilled through years of singing and recitation.
Worship, lament, praise, and joy are reflected through the songs of Scripture. These songs give voice for people of God to express complex feelings about life and the nature of following God. In the concluding chapters of Deuteronomy, the Israelites were taught a song for their future.
B. Lesson Context
As the book of Deuteronomy comes to a close, Israel’s leader, Moses, was on the verge of death. As a result of the impending change of leadership, Moses spoke publicly for the final time. The result is several smaller speeches and songs (found in Deuteronomy 29:2–33:29) that serve as the dramatic conclusion to Moses’ ministry.
At first Moses reminded the Israelites to remember and accept the stipulations of God’s covenant (Deuteronomy 29–30). This covenant was based on God’s love for His people and their responding love and commitment to Him (see 4:37–40; 5:2–3; 6:5–6; 7:9; 11:1; 13:4). A failure to adhere to God’s requirements would result in dramatic negative consequences for Israel (see 28:15–68). In addition, Moses’ speech included a statement on his successor (31:1–8), a recitation of the law (31:9–13), and a prediction of the future (31:14–29).
In the midst of Moses’ speeches, he presented a song for the people (Deuteronomy 31:30–32:43). The song is reminiscent of psalms that celebrate the people’s relationship with God (examples: Psalms 78; 105; 106). Just as the psalms were meant for singing, so was this song of Moses (Deuteronomy 31:19, 21–22).
The three divisions of the song speak to the scope of the Israelites’ relationship with God. God’s loyalty is contrasted with their sinfulness (Deuteronomy 32:1–14). As a result, negative consequences are certain (32:15–35). However, forgiveness, healing, and protection can still be attained (32:36–43).
I. God’s Faithfulness
The song begins by calling the heavens and the earth as witnesses to the unfolding word of warning from God (Deuteronomy 32:1–2).
A. Because of His Greatness
3. Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
The object that all creation should bear witness to was the proclamation of God’s holy name. For the people of God, the centrality of the name of the Lord was crucial for their worship (Deuteronomy 12:5–6). God’s name reflected the very nature of His being (see Exodus 33:19). To misappropriate His name brought great consequences (Deuteronomy 5:11).
As God’s name was proclaimed, His greatness would be celebrated. God’s greatness is not an abstract principle, but is a specific reality. The people of Israel experienced divine greatness firsthand as they saw how God treated them during their most vulnerable moments (Deuteronomy 3:24; 9:26; see Psalm 150:2). Even the angels in Heaven will sing of God’s greatness upon seeing His victory over evil (Revelation 15:1–4).
4a. He is the Rock.
Because of God’s greatness, He is the anchor for His people—the one and only Rock, the Savior and ruler of His people (see Deuteronomy 32:15, 18; 2 Samuel 23:3).
Other biblical texts describe God a “R/rock,” referring to His stability and unchanging nature (see 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:3, 32, 47; Psalms 18:2, 31; 28:1; 62:2, 6–7). Later parts of this song contrast the Rock of Israel with the weak gods of Israel’s enemies (Deuteronomy 32:31, 37). The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was “the stone of Israel” (Genesis 49:24), steadfast for His people.
4b. His work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment.
The people of God can take refuge in God as their Rock because His work in the world is perfect (see 2 Samuel 22:31). Even when humans act unfairly and unjustly, God is flawless. His law “is perfect, converting the soul” of humans to walk in His ways of righteousness (Psalm 19:7; see 23:3).
Even when humans question, God’s acts of judgment are just and right (see Job 34:12; 37:23; Psalm 33:5; Isaiah 5:16). As a result, God requires that His covenant people live with the same high regard for just living in the world (see Deuteronomy 16:19; 24:17; Isaiah 1:17; 56:1; etc.).
4c. A God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
The song continues to laud the greatness of God. The truth of His name is fulfilled in His faithfulness to His people (Isaiah 25:1; see Psalm 33:4). His true faithfulness is demonstrated as He is holy, without iniquity, in all that He does (Zephaniah 3:5).
This song makes clear that God is worthy to be worshipped because of His holiness and perfection. These attributes are displayed through His just and right ways. His ways are to be imitated by His people (Hosea 14:9; see Exodus 23:1–9).
What Do You Think?
What are some attributes of God’s greatness that you can discern?
How might Psalms 90:1–2; 147:5; Isaiah 66:1–2; Jeremiah 10:10; Mark 4:35–41; John 4:24; 5:26; Acts 17:24–25; and Revelation 21:6 inform your answer?
B. Despite a Crooked Generation
5. They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
God’s people would be noticed for their lack of spiritual blemish (see Leviticus 21:17–23 for a physical reality). This implied that God desired that they live upright and righteous lives. This would include their relationships with each other and the land, and their worship of the one true God.
Certain livestock without spot were required by Israel for sacrifices (Numbers 19:2; 28:3, 9, 11; 29:17, 26). These livestock were considered to be without corruption and were set aside.
However, as the people of God corrupted themselves with unholy influences (Exodus 32:7; Deuteronomy 4:16, 25; 9:12), they took on the spot of corruption. As a result, they ran the risk of being excluded as children of God.
The opposite of God’s just ways are the perverse and crooked ways of humans. When a person is unable to make sense of the way he or she should go, wickedness thrives (see Proverbs 2:12–15). Israel had placed itself in a self-destructive position from which it could not easily escape. Despite all of Israel’s experiences of God’s divine redemption, the people of Israel had abandoned their redeemer (compare Jeremiah 32:30).
While this song refers to a specific generation, the song’s truths are timeless and applicable to God’s children in all eras. Jesus used a similar phrase to describe the unbelieving nature of some people in His audience (Matthew 17:17).
Ultimately, the children of God are tasked with living in an upright manner—obedient to the commands of God. Believers can do so as they are redeemed by the blood of Christ, the “lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19). As a result, their lives can shine in the dark, crooked ways of the world (Philippians 2:14–16).
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?
The relationship between the Lord and Israel was based on Israel’s loyalty and trust (Exodus 19:5–6; Deuteronomy 7:6–16). However, the people of Israel would betray the relationship by their reliance on foreign gods (31:16). The people would be foolish and unwise when they disregarded God’s faithfulness. As a result of their foolishness, this song described how God would respond with a harsh warning and disastrous consequences (32:21–27, not in our printed text).
God cared for Israel as a father would care for his child (Deuteronomy 1:31; Hosea 11:1–2). The song’s tenderness at this point contrasts the monstrous nature of Israel’s ingratitude to God’s covenant love.
Israel’s whole identity came into existence because of the Father’s love as He bought them into His inheritance (Exodus 15:16). He made and established Israel to be His own covenanted people (Genesis 17:7–8; Exodus 6:7–8). The song reminded Israel of the source of their high value: the God who established His covenant with them.
What Do You Think?
How do believers disregard God’s commands and live foolishly and unwisely?
How should your response to sin in others differ depending on whether the person is a Christian or a non-Christian?
II. God’s Goodness
The intervening verses describe how God would “set the bounds” of His people (Deuteronomy 32:8). God brought His people—“the lot of his inheritance” (32:9)—into safety.
A. Through Protection (vv. 10–12)
10a. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him.
This song depicts God’s people—referred collectively as him—as being lost in an inhospitable, barren land. In a metaphorical sense, the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt served as a desert, an inconducive place for their flourishing. Following their exodus from Egypt, the Israelites wandered in an actual wilderness.
Yet in these trying places, God was always present for His people. He led them to places of care and rest (see Hosea 13:4–5; Jeremiah 31:2). The deserts in the Sinai peninsula, south of Judah, are quite inhospitable to travelers. The ancient singer knew the dangers to someone lost in the desert.
10b. He kept him as the apple of his eye.
The eye is one of the smallest and most sensitive parts of the human body. Yet it is also one of the most important parts of the body. Eyelashes, eyelids, eyebrows, blinking reflexes, nearly invisible membranes, and the eye socket all serve to protect the sensitive organ. Israel’s importance is reflected in the way the song describes God protecting His people as though protecting the apple of his eye.
The phrase addresses a certain level of intimacy and care between God and His people (see Psalm 17:8–9; Zechariah 2:8–9). God gave attention to Israel’s needs and took the necessary steps to protect and provide for them, all out of His love for them. Though Israel was like a wandering traveler, they would no longer fear—because God provided through the inhospitable wildernesses of life.
Apple of His Eye
If there is adequate lighting, clear vision, and appropriate proximity, I might see my reflection in the eyes of another person. By no means is this reflection clear—it’s only a glimmer. Some details in the reflection may be lacking, and clarity may linger for only a few seconds.
Rarely do I stand close enough to another person to see my reflection in their eyes. My children, however, are among the few people whose eyes I get close enough to gaze into. I wonder if they see their reflection in my eyes—for they are the apple of my eye.
The intimate relationship between God and His people leads the songwriter to speak of God’s people as the apple of God’s eye. God’s people reflect a sliver of God’s character to the world. In order for that to occur, God’s people must be close to Him. What prevents you from being close to God? You are the apple of His eye! —L. M. W.
11. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.
The second metaphor relates God’s care for His people to an eagle caring for its young. As the eaglets grow up, the parent eagle will protect them with the expanse of its wings over the nest. By describing God’s care and protection of His people in this manner, this song reflects the sentiment of the psalmist regarding God’s protection (Psalm 91:4).
Further, when eaglets learn to fly, they glide behind their mother’s wings as she beareth them in flight. The young birds learn as they express their own autonomy with the safety of the mother’s wings to catch and carry them should they fail.
By using this imagery, not only does the song highlight God’s protection but also His guidance for His people. God brought them out of Egypt and brought them to a place where they might flourish (see Exodus 19:4). They were “flying solo,” but their hope for survival was in relying heavily on the Lord God (Isaiah 40:31).
What Do You Think?
How might analogies and metaphors help readers better understand God?
What are some weaknesses or dangers of using analogies and metaphors to describe God?
12. So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
The identity of the Israelites was based in their core confession (Deuteronomy 6:4), their covenant, and the stipulations for life that resulted (5:1–10; see Exodus 20:1–6). This song celebrates the Israelites’ unique identity and relationship with the Lord; they were like a flock of sheep that their shepherd did lead.
As a part of this unique identity, Israel was not to follow any strange (that is, foreign) god. As the people followed the one true God, they maintained their freedom. However, they would not always stay on this path (see Deuteronomy 31:16).
B. By Provision
13a. He made him ride on the high places of the earth.
The song transitions to refer to Israel’s hope for their future and the many blessings that followed. If the people followed God, they would experience safety from destructive forces. They would dwell on the high places, safe from an enemy’s invasion.
Other texts describe high places as being significant locations where an interaction with God occurred (see 1 Samuel 9:12–13, 19; 1 Kings 3:2–3). However, many of these so-called high places became locations of improper worship for Israel (see Leviticus 26:30; Numbers 33:52; 1 Kings 11:7; 2 Kings 23:19; Psalm 78:58; Hosea 10:8; etc.).
13b. 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.
From this advantageous location, the people of God could be positioned above good farmland. The increase of crops from the fields would be so fruitful, they would never experience famine (see Ezekiel 36:30).
God had promised the Israelites that they would live in “a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 13:5), a land of agricultural blessing (Deuteronomy 8:7–9). That oil and honey flowed out of the rock implied abundance and satisfaction, even in inhospitable terrain (see Psalm 81:16).
14. 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.
The land and the people’s livestock would provide sustenance. The livestock would provide enough extra milk to produce butter and perhaps cheese for the people (see 2 Samuel 17:29).
A certain breed of rams from the Bashan region was highly prized. This region was likely located northeast of the Sea of Galilee and east of the Jordan River (Deuteronomy 4:47). During the time of Moses, the region consisted of 60 cities (see 3:4–6). In addition, the region was known for its other livestock (Ezekiel 39:18) and oak trees (Isaiah 2:13; Ezekiel 27:6; Zechariah 11:2).
The song returns to celebrate the agricultural blessing of the land (compare Deuteronomy 32:13b, above). The best quality of wheat—indicated by the idiom the fat of kidneys of wheat—would be accessible. Further, the vines would produce pure blood: unfermented grape juice. The land would produce abundant blessing, beyond the bare necessities needed. This section of the song describes God’s care for His people. Provision and sustenance were celebrated.
What Do You Think?
How can God’s people honor God as the source of all provisions?
What steps can you take in the coming week to share God’s provision with your neighbors?
III. People’s Apostasy
A. Disregarding Their Rock (v. 18a)
18a. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful. Despite the promises of vast blessing and numerous provisions, the song details how Israel would grow comfortable and careless. Their prosperity would lead them to a state of “waxed fat, … grown thick, … [and] covered with fatness” (Deuteronomy 32:15). In their complacency, they ignored God as the source of their blessing. Their comfort and willful ignorance would lead them to worship false gods instead of the one true God who provided for them and blessed them (32:16–17).
The song refers again to two previously used metaphors: God as a Rock (see commentary on Deuteronomy 32:4, above) and God as a parent who begat children (see commentary on 32:5, 11, above). This verse is a mixed metaphor—rocks do not have children! The resulting point is the scope of God’s relationship with Israel. He was their source of life and their sustainer.
What Do You Think?
How can believers ensure that they do not disregard God as their Rock, the source of salvation and blessing?
Who will you invite to provide accountability in this regard?
As children, my sister and I had a cat named Fluffy. Some of my fondest childhood memories revolve around Fluffy and her kittens. I remember watching her care for her kittens by protecting, cleaning, and nursing them.
One afternoon a stray kitten wandered into our yard. I wanted to keep the kitten, but my parents reminded me that Fluffy would often chase away other cats—even stray kittens. Albeit with warnings, my parents agreed to let the stray cat stay. The next morning we found Fluffy sprawled out, nursing and caring for the kitten. Fluffy’s maternal instincts had replaced her territorial tendencies.
Scripture describes how God cares for His people like a mother’s comfort (see Isaiah 66:13). What steps are you taking to remember the one who has promised to never forget you (49:15)? —L. M. W.
B. Forgetting Their Birth
18b. And hast forgotten God that formed thee.
Corporate memory can create a community identity as it allows the group members to recollect, rehearse, and codify their most important experiences together. From the remembrance the community can draw conclusions regarding how its members should act, think, and feel in the future.
Throughout Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told to remember their history and how God brought them out of slavery (Deuteronomy 5:15; 7:18; 8:2; 15:15; 16:12). The people were to go to great lengths to not forget their history. This would ensure that future generations would not have forgotten the ways God formed and maintained them (see 11:2–7; 18–21).
A. Creative Praise
Throughout church history, believers have expressed their joys, doubts, fears, and hopes in songs. These songs of worship have shaped believers into spiritually mature disciples of Jesus. Singing should not be a kind of sedative that numbs us. Rather, our singing should include repentance with praise and self-examination with satisfaction. Only in that way can singing shape us as people of God. On the surface, the nature of the song in today’s text is rather cynical; it highlights the failure of the people of Israel. Yet the song’s pointed nature leads to a declaration of hope. God’s salvation will transform and sustain, if only people remember His steadfast commitment to them. As a result, God’s people can sing of His mighty deeds, all while confessing our their own failure to appreciate them. That same sort of forgetfulness can plague Christians today when we forget that our salvation is a gift from God as He draws us into His kingdom. We did not earn that citizenship; it was given to us freely. God sustains us when we recite the story of our faith and live out its implications in our lives.
God, You are the Rock in whom we can find provision and protection. Lead us in Your ways so that we will not turn away from You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
C. Thought to Remember
God’s people sing of His provision and protection!