Romans 15:10, Deuteronomy 32:43, and the Song of Moses
When the Apostle Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:43 out of the closing passage of the Old Covenant when proclaiming the salvation of the Gentiles, we have some background that can’t be dismissed. #1- It was prophesied in Deuteronomy 29-30 that Israel would abandon the covenant. #2- The Song of Moses is to serve as a reminder to the nation of Israel in the midst of their apostasy. #3- The Apostle Paul has already proclaimed Israel as God’s people with believing Gentiles grafted in, Romans 11. #4- Jesus Christ came as a minister of the circumcision so that Gentiles may also glorify God. Paul is supporting this thesis by the Old Testament scriptures quoted in Romans 15:8-12.
What follows in this post is an examination of the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32:1-43). I will try to follow the poetry of the passage as it is brought out by some of the newer translations. This is one down side to the beloved King James Version. The KJV does not portray any insight into where the lines of poetry and breaks in the stanzas occur. When it comes to the poetry of the Bible, I really enjoy reading from the ESV, though I admit that the majority of my study is still done with KJV or NKJV. The following study is meant to be done with your Bible open in front of you.
Verses 1-3 is a proclamation to get the attention of both heaven and earth. The language in verse 2 suggests that a lesson for the purpose of teaching will proceed from the mouth of the speaker.
Verses 4-9 compose the next section. If we understand the background, we are not lost. God is just but His children (of Israel) have dealt foolishly with their Father, to the point that God has almost disowned them. The section closes with the reiteration that they are still His people, yea, His heritage. There is an appeal contained in this section for Israel to recognize God as their Creator and Father. So we see Israel, at some future point in time after they have been judged for their disobedience, being invited to remember the days of old, that is, their true origin which is metaphorically covered in the next section.
Before moving to that next section, there is an all encompassing nature to verse 8. It seems as if God had foreordained the nation of Israel to the place of His choosing. As God was carving out the boundaries for the continents, forming rivers, oceans, and beaches, and dividing the families of the earth into nations, He had in mind to create Israel as a people within the boundaries of the promised land. "When He divided mankind" is in the ESV, while "When He separated the sons of Adam" is in the KJV. Both convey a sense of totality of the human race. Out of all of mankind, Israel is His chosen people. Out of all the places on earth that He could have ordained, God ordained the promised land.
Verses 10-14 review Israel’s history. Remember up to this point, all we have is the Exodus and forty years in the wilderness. But at some future point in time during their unbelief, God reminds them of His supernatural care for them in the wilderness. The reference to Bashan here is a portion of the land east of Jordan which they had already conquered and were currently enjoying the fruits thereof.
Verses 15-18 tell how Jeshurun, the upright one of Israel, grew fat as a result of God’s indulgence over them. This section is a review of a future rebellion against the God of Israel. Israel causes God to be jealous because they give their devotion to other gods, named as devils here. For all God’s care for Israel, they do not remember Him.
Verses 19-22 give God’s reaction to His jealousy. He repays Israel with making them jealous right back. Israel has provoked God to jealousy by devotion to "non-gods", gods which really aren’t gods at all. Now God intends to hide His face from Israel and provoke them to jealousy with another people that is not really a people at all.
I interrupt the straight forward study to point out that the Apostle Paul quotes verse 21 in Romans 10:19. When we come to Romans 15:10, Paul has already laid out that the inclusion of Gentiles within the body of Messiah is designed by God to provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy, Romans 11:11. Simply put, the church consisting of both Israelite and Gentile is the nation which is not really a nation which God will use to provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy. The church is a peculiar people, a holy nation, a royal kingdom of priests, but with no earthly boundaries, no earthly capital, no currency, no governmental structure, and no way to physically defend themselves. The church is the foolish nation spoken of in Deuteronomy 32:21. The church’s God-ordained function is to provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy. Part of Paul’s passion in preaching to the Gentiles was hoping that he might provoke his fellow Israelites to jealousy, Romans 11:14. That’s three references in the book of Romans to this one verse, 10:19, 11:11, and 11:14.
Verses 23-27 are a further explanation of verse 22. God is mad and demonstrates it in just this way. God heaps disasters, arrows, hunger, plague, pestilence, beasts, poisonous creatures, the sword, terrors – all these upon His people regardless of age or gender. His fire is burning in the very deepest part of His Being. His anger is so great, His jealousy is so intense, He would completely wipe His people out of existence except He fears the response of Israel’s enemies. They would take credit for Israel’s destruction at the LORD’s hand. The setting again is future as the LORD is dealing with Israel for her disobedience.
Verses 28-33 can be a bit confusing. The first nation mentioned in verse 28 (which is void of counsel) is referring to Israel. God points out their foolishness by showing they don’t understand their latter end, which He is currently revealing. Then God explains that the only possible way that these other nations could have any victory at all over the nation of Israel is that the God of Israel had given them up. Then there is a shift in verse 31. "Their rock" would be the hope of any other nation while "our Rock"is the God of Israel. Now the description of "their vine" being from the poisonous stock of Sodom and Gomorrah is referring to these other wicked nations which have been persecuting Israel, while God has been standing passively by because of Israel’s disobedience.
In the above three sections, God is simultaneously using three different means of attempting to get Israel’s attention. God is provoking Israel to jealousy by another people. God is also heaping disasters upon them. And God is allowing other nations to persecute the nation of Israel. It is uncanny to see exactly where we are at in the scheme of this prophecy. The church is currently demonstrating a zeal for the God of Israel more than the nation of Israel. The nation of Israel does not have God’s blessing, but instead is under judgement. The nations which surround Israel are enemy nations bent on destroying her. But this is not the end of the prophecy. There’s more to this story.
Verses 34-38 compose the beginning of God’s vengeance on behalf of Israel. Vengeance is described as a special treasure in the sealed vault of God’s heavenly depository. The LORD has been waiting for just the right moment for the enemy’s foot to slip. He sees that the power of His people is gone so He begins to execute judgement and have compassion on His people. The voice of God mocks the non-gods of the other nations asking where they are, as the One True God brings the day of calamity to the Gentile nations. Verse 35 is also quoted by the Apostle Paul in Romans. Did you realize how ubiquitous Deuteronomy 32 is in the book of Romans? In Romans 12:19, Paul instructs Christians to NOT take vengeance, but rather to give room for God to demonstrate His wrath based on this Old Testament scripture. Since vengeance is a special treasure which belongs only to God, we are not to take vengeance since God will repay those who do evil.
Verses 39-42 give us a clearer picture of God taking vengeance. Here we see God as a Messianic figure raising His hand to take an oath, sharpening His gleaming sword, slaying with His sword, shooting arrows, taking life, restoring life, all the while with His hand taking hold of judgement. One thing of note is that those whom God is destroying have previously been described as Israel’s enemies but are now described as those who hate the LORD, vs 41. What can these God-haters do now but be slain where they stand? God will have His vengeance.
Verse 43 is the verse which Paul quotes in Romans 15:10 and closes the Song of Moses. Note that a bit later in verse 46 that Moses commands the children of Israel to set their hearts to all the words which he testified to them on that day, referring to them as the law. So the law is not just the commandments received at Sinai, but is comprehensive of all the preaching which Moses gave the people in Moab as well, or the entire book of Deuteronomy. The Song of Moses is a part of the law, the Old Covenant. Verse 43 is a command for the Gentile nations to rejoice with His people because He will avenge those who serve Him. God will execute vengeance upon His adversaries and be merciful to Israel, therefore Gentile nations are to rejoice.
This leads to a fair question. Why would Gentile nations rejoice at the prospect of Israel’s enemies being slain? Here are some thoughts from only the Old Testament perspective. Perhaps not all Gentiles are Israel’s enemies. Moses father-in-law of the Kenites has been friendly toward Israel. God makes mention in the law that foreigners may come into the fellowship of the nation of Israel at any time if they obey the law. Perhaps Gentiles will receive blessings as the Abrahamic Covenant comes to full fruition as originally promised. In Abraham ALL nations will be blessed. Perhaps if God shows His faithfulness to Israel by fulfilling the prophecies, every jot and tittle, then Gentiles will see that He is worthy of their faith and trust. If God kept a promise to Israel from generations ago, God would certainly keep a promise concerning Gentile nations as well. Perhaps it is in the Gentile nation’s best interests to have Israel in a place of prominence over them. If the God of Israel is pouring out incredible blessings on this neighbor country, perhaps all in the region will be better off. Perhaps God’s mercy to the nation of Israel will spill over onto other nations once He restores them to their land. After all, there’s enough room on the planet for everybody. Why couldn’t this merciful God of Israel be merciful to Gentile nations if they also repent as Israel repents? For New Testament solutions to this dilemma, see the end of my post, Romans 15:9 and Psalm 18:49. I believe they apply here as well.
The Song of Moses is an eschatological song. It is sung in the book of Revelation by a heavenly multitude, Revelation 15:3. The precision placement of the Song of Moses within the chronology of Revelation gives us great insight into how Israel, Gentile nations, and God’s vengeance all fit together. In Revelation 13 we read of the war on saints (also known as the great tribulation) initiated by the beast and false prophet. Remember the main target of persecution is the woman with twelve stars who brought forth Messiah. After the sealing of the 144,000 Israelites in Revelation 14:1-5, there are three messenger angels. Then the Son of Man comes on a cloud reaping the earth in a grain harvest. After the grain harvest, another angel is commanded to reap whatever is left on the earth, but this reaping is for wrath. This is a grape harvest which is cast into the great winepress of God’s wrath. This winepress is symbolic of the vengeance which will be enacted, but also describes the initial event in that vengeance. The blood from this initial act of vengeance rises as high as a horse bridle just outside the city and flows as far as 180 miles away.
At this point in time we see a multitude in heaven singing the Song of Moses and another song known as the Song of the Lamb, Revelation 15:3. We understand the Song of Moses to convey the truth that God will bring Israel to Himself through the plan that He has laid out. The 144,000 Israelites are following the Lamb, the church has been raptured via the grain harvest, so we see that Israel has been provoked to jealousy by the church. Now it is time for vengeance on Israel’s behalf. God’s wrath will take the form of seven vials which will be poured out. The seventh vial will consist of the slaughter of Armageddon, the Messiah Himself swinging His gleaming sword in vengeance upon the enemies of God. The true meaning of the Song of Moses is revealed in this portion of Revelation, reaching its apex at the slaughter of Armageddon. The PreWrath Rapture also shines through being placed in a distinct chronology of tribulation, rapture, then God’s wrath (vengeance).
Some may object to seeing the rapture as the grain harvest which is placed squarely in between the great tribulation and God’s wrath. It is to be noted that the word harvest is used exclusively for the gathering of men into the kingdom of God. Matthew 9:36-38 describes a harvest of men’s souls which Jesus’ disciples were to labor for. Mark 4:26-29 compares the kingdom of God to the harvest after the miraculous seed has grown and brought forth fruit. Luke 10:1-2 is a parallel to Matthew 9:36-38, although Luke places it with the commissioning of the seventy as they go forth to preach the gospel. John 4:34-38 has a harvest accompanied by terms such as doing the will of God, finishing the work of God, gathering fruit unto eternal life, and rejoicing together as it is accomplished.
I save the parable of the wheat and the tares for last on purpose, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. In this parable the harvest is the gathering of the wheat into the barn. Some may try to say that the harvest is the judgement. Not so, the harvest is the end of the age. The purpose of the harvest is to gather the wheat into the barn at the end of the age. There will be a separation before that time whereby the tares are set aside to be burned. This doesn’t change the fact that the harvest will result in the righteous shining forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The harvest is NOT the separation, or the burning of the tares, the harvest is the gathering of the wheat into the barn in this parable. This parable also brings out the futurity of the event occurring at the end of the age. So when the Son of Man comes on a cloud to "harvest", we should not expect a different meaning for the word than has been consistently used throughout the New Testament.
There are different terms when describing the harvest and the vintage. The harvest is reaped, while the vintage is gathered, as in a fruit gathering. The harvest is a dried out grain type of ripe. The vintage is a full maturity type of ripe. Look them up, Greek scholars. And a bit of extrapolation, I admit, but since it is specified where the grapes are thrown after they are gathered, we know their destination: the winepress of God’s wrath. It is NOT specified where the grain harvest is taken to. It stands to reason that the Son of Man has gathered the grain to Himself. This explains where the multitude in 15:2 which gained victory over the beast comes from. They come from earth to heaven via the harvest which is the rapture. If you’ve been paying attention, you now understand why they are singing the Song of Moses as well.
Finally, the framework that I have set forth here runs against both Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism, but yet remains PreMillennial in nature. In the Song of Moses, we see a people designed to provoke the nation of Israel to jealousy. Covenant Theology would tell us that the church has superseded Israel, now standing in her place. You would hear them say that the church is now the covenant people of God. This is true to some extent, but I must disagree with the way they apply that statement based on the futurity of God’s plan for the nation of Israel once the church has provoked Israel to jealousy. Israel elect is the covenant people of God with believing Gentiles grafted in. Dispensationalism would tell us that the church has temporarily replaced Israel until the time of Jacob’s trouble when God will once again deal with Israel. Dispensationalism would also tell us that God is not currently dealing with the nation of Israel. Yet Israel is being dealt with by God as evidenced by the very presence of the church today. The Apostle Paul felt it necessary to preach to Gentiles in order to provoke some Israelites to jealousy. Dispensationalism will also tell us that once Israel is restored, that God is completely done with the church, as in, the church dispensation will be over. But if we take literally the saying that Gentiles are to rejoice with Israel when God takes vengeance, we as the church will be rejoicing with Israel in that day. The biggest flaw with Dispensationalism is in insisting that we are currently in a "hidden church age" unforeseen in the Old Testament. Even Progressive Dispensationalist Saucy hints at this in The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism. That’s not what the Song of Moses lays out – plain and simple. We are in the time of salvation of the Gentiles as prophesied by Isaiah which is designed to provoke Israel to jealousy as prophesied by the Song of Moses.
The time has come. Israel is helpless. Son, you must act on her behalf. The Son of God leans over His chest of treasures. He looks for just the right diadem to wear for this occasion. He reaches down and picks up a dazzling crown full of jewels. He places it on His head. One word is engraved in gold on the front: VENGEANCE. His sword is gleaming, almost as if it is hungry for blood, the blood of the God-haters. He descends to the earth and roars as seven thunders echo through the heavens and the earth. Where are you now, allah? buddah? mother earth? I lift up my hand and take an oath that there will be time allowed no longer. I raise my chosen to life from the grave and bring the mighty down to hell. Nations, rejoice! I am keeping my word to my people. Vengeance is mine. I will repay.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman