We have been anticipating this song, but the time has now come to learn it. The theme of the song echoes many of the themes of the entire book of Deuteronomy. Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth . . . (Dt. 32:1-52).
The song begins, and the witnesses of heaven and earth are summoned (vv. 1-6). Vv. 7-14 contains an historical review, and the speech of the prosecutor. The specific charge against Israel is found next (vv. 15-18). God as the judge then pronounces the sentence (vv. 19-26). A lamentation follows (vv. 27-33). In v. 34, the judge deliberates. The decision following that deliberation is next (vv. 35-42). The concluding doxology is found in v. 43. When the song is concluded, Moses gives a final exhoration (vv. 44-47). God then commands Moses to climb the mountain where he will die (vv. 48-52).
This is doctrinal rain. Heavens and earth are called as witnesses (v. 1). The teaching of the song will fall like soft, life-giving rain (v. 2). The point is to ascribe greatness to God (v. 3), who is a Rock without iniquity (v. 4). The people are notably unlike Him in this (v. 5). Is this how you pay Him back, O Israel (v. 6)? Is this how you repay your father?
Remember the days of old, consider the years (v. 7) God divided the sons of Adam in accordance with the number of the sons of God (v. 8, LXX). But Israel was not like the others; they were God’s portion (v. 9). As Israel’s God, He took them under His protection (vv. 10-11). God led them, there were no other gods (v. 12). And the Lord God blessed Israel enormously (vv. 13-14).
But Jesurun waxed fat and kicked. Blessings are intended to bring gratitude, but they frequently bring insolence (v. 15). What is the nature of the provocation? Always idolatry (v. 16). The demonic nature of idolatry is plainly stated (v. 17). In short, they forgot their God who formed them (v. 18).
So judgment falls. God abhorred His sons and daughters and their provocations (v. 19). He turned His face away to see what would become of those without faith (v. 20). I am their God and their are my people. If they insist on provoking me to jealousy with their worship of no-God, then I will provoke them to jealousy with my salvation of no-people (v. 21). Judgments will follow and fall—fire, arrows, famine, heat, wild animals, the poison of serpents—and none will be spared (vv. 22-25).
But God Himself does not want their enemies to gloat (vv. 26-27). But they are a vacant nation, a hollow people (v. 28). O, that they were wise (v. 29)! They could not be defeated unless God had sold them (v. 30). The nation defeating them has no rock (v. 31), and they are a corrupt people (v. 32). Their poison is that of dragons (v. 33), that is, deceitful.
It belongs to God alone to act (v. 34). Their foot shall slide in due time (v. 35). God will judge His people (v. 36). The Lord Himself will taunt them for the impotence of their idols (vv. 37-38). God will judge, and none can hold Him back (vv. 39-42). The Gentiles are called to rejoice in that judgment (v. 43).
Moses ended the song (vv. 44-45). His last exhortation was for them to set their hearts to the law (v. 46). It is not a vain thing; how could their life be a vain thing (v. 47). And God told him to climb (vv. 48-49), and die (v. 50). He could not enter because of his sin at Meribah-Kadesh (v. 51), but he was allowed to see the land where he would one day stand with Jesus and Elijah (v. 52).
Again, we look to the New Testament for understanding. We are the no-people—this song remains a prophetic word (v. 21 and Rom. 10:19). And note v. 43 and Rom. 15:10. Vengenance is mine—vv. 35-36 are quoted in Heb. 10:30. And v. 35 is quoted in Rom. 12:19.