Romans 15:10 and Deuteronomy 32:43
The next OT scripture that Paul cites takes us back to the law of Moses. In Romans 15:10 the Apostle Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:43; so we give ourselves to the study of why he did. The original context is very interesting if we examine it in detail. In comparison to Psalm 18:49, this background is both similar and more complex. In being similar, it is the last verse of a 43 verse song that Moses is teaching the children of Israel. So in that sense, we could limit our study to this one song (Deuteronomy 32:1-43). In being more complex, these end chapters of Deuteronomy all have a common theme which should be studied as a whole. This post will consist of examining Deuteronomy 27-31 to give the background of the Song of Moses before delving into the actual text. The main focus will be on chapters 29 and 30.
The children of Israel stand poised to enter the promised land. Before they do, Moses gives a series of sermons which encapsulate a second giving of the law. These sermons contain deeper insights into the law and into God’s character. This is contained in Deuteronomy 4:44 through the end of chapter 26. The way this sections ends is of particular importance to those who study how the covenants of the Bible relate to each other.
26:16 "This day the Lord your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17 Today you have proclaimed the Lord to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. 18 Also today the Lord has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, 19 and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the Lord your God, just as He has spoken."
At Sinai, just before the giving of the law, Israel entered into a covenant with God by their consent, Exodus 19. Then they received the law, Exodus 20-23. After hearing the law they further promised to obey the LORD in this covenant relationship which was instituted by blood, Exodus, 24:1-8. Fast forward to Deuteronomy. The above verses are both demonstrating the present efficacy of the Mosaic Covenant and instituting an additional covenant alongside the Mosaic Covenant. This covenant is sometimes referred to as the Palestinian Covenant. The relationship described in the verses above is none other than an intimate relationship which could be compared to the marriage relationship. God belongs to Israel as their sole God. Israel belongs to God as His sole people.
The new facet of the relationship which was not described at Sinai was how God would treat them based on their behavior once they conquered the promised land. Some of this was hinted at in Leviticus 26, but in reading Deuteronomy 27-33 and placing it in the context of the very generation that would live in the land, we find so much additional information about precisely how God will act, it actually becomes prophecy. So this section is referred to as "…the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses… BESIDE the covenant which he made with them in Horeb." (29:1) It is God’s determination to bless or curse Israel based on their treatment of Him.
When we move into Deuteronomy 27 and 28, we read of specific curses and blessings that God promises to bring to His people, but in no particular time sequence. 27:9 is noteworthy when examining God’s relationship with Israel. Continuing into chapter 29 we read more affirmations of the unique relationship between the LORD and Israel. 29:12-13 ties together the covenant being made on that day (Palestinian Covenant) with the Mosaic Covenant and traces both back to the Abrahamic Covenant; more on this below. Then in the remaining verses of chapter 29 and continuing into chapter 30, we find an important prophetic part of this covenant.
Moses told them in 29:4 that the LORD had not yet given them a heart (or eyes for that matter) that could perceive the truth of what was going on. An ultimate judgement upon the nation of Israel is practically assumed as God foresees what He must do when Israel rebels against His ways. Even the response of the nations to the curses that God is going to bring on Israel is recorded here, 29:24. But even after being driven among all nations, God promises to gather them into the land shall they repent. At that time God will circumcise the heart of the nation of Israel as a whole, 30:6. Here is the link back to 29:4. They enter the land with no spiritual heart. After blessings, then curses, then the ultimate judgement, they will repent and receive the spiritual heart necessary to comprehend the true relationship between the LORD and His chosen people. That’s the prophecy. In Leviticus 26 it was an "if-then" statement, (if you do this, then I will do this). Here in Deuteronomy 29-30, the verses read, "when" these things happen.
This prophetic nugget is what we need to remember before we delve into the song of Moses. Reading Deuteronomy 29-30 aloud will help to bring this truth to light. Chapter 31 contains some general admonitions to Israel and Joshua. Then with a sense of finality concerning Moses’ life, the LORD tells Moses that it is a fact that the children of Israel will go astray from this covenant. As a future witness against them, Moses must teach the children of Israel this song. So this song that we are about to examine is the last act of Moses and the end of the law of Moses, aka, the Old Covenant.
As a side note, I balk at adopting the terms "conditional" and "unconditional" to describe the differing covenants in the scriptures. Here God has proclaimed by His foreknowledge exactly what will happen as Israel takes the land. God decrees what He will do and then executes. The conditions are completely laid out by Him in advance. Israel must participate in the covenant whether in obedience or disobedience. When Israel is blessed, she is under the covenant. When Israel is cursed, she is still under the covenant. The idea of "what will Israel do?" is completely settled beforehand in the mind of God. That’s the unconditional side.
One the flip side of that, each covenant seems to be in response to some person’s/people’s faith in Him. God established the Noahic Covenant after Noah demonstrated incredible faith in God’s Word to him. Abraham believed God and it was accounted to Him for righteousness. Immediately after this, God unilaterally establishes His covenant with Abraham [which God had already determined He would.] The children of Israel trembled at Mount Sinai and promised to obey God’s Word to them. In response, God gave them the law, the Old Covenant. David placed His faith in God’s plan for a place of endurance for His tabernacle within the promised land in desiring to build Him a temple. God responded with the Davidic Covenant. But all of these things were in the mind of God before the faith of the individual was displayed. So at times the covenants seem to be conjugate with an individual’s or group of people’s faith, but God has decreed these things beforehand because of His foreknowledge. The way I see God’s sovereignty, they are all unconditional.
On a final note for this post, I would like to push an issue concerning Amillennialism. Most Amillennialists will assert that the Abrahamic Covenant was completely fulfilled in the days of Joshua (or some say David) and therefore has no future relevance. This cannot be since the Mosaic and Palestinian Covenants are directly related to the Abrahamic Covenant as noted above. The Palestinian Covenant is still in the process of being fulfilled. The children of Israel entered the land, received blessings, disobeyed, were judged by God, and were dispersed. The final gathering which is accompanied by a circumcision of their heart [that they may fully understand the unique relationship they have with the LORD] has not yet occurred. If the Amillennialist wants to point to Pentecost as the fulfillment of the Palestinian Covenant, why did the apostles point the leaders of Israel to a future day of repentance, refreshing, and restitution in Acts 3:19-21? Moses also told the Israelites that they did not have eyes to see, either. This truth of Israel’s blindness is taught by the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:7-10, 25-27 as a present condition yet to be lifted in the future. God will yet keep His word which He has spoken concerning Israel. Amillennialists must ignore the prophecies in Deuteronomy 27-32 as they relate to the Abrahamic Covenant. Joshua himself testifies against this view in Joshua 24:19. After he conquered the promised land, he understood the reality that the Covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Palestinian) were not fulfilled because Israel had not yet received that heart to know Him. The dialogue in Joshua 24:1-28 only makes sense against the backdrop of the Palestinian Covenant as found in Deuteronomy 29-30.
A simpler refutation of this whole issue would be to cite that Zechariah believed that the oath which the LORD swore to Abraham was yet to be fulfilled, Luke 1:72-74, therefore it could not have been fulfilled in the days of Joshua. Here in Zechariah’s prophecy, the Messiah from the house of David would remember the covenant which was spoken to Abraham and bring it to pass. Zechariah’s son, John, would be the prophet going before the Messiah to bring Israel to repentance to ensure that these promises would be fulfilled.
Summing this post up, Moses is about to teach the children of Israel a song which will function as a future witness against them. We understand that Israel will enter the land in spiritual blindness, will disobey the LORD once in the land, then be dispersed while still in their spiritual blindness. This song is to function as a witness to Israel to show that God knew it all beforehand. My next post will focus on the song itself.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman