In the previous chapter, Moses was commanded by the Lord, to make a record of the teachings he had given. As part of that record, we have this chapter, which is known as the song of Moses. It begins:
1 Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:
3 Because I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.
4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.
5 They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation.
6 Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?
I love the imagery of learning that is given to us in verse 2. When we are tender in our learning of the gospel, the teachings of Moses are simple as the dew in the morning, which is there waiting for us as we arise. When we have grown a little, his teachings are a light rain, and when we have grown in our gospel learning, the teachings are like rain showers on established grass. In all things, we grow line upon line and our learning builds upon what we have already come to know and understand. Likewise, if we do not allow the rain to come upon us in any quantity, our grass will wither and die.
The words of the scriptures, are a testimony of the Lord and His greatness, spoken to heaven and earth. When people go wrong, it is because they choose that for themselves. Those who live a perverse and crooked life, are not behaving as children of the Lord should. We are all His children, because He has created us and given us all, including His grace through the power of His atonement. However, when we are disobedient to His laws, we choose to no longer be considered His children and refuse the promised blessings for after this life.
7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.
8 When the most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel.
9 For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.
10 He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.
11 As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:
12 So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
13 He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock;
14 Butter of kine, and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs, and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the fat of kidneys of wheat; and thou didst drink the pure blood of the grape.
If any of the Israelites wondered about the history of their people, they should have been able to go to their fathers and elders, to learn of it. I know there are some people today, who would claim that we should not look to our history for learning, but everything about the scriptures teach us that this is not true. We need the stories of the people in history, to know how we should live now. They are a great example for us.
The people of the Lord, have always been led by his hand as His chosen people. He has taught His people and protected them.
15 But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.
16 They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger.
17 They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not.
18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.
When the righteous people have been greatly blessed, they forget the Lord who gave them all. Time and time again, the people of the Lord have turned to other gods and false idols, both old and new. The people forget the Rock of salvation, or the Lord, who brings their salvation.
19 And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them, because of the provoking of his sons, and of his daughters.
20 And he said, I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end shall be: for they are a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith.
21 They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation.
22 For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.
23 I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.
24 They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.
25 The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.
26 I said, I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them to cease from among men:
27 Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the Lord hath not done all this.
28 For they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them.
The Lord would hide himself from the people, because they forgot him and turned to other gods and wickedness. They would have mischiefs, fire, animals, poison, swords and terror come upon all the people, to destroy them. The people would be scattered and forgotten. These things would come because they would choose not to listen and heed the word of the Lord.
29 O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
30 How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up?
31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.
32 For their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah: their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters are bitter:
33 Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
34 Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?
35 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
36 For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left.
37 And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted,
38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection.
39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.
40 For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever.
41 If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.
42 I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy.
43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
Wisdom is being obedient to the counsel of the Lord. The people would not understand that the Lord was the reason for their deliverances. They would choose wickedness over righteousness. I think the idea that the vine was the vine of Sodom, is to say that the fruit of the wicked, is wickedness. Instead of sweet fruit of the vine, they would have fruit of gall and bitterness. The Lord would bring vengeance and recompense upon the people and those who deserved wrath at His judgement, would receive it. Some day, the people would see that false gods could not be there for them in their need, but that the Lord is the only god. The Lord is the only living god. He can bring life, death, resurrection, and deliverance. Those who served the Lord, and would be his people, would be avenged and receive the Lord’s mercy.
I think of the rock mentioned in these verses. Our rock, is the thing that we choose to build our foundation upon. The only true rock that will not fail us, is the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The rock that the disobedient people would choose, would not remain in their times of difficulty. We can choose to place our faith and trust in a lot of things in this world, but only the Lord will remain a sure foundation for us.
When Lot first chose Sodom as a place for him to settle, it seemed a good idea. The land of Sodom was very desirous and it says in Genesis 13, that it was as the garden of the Lord. There are a lot of things in this world that look pleasing at first, and we are naturally drawn to them. Like Sodom, however, if these things are not pointing us towards righteousness, they will lead to an awful result of bitterness and destruction.
44 And Moses came and spake all the words of this song in the ears of the people, he, and Hoshea the son of Nun.
45 And Moses made an end of speaking all these words to all Israel:
46 And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.
47 For it is not a vain thing for you; because it is your life: and through this thing ye shall prolong your days in the land, whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.
48 And the Lord spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,
49 Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession:
50 And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people:
51 Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah-Kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel.
52 Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.
Moses and Joshua spoke these things to the people of Israel. At the end of his words, Moses told them to take his words to heart, or to listen and follow all that he had taught them, and to teach their children to be obedient to them also. He promised them that if they were obedient, they would have their days prolonged in the land. Then Moses was told by the Lord, to go into the mountain to die and be gathered to his people, just as Aaron had done. Before he died, he was going to be allowed to see the land that he was not allowed to enter because he had trespassed against the Lord.
I love music. For me, a song can be in my mind and heart much easier than words alone. I don’t think I am alone in this, because we teach basic principles to our children through music, such as the ABC’s. Calling this chapter the song of Moses and reading that they were to take these things into their hearts seems quite fitting. This is part of why it is important for us to learn and know righteous and inspired hymns, which help us to remember the principles of the gospel, the purposes of life, and the amazing things that the Lord has down for his people. I am so grateful for beautiful music and the messages that I can learn from it.
God speaks to all people of the earth, and always has. While not everyone has always had the privileges of knowing the gospel, it is still for all people. I believe that their is one God who created all people. He knows and loves us all, and speaks to the world today through His chosen prophet, Thomas S. Monson. Just as He led the people through Moses, he leads today through the modern prophets. It is amazing to live in a time when a prophet can lead us and teach us the word of the Lord for our day.