I was a late comer to the mixing of sweet and savoury. I could not wrap my head around the idea of adding bacon to a delicious plate of pancakes and syrup. As for salted caramel, that sounded just plain wrong. However I must concede that it really works. The salt offsets the sugar so that it tastes even sweeter.
I remember going for long walks with my dad in the Peak District as a child walks that lasted all day in hot sunshine. The heat and the effort however meant that when we stopped for a drink of water, a nibble of Kendall Mint Cake and eventually for lunch, the food seemed all the more rewarding, refreshing and better tasting.
The people of Israel had discovered that the trials and challenges of the wilderness had resulted in a greater, deeper reliance on God, his provision was like honey from the rock. The Song of Moses tells us that the discipline of exile will have the same affect again.
I wonder if the challenges and trials of the past year and more have had the same affect on us?
Singing the Song of Moses
Sing with me ..
The song begins with an appeal for listeners. This is because it is so important that it calls for an audience such that even the heavens must listen in. Remember that it is creation itself that stands as a witness for or against Israel whenever she is faithful or unfaithful to God. There is a desire as well that Moses’ teaching will have a positive effect. Of course the imagery of refreshing showers and dew is first and foremost metaphorical. And yet, if the purpose of the song is to be a witness to turn God’s people back to him, then it will literally have that affect of bringing an end to drought and famine in the land (v1-2)
The reason that Moses can both expect and desire this outcome is because his song is one of praise, declaring the glory of YHWH. God is great and good. He is all powerful and faithful. This is seen in the image here of God as the rock. The rock is for Israel, the place of security and stability in a world of shifting sands. It is also for them the source of refreshment because God had refreshed them with water from the rock not just once but twice. This was so significant that often later Jews including Paul would think poetically in terms of one single rock travelling with the people (v3-4)
Compare and Contrast
The people and their character is compared unfavourable with the perfect and faithful God. Whereas he is perfect and faithful in his dealings with them, they are corrupt in their dealings with him. The reliable rock is taken for granted by an unreliable generation who are crooked and twisted. The result is that they are no longer considered his children because they no longer bear his likeness. They have repaid their loving father evil for good. They re rejecting their father and creator. This of course points God’s people back to the fact that they were created in Adam by him and that as a nation they were created so that Israel is God’s son, the one called out of Egypt (v5-6).
What God has done
Now, the song points to what God has done for his people Israel. They are invited to look back on their past and to ask their fathers and elders about it (v7). Here is an implicit rebuke, the fathers should according to Deuteronomy 6 have passing on these accounts to their children and grandchildren. God gave each nation its inheritance, he is the one who ordered creation and allocated Israel her place too (v8 -9). In fact it is Israel’s who belong to God as his portion. It is as though God says to the nations “Here is the whole world to enjoy but this people and their land belongs specially to me, this is what I’m interested in. That being so suggests that we are meant to see this as meaning that ethnic groups belong within fixed borders, not only does that go against historical reality but against Scripture too.
Notice the retelling of the Exodus now. Israel was found in the wilderness, cared for and guided by God (v10 -14). Notice the echo of the rock providing, God himself provides but more than just water because God led them into a land described as flowing with milk and honey.
How God’s people responded – ingratitude
Yet, the song anticipates the things Moses warns about. The people grow comfortable, complacent and forgetful. There is pride and stubbornness here. They scoff at God the rock. This has to be seen for it is as extreme stupidity, they reject their provider, they bite the hand that feeds them. Unfaithfulness leads to idolatry and Moses warns that the idols themselves represent demon worship. They display are rudeness, a disregard an ungratefulness towards God. (v15-18).
The consequence is that they provoke God’s anger. Notice again that it is kindled. It is not that the OT God is in a permeant state of anger. God’ hides his face from them. This echoes Moses plea with God to show his face and glory. It also reminds us of the hiding in the Garden and then the exile from Eden for Adam and Eve. Notice the parallel of sin with discipline. They have bene unfaithful with false gods causing God jealousy. Those gods are no gods at all. So God will act to make them jealous as they experience judgement at the hand of other nations. The idols are not gods because thet are false an d failing alternatives to YHWH. These nations are false or “not a people” because it is only in God that a nation finds its true identity (v19-21)
God’s anger is kindled. Notice it is something that has to be provoked (and the provocation is serious). The imagery of a permanently angry, judgemental, capricious Old Testament God does not fit the acts. God is “slow to anger and abounding in love.” The point of the kindling/fire language is also to draw our attention to the consequences of judgement as the land is devoured/consumed by the fire (v22-23)
In verse 23-26 wesee God’s judgement worked through. It should be God’s people who consume the good things of the land but instead they are consumed in judgement by famine, plague and pestilence. Enemies will come and attack, war too will bring death.
Vengeance, justice, vindication and salvation
In v26-30, the suggestion is that God still shows restraint. There are twin dangers. On the one hand, there is the belief of the enemy that they have defeated Israel by themselves and then there is the danger for the people that they will fail to see God in it all. It is only if that solid, sure Rock, The LORD gives the people up that they can in any way be vulnerable.
This is certain because “Their rock is not as our Rock” in other words, Israel’s enemies do not have an all sufficient all -powerful God like YHWH. The Lord cannot be defeated and so it is clear that their experience is a result of him willingly handing them over. Their gods are neither great like the Rock nor good like him but rather comparable to serpents poison traceable to the evil of Sodom (v31-35)
All hope is not lost. We have already seen God’s restraining hand at work but there will also be vindication and rescue. God’s people remain his, remain his pride and treasured possession. He brings vengeance, vindication and justice. The enemy are proved wrong, it is not their victory at work but rather the justice of a heavenly father who loves and disciplines his child. God himself is vindicated, the idols and false gods have been exposed as worthless. And so even the experience of judgement and exile is a rescue act for Israel as God proves the idols powerless and sets his people free from their hypnotic grip (v36-42)
The Chorus of Creation
Moses has begun his song by inviting Heaven to hear as his witness. It is fascinating at the end that he invites heaven to join in the song and to bow down in worship before the righteous God who vindicates. Stuart Townend sings about joining the chorus of Creation but in fact it is creation that joins in our song (v43).
Moses recites the song before the people. It is “no empty word” but a prophetic promise. Sadly the prophecy of unfaithfulness and judgement came true but praise God so did the promise of deliverance (v44-47).
Seeing with New Covenant Eyes
Throughout our look at the Mosaic Covenant, we have constantly seen that we need to apply the it through the New Covenant. This means that the New Testament helps us know how to interpret it and that we see it fulfilled in and applied through Christ.
So in what ways is this song about Jesus? Well I want you to notice two things, First of all once again, we are reminded that Christ is the faithful son who stands in unfaithful Israel’s place. He loves and obeys the Father with faithfulness on our behalf. He bears the punishment we deserve and this leads to justice, vindication, justification.
Secondly, spot that when Paul talks about the rock and uses that imagery of the same rock being constantly there, he isn’t as some have suggested imagining some mobile rock on wheels. Rather, He is seeing that the rock represented God’s ability and desire to supply his people’s needs along the way. Paul goes on to insist that Christ is that rock (1 Corinthians 10:4). He is the source of our refreshment. Once again we are called to come and cling to the rock, to find refreshment, to have our spiritual thirst quenched and to receive sweet tasting food that revives.
This means that we have something to offer. I’ve spent the last decade in a community that at times shows the signs of being devoured. I see lives that have been devoured by drugs, alcohol, debt, abuse, selfish and foolish choices, by failed government and by uncaring businesses not to mention by godless religion. We come into these communities with our solutions. I don’t want to knock our foodbanks and debt relief etc but if that is all we have to offer then we are just bringing delayed disappointment. Our communities need Christ if they are to be renewed and revived. Our neighbours need Christ if they are to discover true justice. Our friends and families need Christ if they are to find forgiveness, life and hope.
Here is a little exercise I’d like you to do
- Identify three ways in which Christ has offered you true lasting refreshment, sustenance and life
- Identify three ways in which you are tempted to wander away from the rock that is Christ.
- Identify three ways in which Christ the rock offers hope to your community.
 See Hosea 11:1
 Salvation’s Song (Loved before the dawn of time).