AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH June 24, 2007
A CONTINUATION OF THE THRUST AND BASE OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
OF AUSTRALIA ON BIBLICAL LINES …
The Third in our Series on Deuteronomy 32
ENCORE to the FORE,
Deuteronomy 32 Completes the Vision
while Man Completes His Plunge
and God Multiply Delivers His Saints!
THE DIVINE DENOUEMENT
We have been considering Deuteronomy 32, and seen the preliminary pronouncements, the setting, the purpose and the trends.
However as the prediction of Deuteronomy 32 proceeds, we come at last to the dénouement. It occurs when Israel's strength is no longer at full flow (32:36).
"When He sees that their power is gone ...", then the Lord "will judge His people".
When He sees this lapse, this lack, He does not rejoice with arrogant disdain. Rather, when a man or people humbles itself before the Lord, sees resolution in repentance, returns to the Lord with faith, calls upon His name and trusts in Him for salvation, whether with pain or prosperity, the spiritual need is met and the course of life becomes changed, like the stormy seas brought to serenity. At that, there may be conflict, but it is for victory and overcoming in a peace which passes understanding. There could be pain, but it is for improvement or testimony if need be; and there may be hatred and contempt and death, from the enemies of the Lord, but it is for the glory of God, meaningful in mastery, grand in conception, beautiful in dimension, a work in this world to stand, not in failure but in triumph for ever.
Such is His grace that even our feeble efforts are made strong, and our least cry is heard, when it is made in faith (Psalm 145:18-19, Mark 11:23-24, Matthew 17:20).
He will have compassion for He IS compassionate (cf. Micah 7:19ff.). He will as Micah foretells in the case of Israel, remember His covenant with Abraham, one which had unconditional elements concerning the land (Genesis 17:7-8). He will act (as in Zechariah 12:10-13:1, there in a spiritual mode also at the climax, as earlier in the physical - 12:1ff.), and He will deliver His erring people. It is then that the full force of the saying, "Vengeance is Mine" comes to pass (Deuteronomy 32:35).
For His afflicted people, now His by faith, He declares this (Micah 7:16-20):
"The nations shall see and be ashamed of all their might;
They shall put their hand over their mouth;
Their ears shall be deaf.
They shall lick the dust like a serpent;
They shall crawl from their holes like snakes of the earth.
They shall be afraid of the Lord our God,
And shall fear because of You.
"Who is a God like You,
And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever,
Because He delights in mercy.
"He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea.
"You will give truth to Jacob
And mercy to Abraham,
Which You have sworn to our fathers
From days of old."
At last the enemy exalted for a season, teaching Israel the price of folly, comes to its own end, at the finale, just as so many enemies have done on the way, when they have served their purpose (cf. Jeremiah 51:49, Isaiah 51:22-23). Such is the prediction for the next phase of history, for which we currently wait. A number of things now happen, and Micah 7:15 shows this as we have noted, in its terminal coverage. Here is seen the extent, the grandeur of the SCALE of this vast divine enterprise of deliverance, yes one of the scope of the Exodus when the mightiest power on earth was abased to the dirt, to the sludge of the sea. As near its beginning, so near the end, God acts for Israel.
Having seen the enemies of Israel at this juncture, characterised, we see their end discovered. "The day of their calamity is at hand" (Deuteronomy 32:35). "Their foot shall slip in due time." Things now hasten to the end. This focus on the enemies of His people continues from 32:31.
Is the foreign failure in having false gods to be overlooked ? far from it. Let their gods and rocks arise to save them, for the Lord Himself will act in His own name, and with surpassing directness. Indeed, these same words serve to remind Israel of the folly of trusting in naturalistic devices and concepts, just as their enemies now become an object lesson in the weakness which such wickedness brings, like a dividend from woeful shares, in the form of a loss of capital!
The Lord, having identified Himself in contradistinction to all natural forces, powers and cultures, whether those of fallen Israel in her spiritual promiscuity or in the other fallen races, and having apostrophised them on their papier-mâché rocks, by contrast, He Himself now acts. He has compassion on His people. Having made the point that other gods are mere naming of nullities, not God, a place of impotence before His own power as Creator and Redeemer, the Lord, declaring "there is no God beside Me", demonstrates His own prerogative to kill and make alive (32:39), to wound and to heal. .
About to exhibit as often, that there is none who can deliver from the hand (Deuteronomy 32:39) of God, who Himself lives for ever (32:40), He indicates the principle of the thing, here precisely put into direct practice. For some, these things were obscured by so many complex phenomena as Israel sinned, other nations sinned, these oppressed Israel, and all fell into the pitfall of pollution. Now however, the essential simplicity of the situation will appear. His people call on Him, where He may be found, in Christ Jesus (Zechariah 12:10 shows this); and He hears. He promised; He will do.
“IF I WHET MY SWORD ... “ - the Lord indicates, speaking very directly: and if His hand takes hold of judgment, where does it end! He will render vengeance to His enemies. The enemies of His people have exalted themselves just as Babylon once did, or as Assyria inanely did likewise (cf. Isaiah 37); and they fall in the asinine self-exaltations in which they exult, like stuffed rabbits trying to run. Israel had already suffered long; but now, they call and He acts.
Such is the oft-painted episode to come in a culminating flourish, after so many lessons and so much for so long.
"I will make My arrows drunk with blood."
Such is the message of Deuteronomy 32:42.
Thus there is the divine motive, the divine power, the divine uniqueness, the divine passion, the divine vengeance, the divine exhibition of the power of false gods and the true, the divine deliverance of oppressed Israel, despite all its sins, the divine straightening out once and for all of the record before the very eyes of the bully-boy oppressors who exalt in false gods, wholly incapable of any deliverance (cf. Ezekiel 37:23, 28). This is the tableau into which we are now brought to witness. Indeed, this is the prelude to coming fact, the divinely inspired prediction given by Moses to Israel the nation, for the culmination of its drama! Has any nation suffered more ? Who will complain!
'My sword shall devour flesh," including the blood of the heads of the leaders of the enemy.
Carnage, vengeance, deliverance of Israel amidst a vast desolation of its enemies in which divine power ruins and ravages their arrogant pretensions, where blood flows and the remedy of the riots of ages is corrected amid the nations: all this now comes into view. It is as in Isaiah 66 precisely (66:12-17), where likewise the Lord declares His intention to show "His indignation to His enemies" as He comes with chariots, to judge all flesh, and to comfort Jerusalem. It is not process but finality, not poetry but power, not release but devastation, not construction but destruction, and the recipient is as defined. It is a people who knew Him, and left Him, who knew His power and in generations failed even to recognise their Saviour, who were subjected to divine discipline, brought back to their nation and then, suddenly, with the power of God upon them, repenting, find deliverance in Christ.
It is always appalling to consider how many Pentecostalists would act to twist such contexts, which are parallel to Micah 7:15 where after such judgments the nations grovel and move for safety into holes, with some kind of spiritual experience of being 'slain'. This is tortuous twisting, as if this vengeance and desolation, this judgment and explosive lesson in vast degradation and devastation were construction and regeneration.
On the contrary, the move is shown, the result is given, the intent is clear, the appalling ravages are detailed, the inability to be delivered is exposed and the power of God versus oppressors of His people is indicated with the vast, gory loss of glory on the part of those who having resisted in natural power, lie strewn in battle, exhibits of judgment, ruined for ever, corpses for the birds (as in Revelation 19).
It is precisely such exploits of making void the word of the Lord by false traditions which the Lord detests (Mark 7:7ff.), and in which Israel itself, by His own indictment as there seen, excelled.
It shows once more that the Gentile religious world is by no means to look down on Israel, for just such things it also does. This is not to say that in either event, it is always on purpose; for blindness such as the Lord indicates of even religious Israel (as in Isaiah 42:18-19 - who is blind like My servant, or deaf as My messenger whom I send!) does not require that one see at what one stumbles.
Thus vengeance to the Lord's enemies, after so much patience and forbearance, is at last wrought and their shame and impotence is exposed in the acme of battles, the exhibit of the slain as in the Exodus (Micah 7:15). There they populated the maritime basement, were lost beneath, the sea drowning them in disaster and horror. Here is the parallel of that Exodus debacle of Pharaoh.
"Drunk with blood" in this physical reign of horror is not repentant with joy! Thus do the Gentiles, the peoples other than Israel, then have ground to rejoice that Israel, itself so astray for so long but so abused, is back in faith, in its place, like a lost brother (cf. Deuteronomy 32:43, Romans 11:12).
Here has the Lord given vengeance to His adversaries. In their day, they ruined in profundity and visibly; and here have the nations crept into their holes (Micah 7:17), being "ashamed of all their might.” Here is the epochal demonstration as in the Exodus of the omnipotence of God, of His judgment, of the annihilation of iniquity when its pride has risen to the skies, and its morals have fallen to the depths. Once it was implicit; now it is explicit. It is nothing to Pentecostalise with imaginary symbolism (Isaiah 66:16) as if being ‘slain in the Spirit’, a hideous misuse of the tenor of the text, and one able to lead to improper parodies where psychological dynamic can create mischief through misapplication.
But what of the oppressive nations, seeking to overwhelm latter day Israel, returned to its land. Once they vaunted; now they are exposed in a ruin that is international in its depravity and apparent to all. “Where are their gods!” the Lord mocks (Deut.32:37-38). It is as unfigurative as blood, and as devastatingly obtrusive as defeat before their prey, vengeance apparent. World history is transfigured through the obliterative force that exposes international pomp and pride, oppression and attacks on Israel. To be sure, this is that once sanctified and then sanctimonious people, that rebellious nation after such covenantal elevation before God. It is one unique in history as a political entity, unfaithful; but now through faith in the New Covenant Christ, it is delivered. Its long trek is over.
Thus does the Song of Moses draw near to its end. But its message continues.
UNITY IN GOSPEL AND GRACE
Irrevocable, Unrescindable, Definable, Delightful
In this way do we see expanded before us, from the day of Moses, the history of Israel, its spiritual cause and spiritual result, the derivative physical horrors suffered with the evil of its enemies which accentuate its follies, and the final overpowering of those powers in their futile blustering, by the very hand of the Lord. This ? it comes when the power of Israel is gone (Deuteronomy 32:36), so that God alone will act in His own name directly. It is then that many among the Gentiles will "rejoice" and do with "with His people."
Why will they rejoice? It is because they are back from alienation, separation and rebellion, and now have their tragic history brought to a happier fulfilment along with themselves, who also have received, this nation with that, of that blessing for all nations which in the first place was one of the major commissions and blessings of Israel itself (Genesis 12).
Now is that the Gospel of the grace of God is its place,
with the prophet who was to be and now is the replacement for Moses,
as he foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15-19,
that Messiah, Jesus Christ, who knows how to deal with the nations at war.
This is clear also in Psalm 2!
which traces the scope
of Saviour and rejection, resurrection (as in Psalm 16) and restoration,
and then His rule.
Therefore we come to an entrance of Israel in vast numbers, into the new era. This, it is as described by Paul:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor
This no more removes specifics than it allows differentiation of kind. It is one kind, and all the details are subsumed into oneness. Diversification is now in detail only, not in type.
In this way does the promise to Abraham find fulfilment:
that in a seed of his, all the nations of the earth would be blessed:
There is no playing of games in the obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), no reconstitution of that which is "ready to vanish away", no reversion from the fulfilled mission of the Messiah (Jeremiah 3:16, Galatians 1:6-9, Ephesians 1:10), no confusion of imagery with reality; for the former things have passed away. It is necessary to realise, with Hebrews 6, that there is no scope for any reversion to the sacrificial system of yore, recasting of history: it is finished indeed.
Thus abhorrent indeed is any thought of animal sacrifice now that the Lord has exposed His heart and His arm (Isaiah 66:3), nor any place for self-exaltation or the derivation of differences in national recouping (Isaiah 2,19), as if the disastrous repudiations of Israel in its anti-Messianic category - Isaiah 65:13-15 and 30:8ff.,Zechariah 11:10ff. had never been made, and Isaiah 19:20ff. had never been written.
There is no glory for ANY (Isaiah 2:11). All are ashamed and none exalts himself, his nation or his will or way. Even the human will itself, is derogated into its own shame (John 1:12, Romans 9:16, John 15:1-7), for it too is corrupted. Yet for all that, in the love of God, the human heart is known, and though sin excludes all but from grace and in mercy, yet seeing all past sin's domain, region and regime, God foreknows apart from works, His own. In His knowledge, as elemental and comprehensive as that of Adam before he fell, there is no difference in what would choose, as that fallen first man did (Romans 5, Genesis 3). Where sin is not seen in possession, the no differential of morals, sensitivity or susceptibility exists, since nothing is dulled at all!
When sin is not present there is no differentiation of inheritance, and when God sees, He knows all. When sin is absent, will is present, and though will be disabled in this realm by sin (I Corinthians 2:14), yet when God determines, He envisages all. Man being so made that will expresses love and hate, loyalty and disloyalty, so it is implemented. Hence is man - not the Jew only or the nation only - responsible; and indeed, it is BECAUSE they preferred darkness to the light of Christ, duly come among them, that they are condemned (as shown in the context of John 3:19).Moreover, as Christ Himself declared, HIMSELF the eternal word of God: IF they had NOT seen and known His works, then they would not have been condemned: this is the application of the principle (John 15:21ff.). God loves but love does not force. There is never a divine love deficiency, but love proficiency, this there is.
Hence for Jew and Gentile, individual of this and that culture, there is no excuse, and only responsibility. The God who would have all reconciled to Himself (Colossians 1:19ff.), yes whether those in heaven or on earth, in all time and for all time, and for all the race: that is the scope. He who neither lets the fallen will choose for itself, or be neglected as will, in His own sight, before whom all is manifest, and sin is seen as disease, it is He who acts. He loses not a chirp or chirrup, but is active, ready for solicitation, solicitous to the uttermost.
Let then those who are the Lord's, depart from iniquity (II Timothy 2:19), for what HE has taken is as really cleared as is the battle-field to come (Titus 3:5-7), when the officious arrogances of nations are to be humbled.
What is, does what it is, as James so rightly stresses. What is honest, acknowledges sin, as I John 1 emphasises. It does not, however, wallow in it, but is characterised in obedience as I John 3:9 shows (the term being 'practise sin' when rightly translated).
Let then Jew and Gentile get the perspective: One God, one Lord, one faith, one series of erratic errancies among the nations, moving this way and that, among individuals, each to his or her own way (Isaiah 53:6), one way of return, one Redeemer, one Mediator (I Timothy 2), one baptism (Ephesians 4:4, I Peter 3:21), one baptism of the Spirit at conversion, when all are baptised into the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:13). There are many fillings as the Lord blesses (Acts 3:19ff.) but it is by one Spirit, with one assurance of eternal life (Romans 8:16, I Thessalonians 5:9-10, Romans 5:9ff.), one judgment, unutterable in horror for when mercy is deleted by desire, reality is as ruinous in destiny as it is in fact (Mark 9).
Such then does Moses begin to depict, and so do his words have fruit, each in its place and turn. Each intimation or indication is fulfilled to the uttermost, whether here or in Leviticus 26, in Deuteronomy 18 or in the command of sacrifice, which Christ so divinely deleted in His own office as High Priest, sacrifice, sin-bearer, temple and truth.
The Messiah is for All
but not All are for the Messiah!
Strong Medicine for the Sinners
Great Food for the Saved Saints
In conclusion, let us reflect on part of the Jewish history, in terms of our own, not as British or Portugese, but as individuals.
In Deuteronomy 32:36, we read, as we saw:
"For the LORD will judge His people
And have compassion on His servants,
When He sees that their power is gone..."
Does not the entire history of Israel, from Abraham to the
have an exemplary force for all ?
Thus in Abraham, there is the call to faith, as came to this land from Britain when it was first founded. Some moved on this call, from the first, as did Abraham, and were children of God, and many were thus in this land, and many the institutions which had such a Christian basis that toleration and trust, labour and love alike were plentifully found in her midst, along of course with all the greed and folly that is in man in general. There was a salt in the life of the nation, however, and it was strong in flavour.
However, sin has bloated and many have gloated in greed, sated themselves in evil passions and have little regard for the Lord, just like Israel as traced in predictive prophecy, in Deuteronomy 32. The land is now becoming pagan, just as Israel moved that way, in the days of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, as foretold by Moses.
"They sacrificed ... to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals "
"of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful,
and have forgotten the God who fathered you."
The nation now teaches organic evolution freely in its institutions, and in this State, critical answers are quashed in the schools. Love of self, divorce from parents, easy movement from home to drugs in the name of independence, support for folly from the State, all are forthcoming; while homes too deteriorate and the amount of child abuse of one kind and another is appalling, both in white and aboriginal conditions. A new 'culture' is coming, and a new way, which alas is as old as Eve! It is separation from the Lord, and its end is not different from that which Israel has displayed for some centuries! Nor is it merely national. It is private and personal, and brings grief to the depressed, to the insane, to the varied persons in grave distress, who have no faith, or if faith, only a subjective feeling, not the ROCK on whom to REST.
Israel has, in its sufferings, thus taught lessons, and many should thank God for that, as they continue to pray for that nation, through whom came the Old Testament, and in whom Christ was found! (cf. Romans 9). Yet it is at the personal level that most must think. Who is rocked like those who have no rock! and who can find power like that of the living God, who shepherds His people, not with pieces of mutant bread (cf. John 6:51,62-63) illicitly worshipped *, not with emotional frenzies, not with false dreams and foolish hopes, not with prosperity Christianity which seeks to make taking up your cross a double-cross, and to abound not in life but in its possessions, and its selfish satisfactions.
Taking up your cross and following Christ, however, is not an exercise in pain for practice. It is the pain which accompanies an abundant life which knows God, His will, His way, His work of salvation and His current workings in the heart, both to will and to do, while seeking to serve in His Spirit by His power and in His company, and loving God with ALL the heart. Love does NOT seek its own, but the service of Christ. Rest is not found in Him by self-exaltation or national differentiation as a ground, but by HIS work on the Cross, HIS power in resurrection, HIS presence through the Holy Spirit, HIS return which comes as the Cross came surely, and by abiding in His beauty in the holiness which He desires (I Thessalonians 5:23-24, Acts 1:7-11), until He comes.
Next time, Lord willing, we will consider from the New Testament, the background, basis and beauty of serving Christ.
* See SMR pp. 1032-1088H and in particular 1086 -1088D.