Posts Tagged ‘the Son of God’

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:47

The Song of Moses

Today is a time for songs. The first one that I think of is “I Ran” by the 80’s British techno group, Flock of Seagulls. The chorus of the song goes like this:

 

And I ran, I ran so far away.

I just ran, I ran all night and day.

I couldn’t get away.

 

Sorry…I know that this song is now going to be playing in your head for the next half hour over and over again. It was catchy tune to say the least. And if you remember the early days of MTV when they actually played music videos 99% of time with little interruption from commercials or anything non-music, the video that went with this song was so cool! That hairdo of the lead singer, Mike Score, is memorable to this day for those of us who remember the song. His hairdo outlives the band’s popularity as was even a reference in the hilariously dark comedy, Pulp Fiction, years later. But I digress…

 

Whatever the real meaning of the song may have been for this one-hit wonder band, I am going to usurp the song this morning and give it my meaning for a day. This chorus is the story of Israel. It is the story of me. The Song of Moses here in this passage predicts the fact that the people of Israel will turn from God and He will allow things to happen to them because they have turned from. It is the same for me. I grew up knowing about God’s redemptive story. I was a preacher’s kid. I was at church every Sunday. I had the same preacher from birth until the end of my freshman year in college. He was, of course, my dad. We were there at the church all the time. The church was the family business. My mom worked outside of the home in various secretarial jobs over the years but I think she knew that her main job was to be a preacher’s wife. It was, indeed, the family business.

 

I am much like Israel in the Old Testament. They knew who God was. They had seen and experienced His mighty power. They had seen His miracles. They knew more than any other people about the one true God. Yet, they were seduced by the world around them with their fertility gods, their sexual perversions in honor of contrived gods of their own making. They knew the real God but they ran away from Him because sin seemed so much easier than obeying God. I was the same way. I ran. I ran so far away. I just ran. I ran all night and day. From childhood, I was a fitter-inner. I would rather fit in that do what was right. I would rather be like the kids in the neighborhood than stand up for my brother who was the king of the brainiacs, and all that such meant socially. I was a chameleon. I would rather be a part of the crowd than obey God’s commands. I would obey God and do what was right as long as it did not cost me anything socially. That continued into adulthood. I would have moments of closeness with the God that I had known since I could form cogent thoughts. However, if it required any kind of loss, any kind of social pain, any kind of standing out from the crowd, I would bail. I would run. I would run so far away. I would just run. I would run all night and day.

 

I was Israel. I worshipped other gods. I worshipped good times. I worshipped women and the amazing things their bodies offer. I would do anything for the approval of the woman in my life. I made the women in my life my gods. I made good times my god. I lived for wine, women and song. Was I Israel or what? When I hear people talk about how they avoid reading the Old Testament, I stand amazed. I stand amazed because it is my life story. I knew God from the inside. I was a preacher’s kid. I was part of the family of God without accepting Him as my God. Just like Israel. If you don’t read the Old Testament, you will never see yourself as plain as day as an example of the people of Israel. The people of Israel knew God inside and out. They knew Him. It was taught to them from birth. But they wanted the easy way out. They wanted to follow their lusts and desires. They wanted to just run. Run so far away. Just run all night and day.

 

The chorus from the Flock of Seagulls song was what came to mind this morning when I read the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 31:30-32:47. Let’s read it together now:

 

31:30 And Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel:

 

32 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,[a]

    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.[b]

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[c] 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.[d]

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,[e][f]

    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[g] 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.”

 

The song that Moses recited to the people takes up the better part of chapter 32. Deuteronomy 32:44 says that Joshua aided Moses in the recitation of this inspired song. The same day that Israel learned the Song of Moses, God directed Moses to climb Mt. Nebo, where Moses would be laid to rest (verses 48–50).

 

The song begins with a universal call to listen, followed by praise of the just, faithful, and upright God (Deuteronomy 32:1–4). In contrast to God’s faithfulness is Israel’s unfaithfulness (verses 5–6). The song proceeds to recite the history of Israel from their time of bondage in Egypt, through their wilderness wanderings, to their established place in the Promised Land (verses 7–14). The Song of Moses then becomes prophetic: Israel’s future ingratitude and idolatry are predicted, as are the judgments of God for their sin (verses 15–31). Then God promises to avenge Israel against their (and His) enemies, showing compassion on His people (verses 32–42). The song ends on a joyful note, as God’s punishment is past, righteousness is restored, and the land of Israel cleansed (verse 43).

 

A major theme of the Song of Moses is God’s faithfulness. He is called “the Rock” four times in the song (Deuteronomy 32:15, 18, 30–31). Even as God’s people are chasing whims and trusting feeble gods, God remains their steadfast, unchanging Source of Salvation.

 

The last words of the Song of Moses are a promise that God will “make atonement for his land and people” (Deuteronomy 32:43). This is a significant promise, because the atonement for God’s people is none other than the sacrifice of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:20).

 

Getting back to my song lyrics that I began with, I Ran, by the Flock of Seagulls. The final line of the chorus is the one line that I have not yet repeated but was saving for now – “couldn’t get away”. I ran so far away. Couldn’t get away. Even though I ran away from God, much like Israel, Israel and I could not get away from Him. He will allow circumstances of our runaway path lead us to the point that we have ourselves painted into a corner. Our life becomes a shambles. We have nowhere to turn but to return home to the God who created us. For me, it was not until I was 39 years old that came to know the saving grace of God through Jesus Christ. I knew God but never really KNEW God until that moment that I accepted His love for me through what Jesus had done on the cross. I knew the redemption story but had never accepted it. I ran. I ran so far away. Just ran. I ran all night and day. But…couldn’t get away. I heard a saying from a friend the other day (and I am sure he read it somewhere), “God takes our mess and turns it into a message!” It was not until I had made a complete mess of my life. I rebelled. I ran. I blended into the culture and argued against the existence of God. I picked and choosed what parts of Scripture I liked. I changed interpretations of Bible passages to suit my needs. I made Jesus into a rebellious prophet who got Himself killed. I made him into a political rebel that I really liked. I made Jesus into a great philosopher. But I ran away from the Jesus as Son of God thing and that He was God in the flesh. That was too hard. To have faith was too hard. It was easier to be like the crowd. It was easier to fit in and worship things, people, gods of my own making. The gods of my own making allowed me to make the rules, not the Creator who created me.

 

To end up today’s blog about the Song of Moses, we will use another song. This one is by a Christian contemporary group called Vertical Church Band. The song is called “The Rock Won’t Move”. The chorus of that song goes like this:

 

The Rock won’t move and His word is strong

The Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone

The Rock won’t move and His word is strong

The Rock won’t move and His love can’t be undone

The Rock of our Salvation

 

This rock imagery is so true of God. He never moves. He is like a solid rock that is immovable. God does not leave. We move. We move away from Him. We try to run after other gods but He is still there. He is immovable. His truth and His justice and His mercy are forever the same. Ignoring or running from God does not make Him go away. He is truth and His truth remains consistent and eternal no matter how we try to change it or cover it up or say that we know better than He. The Rock doesn’t move. We do.

 

Return oh ye sinners unto the Lord and beg His forgiveness for our wanderings and our running, our running so far away, our running all night and day. Because as the “Rock Won’t Move” goes onto say:

 

My hope is in the promise of Your blood

My support within the raging flood

Even in the tempest, I can sing

I’m hidden safe in the God who never moves

Holding fast to the promise of Your truth

That You are holding tighter still to me

 

Woah, woah

Woah, the Rock of our salvation

 

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand

All other ground is sinking sand

The Rock won’t move, the Rock won’t move

When darkness seems to hide His face

I rest in His unchanging grace

The Rock won’t move, the Rock won’t move

Come back home. Quit running. You’ve been running all night and day. It’s time to come home to the Rock that never moved.

 

Amen and Amen.

Advertisements

Matthew 16:1-4
Leaders Demand A Miraculous Sign

As many of you know, I am big fan of Clemson University. I have been a fan since I was old enough to watch a sporting event and understand what was going on. My oldest daughter is a graduate of the school. And, as you know, Clemson came up short two days ago in the national championship game for major college football. Prior to the game, it was an example of what my Tigers had experienced all season long. They were going up against the vaunted SEC power, Alabama, who had just crushed Michigan State in one of the semi-final games. Little old Clemson did not stand a chance against the big beefy boys of Alabama’s offensive and defensive lines. We are an ACC team so that means we are weak. We might as well have not even played the game. No one believed that the Tigers, though undefeated and ranked #1, would even be competitive against Bama. Before that Oklahoma was supposed to run roughshod all over the Tigers but the opposite happened. All season long we weren’t supposed to win the big games (Notre Dame, Florida State, North Carolina). Each of those games, everyone predicted losses. Even in the games where we were clearly the superior team, people still doubted the Tigers. Sure, there were games where they should have trounced people but only beat them by 15 or 20 points and maybe during the regular season they played only one game with complete precision on both sides of the ball (the 58-0 victory over Miami). However, they were like the Al Davis motto, “Just win, baby.”

They came into the Alabama game 14-0 having always found a way to win either through defensive domination or through simply outscoring their opponent. Some games the won with their ground game. Some games were won through the air. Others required the defense to be the stars of the game. They just won. Even in the championship game, though they lost, the forced Alabama to dig deep to win against them, and only lost the national championship game by 5 points and with the absence of one or two mistakes could have won the thing. Are there going to be doubters next year? Sure there will be. But, the team cannot control that. All they can do is what they do on the field. Sometimes, people already have their mind made up about you. In college football, there is this perception that since Clemson plays in the ACC that they are not championship caliber and they will doubt the Tigers every time they play a major game. OK, so you won this game but, man, you surely aren’t gonna win that game against X Team two weeks from now. They have their minds made up. All the Tigers can do is line up and play the games and let their work speak for itself.

In this passage, the lack of respect, the doubt and demands for signs of greatness from the Clemson team were constant this year. If you win this game, we’ll respect you…wait a minute, you gotta win this game for me to respect you….well, you won that but can you win this one. That was frustrating for the team and it had to be frustrating for Jesus in this passage to hear demands for another miracle. What more did he have to do prove that He was who He says He is. Let’s read the passage together:
16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

2 He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.[a] 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
This is the question that plagues Jesus today. People are still doubting Him as the Son of God. There is no doubt that this man existed. It is commonly accepted that Jesus was an actual historical figure. Even many atheists will concede that Jesus existed. However, when it comes to making Him into the Son of God people still doubt Him today. We either reject the claim outright and make him into just a great historical figure and self-help guru or we may believe in Him but we do not fully trust that He really is the Son of God.

I say it plain and simple here. Anyone who does not believe Jesus is the Son of God is not a Christ follower and is not saved. We can say we love Jesus but not believe in Him. Many people today love a lot of what Jesus said but they do not believe IN HIM. To the non-believer, Jesus is a self-help guru with profound things to say about life and they use His Words often but yet they do not believe in Him as the Son of God. Man, that is just too far-fetched to believe in. Yet, these are the same people that accept on faith that there was no master designer for the universe. They think that the universe just spontaneously for no apparent reason created itself. They are willing to believe that but not that God would come to earth as a man. They throw out the very laws of physics that they hold in such high regard when it comes to creation. Everything in the physical universe is about action and reaction. Instigations of actions cause reactions in a chain of events that continues to this day. However, it all started by itself? No reaction to an action? If we remove God from creation then we can remove God from Jesus and make Him just a man. We can make Him a philosopher of great impact. We can make him a peace loving hippie who accepts all things. When we remove God as the ruler of all things and the creator of all things, we can make what Jesus says just one of many options that we can pick and choose to suit our lifestyle. If Jesus were here today and made claims to be the Son of God, these would be the people that would request miracles on demand. Prove yourself. Much like the football world was demanding proof from the Clemson Tigers, so would these people demand miraculous signs from Jesus. We would rather live life the way we have it than entertain the thought of their being a single way to heaven. We would rather live life the way we have it than there being moral absolutes and judgment for sin. We would rather control our own destiny than submit our will to that of God. These are the people that would demand signs from Jesus when He returns in the clouds to the sound of trumpets in the eastern sky. There will be no doubt then that Jesus is the Son of God, but there will be doubters then too.

For the Christ follower, we often times do not really take it in that Jesus is the Son of God. That Jesus was God in the flesh and walked among is, we do not truly take it in. Think about it. The God of the Universe. The Creator who set the universe in motion through his voice. He created the action that caused the reaction that set the laws of physics that we know into motion. He created the intricate world in which we live that is so completely detailed and full of interdependent working systems that work together to create life as we know it and yet this is just one planet in a vast universe and it is a vast universe that we are only scratching the surface of understanding. God made all that. He orchestrates all that. Yet, in his love for us, His created beings in His image, he broke into human history and became a man. Born as a mere babe. God humbled himself to go through all the things we do growing up and becoming a man. He then gave himself up on the cross for us as a completion of the sacrificial system established in the Old Testament to atone for sins. He is the once and final sacrifice. Through his perfect life, He is the completion and culmination of the sacrifices for the atonement of sin. He died that day at Calvary so that if we would only believe in Him and turn away from our life of unrepentant sinning, He would cover us before the Lord. That is love. That is the Son of God come down to earth. This is what we believe as Christians. We believe that God himself came to earth and walked among and gave Himself up for us. When you believe that, there is no other way to heaven. God only did that once. He could not come in various forms and offer contradictory truths. God is absolute. God is truth. There is only one God and thus one truth and one way. We believe that. We believe in this mighty God who created the universe. We believe that God came down to earth and lived among us. We believe in all this mighty power and displayed love, but yet we doubt still. Even as Christ followers, we sometimes doubt in this Jesus that we believe in. We doubt that He can change the foulest heart. We doubt He can change our husbands or our wives so we take it upon ourselves to do it rather than praying to our God and asking Him to change a person. We doubt that God can heal diseases. We doubt that God can change our situation. We doubt Him at every turn almost. We may be confident that God can change the small stuff but we do not trust Him sometimes with the big stuff like changing the hearts of a nation, repairing a marriage, redeeming a lost soul, and so on. We as Christ followers may even demand signs from the Lord. I will follow your calling if you miraculously pay off my mortgage. I will go in the ministry if you do x, y, and z. And when God makes it clear that he has done x, y, and z, then, you doubt Him still and say, well, Lord, I will do it if you go beyond the end of the alphabet and into the double alphabet. I see you have done X, Y, and Z but you must do AA now. Then, I will believe. Let us be Christ followers who trust and believe in the mighty God that we say we believe in. Let us believe in what we say we believe in and take it seriously that Jesus is who He says He is. No need for signs to remove doubt. Just full-on, all-in belief.

Amen and Amen.