DEUTERONOMY 31:1 – 32:52 and LUKE 1:1–38
We are now coming down to the last words of Moses before he departs. He lived to the age of 120 so we know that this was spoken in his last year. His age and life can be broken down into 3 categories: 1) Called-His first 40 years were spent growing up in the house of Pharaoh. 2) Chosen-His 2nd 40 years (40-80) were spent in obscurity in the land of Midian. 3) Faithful-His last 40 years (80-120) were spent leading the children of Israel from Egypt through the wilderness. The Bible establishes the 3 tier level of believers by way of many examples. We see in it Moses Tabernacle with its 3 divisions. We have the fathers, young men and little children (1 John 2:12-14). There are the three divisions from Rev 12 consisting of the man-child, the woman and the remnant. There are also the well-known divisions of the called, chosen and faithful from Rev 17:14. There are many more that can be cited. Moses has led an amazing life. He was the Bible’s best teacher outside the Lord Himself. He was given the privilege of standing in the presence of God on numerous occasions. He beheld and came to know the nature of God. (Exo 34:6). Still, in spite of his greatness he failed at Meribah when he smote the rock twice in anger resulting in his being denied access to the promised land of Canaan (Num 20:11). He sums up the whole discourse concerning his life by saying the following:
Deu 31:6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
We will later find Joshua echoing the same words as he assumed the leadership mantle from Moses (Jos 1:9). Moses then calls up Joshua in sight of all the people and again gives the charge of being of good courage and to know that the Lord will not fail the people. It is interesting to note that word “courage” as Moses speaks to the people, as he speaks to Joshua and when Joshua speaks to the people after assuming the leadership role. They were told to be courageous 38 years earlier but failed in taking the Word of the Lord to heart (Num 13:20). The attribute of courage will most certainly be needed to meet the challenges of the last days. One of the blessings of courage is in its ability to make us strong in heart (Psa 27:4, Psa 31:24).
We also have a beautiful picture of succession taking place. The people needed to be assured that the ongoing journey would be in very capable hands. Moses did not hide his successor from the people. He openly endorsed Joshua and there was no doubt about the next line of leadership.
In verses 16-22 the Lord makes clear to Moses that Israel will go astray in spite of all the warnings that were given. This is an amazing statement being made to Moses. He could not have been more emphatic in his warnings and declarations. Interestingly, God instructs Moses to write a song that highlights the dealings of God with Israel from the time of Adam. There is something about putting an experience to song. We all know the song “Amazing Grace” and have been blessed by its message. Many also know the song “It is well” and the price that was paid in expressing the reality of that experience. This song is to be sung as a reminder to Israel after they settle in Canaan as well as to the generations to come. Moses immediately responded by writing the song the same day. It is recorded in chapter 32. We need to bear in mind that Moses was constantly reminding the children of Israel of the blessings of obedience as well as the consequences in disobeying God. He now is about to summarize his instructions to a song. This helps us to understand why certain songs have such meaning to believer’s today; even songs written hundreds of years ago.
Moses instructs the Levites to take a book of the Law and lay it beside the Ark of the Covenant. This is not to be confused with the two tables of stone that are already placed inside the Ark. The Law was to serve as a witness when they would rebel. Moses then somewhat chides the people by saying that they rebelled while he was alive; what then will they do after he dies? He already has been told by God that they would turn after other gods. This had to be perplexing for Moses. On one hand he had been faithfully warning the people; teaching God’s laws and precepts and now in the end knowing that they will turn away.
One of the attributes of Moses was His knowing God and His ways. God in His foreknowledge knew Adam would sin yet delivered unto Him the Law (Gen 2:16-17). Moses, as he is nearing death is yet experiencing more of the heart of God. He has been delivering to them the laws of God that he knew would be violated. Moses also saw the big picture and the end of the matter. In the last days we will see Moses as a type of Christ, as one of the two witnesses. The Law that he has been teaching will again be expressed. In the last days there will be a people who will embrace and uphold that law. God in reality was being extremely merciful to Moses. This revelation of God to Moses is extraordinary. He may not be entering into Canaan to experience the joy of Israel’s inheritance but his words of instruction have far greater meaning to the church of the last days. Moses will have the privilege of testifying once more in the last days but this time there will be a kingdom of priests that will hearken. God is so good.
Moses immediately responded to God by writing a song that reflected Israel’s journey from the time of Adam up to their journey towards Canaan. The song is poetic; it captured the goodness of God, the warnings of God as well as the responses of the people. One of the songs we sing today is taken from verses 3 and 4. “Ascribe greatness to our God the Rock…” The song describes God as perfect and that He is a God of Truth and Justice. This song has been such a personal blessing to me, having led in worship and singing it congregationally. There is a reinforcing quality regarding the attributes of God that gets into one’s spirit.
This chapter needs to be read carefully due to its expression of God’s heart through his servant Moses who is about to pass from the scene. The song also served as a reflection as to what their forefathers witnessed (vs 7-8). The goodness of God is conveyed in how God caused Israel to be blessed in every way, through their harvest and abundance (vs 13-14). This then gave way to complacency and idolatry as they became “fat” in their own strength and ways. The song then expresses the jealousy of God and how He allows for other nations to be moved against His people. Remember, this song is poetic in nature and this is seen as the Lord even speaks about hell (vs 22). It becomes clear that this song is more than just a record of their current journey. It is a summary of the 6000 years of man making it a song of note for our day. The song presents a most important truth in verses 28 and 29.
“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!”
There is something about eternity that needs to capture our attention. Right now we have the advantage of choice; we are alive and able to think upon these truths and decide as to whether we will heed or disregard them. The people of Moses day and the many generations that were to come no longer have that advantage. Did the people heed and take the warnings to heart? It is very sobering to think of the eternal regret that many would have, knowing they can never undo their disobedience. You sense the Lord’s pleading in this song that there would be understanding, to see the big picture and to consider the end of the matter.
The life we are living today can teach us appropriate lessons. Let’s take marriage as an example. A potential spouse can look so right as being the right one. We can envision how everything will fall into place as one looks to become a newlywed. In such situations do we look to God for His thoughts? God knows the end of the matter and we do well to enquire accordingly. The here and now can be so deceptive, even in church related ministries. We have to be so very careful. I am finding that God is more interested in our lives, the choices we make etc. then we give Him credit for. It is one thing to enquire about the end of the matter in things pertaining to this life; what about eternity? This to me is one of the reasons for the song of Moses. It is to be a clear record of history that has dual meaning for the current and future generations of people. Moses learned the value of time and was able to put things into proper perspective.
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psa 90:12
It is interesting to look at Psalm 90 because it reflects the heart of the song of Moses seen here in chapter 32. I must assume that they are written in close proximity to one another. Moses is crying out for wisdom and it is on clear display in this psalm. In Deu 32:28-29 we see Moses talking about the need for understanding. These are both holy place anointings. In reflecting upon these instructions of Moses I become all the more burdened in seeing the church being brought from the outer court into the Holy Place. Our teaching in these last days must reflect the heart of the Lord’s pleading through Moses. Is the church at large teaching along the lines of Moses instruction as seen in Deuteronomy? If it was warranted in his day how much more in these last days? Lord, please help us to apply our hearts to wisdom and understanding.
The Gospel of Luke will be very different than what was seen in Mark. Luke was a physician and had a meticulous, investigative nature about him. His Gospel is not a first-hand witness but an account received at the hands of others who did witness the ministry of the Lord. Though Luke did not walk alongside Jesus, his Gospel is yet well presented, covering aspects of Jesus and others not seen in the other writings. This speaks to the beauty of the body of Christ. Each of the Gospel writer’s has their unique style of expression. The Truth of God is never compromised as it comes forth from differing personalities. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. There is a uniqueness in each individual which reflects the glory of God.
Luke and Mark in many ways are complete opposites by way of personality. Their respective personalities are reflected in the way their Gospels are presented. In verses 5-25 Luke develops a bit of history surrounding John the Baptist. We understand that his parents were Zacharias, a priest and Elisabeth. They were an upright couple who walked in the ordinances of God (vs 5-6). We also know that Elisabeth was barren and well beyond the years of normal childbearing (vs 7). Zacharias, while functioning in his office as a priest received a visitation from an angel of the Lord. He was at the altar of incense in the temple and it was said that his prayer had been heard. The altar of incense speaks of intercession; it is where the prayers of the saints as incense would rise to the Lord. He was promised that a son would be born and that he was to call him John. There is a rather full description as to the manner of person and ministry that John would have. I would like to focus in on verse 17.
“And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
We know that the last verses of the Old Testament speak to the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children (Mal 4:4-6). John the Baptist is going to give a vivid portrayal of the power that will be seen in Elijah in the last days as one of the two witnesses. John the Baptist is not Elijah but his ministry will so be likened to him. It is interesting to see the names of both Moses and Elijah coming up in our studies. In Deuteronomy we have been considering how Moses will be returning as the lawgiver in the last days; (Mal 4:4) now we are looking at a type of Elijah. His ministry makes clear that the ministry of Restoration will be prominent. Secondly, we see that John will be preparing the way of the Lord by making straight the paths. We can say that Elijah will be doing much the same in preparing the way for the 2nd coming of Christ. What is the primary focus of the church today? Is its focus emphasizing the preparation for the bride to meet the bridegroom? Is the focus putting an emphasis on repentance as John the Baptist did? Consider the following verse as expressed by John.
“And now the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” Math 3:10
God is after fruit from our lives. He specifically looks for the fruits of the Spirit to be developed within the life of a believer. In order for fruit to materialize there has to be a pruning. There has to be the ability for the Lord to get after the root issues that lurk within our hearts. This is the New Covenant reality. It is the Word of God likened to a sword that has the ability to sift through the distinction of soul and spirit which gets to the heart (Heb 4:12). It is in the heart where the issues (root) of life originate. In order for there to be true restoration there has to be the New Covenant reality of heart circumcision. Unless one gets to the root issues there will never be true restoration. This is why Moses precedes Elijah in the final 3 verses of Malachi. Moses, in his capacity as the minister of law paves the way for Elijah to be able to be the restorer of hearts. The world today is sorely broken and in need of restoration. Most church theologians would agree that there will be the restoration of the backslider but little or no emphasis is given to the New Covenant where the law of God is established upon the fleshly tables of the heart. True Restoration must be preceded by the axe getting to the root. John the Baptist will be a great man and he needs to be studied. He is a clear picture of what the ministry of Elijah will be like in the last days.
The first portion of Luke 1 was focused on John the Baptist. The attention now comes upon Mary who was told that she would be carrying the seed of the promised Son of God, Jesus (vs 26-38). One of the greatest declarations of faith found in scripture is when Mary remarked “be it unto me, according to thy Word”. This sudden visitation she experienced, coupled with the astounding revelation of what God was going to do through her had to be overwhelming. Yet, she could say, Be it unto me, according to thy Word. May we learn to apply this principle in our own lives when God seeks to impart faith.
In verses 40-56 Mary and Elisabeth have a beautiful time together as they share their respective testimonies. It had to be an extraordinary three months that they spent together. Within the wombs of these two women were the seeds of extraordinary men, one of them being the Son of God. These seeds were going to turn the known world and the generations to come upside down. These two seeds were prophesied of throughout the whole of the Old Testament. One in particular, was the seed who would die for the sin of man, the seed who was in fact the creator of the world. The Son of God allowed Himself to be concealed within the womb of a humble young woman. It is all so mind-boggling. The greatness and splendour of God originating in seed form in such simplicity. Mary expresses her joy by singing a song that reflects her joy; a song that is also prophetic in nature (vs 46-56).
In verses 67-80 we have the declaration of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. While under the unction of the Holy Ghost he begins to prophesy about his son. He speaks that he will one day be called the prophet of the highest; he will go before the Lord to prepare His way. Zachariah gave a clear word of the ministry that John would have. John would bring forth the knowledge of salvation and the message of repentance of sins (vs 77).
In verse 80 it says of John that he grew and waxed strong in spirit. It also mentions that he was in the deserts till the day of his unveiling. There were many years of being hidden for John as he was being prepared for his work. There were seasons of being in desert(s). We know that the Lord Himself was hidden for many years (Isa 49). It is the hidden and obscure years when the Lord oftentimes does His best work in one’s life. The difficulty is being able to reconcile some of those seasons when they happen to occur.
John was being prepared for about 30 years before heaven’s spotlight came upon him. His open ministry was but a mere fraction of his time on earth but look at its fruit. It is the hidden years, and the work we allow the Lord to do in our lives that will often determine the success of the work that the Lord has called us to. Israel wandered for two years in the wilderness, being tested on 10 occasions and eventually failed to enter into their inheritance. Those 10 failings were tests during hidden and obscure times that eventually disqualified Israel from something God was preparing for them (Num 14:22). It is not easy being hidden and then placed in the quiver of the Lord. One may even be ready but it may not be the timing of the Lord. When God presented John and brought him into the fullness of his ministry he was both prepared and in the perfect timing of God. It is in the hidden seasons in our lives when we have opportunity to wax strong in Spirit. Once again, it is our doctrine that will either hold us or divert us during such times. There have been seeds that have been planted and prepared for our day. Will those seeds of faith have expression and fulfilment in and through our lives?