When the chest is hurting

When a complaint is made

At the greatest risk, but Malvina Reynolds said it first, someone complained that ‘they’ think every [one of them] looks just the same. And I thought, absolutely right, so they do. And if you listen to this little ditty, even if you do not agree, and if you do not agree find a Latin translation* then, you cannot but be delighted by the music.

And four people from the country
All went to the university
Where they were put in boxes*
And they came out all the same
And there are doctors and lawyers
And business executives
And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky
And they all look just the same.

*they shared a flat
Two had black hair
Two had fair
Two had beards
Two did not

Who said they all look just the same?
Rather, which one said the others all look just the same?

* Suggested improvements welcome
Capsularum es in monte.
Capsularum fiunt ex ticky-tacky.
Capsularum es in monte.
Capsularum eiusdem omnes.
Et est viridi et est rosea
Et est hyacintho unus fulvum.
Quae omnia fiunt ex ticky-tacky
Atque omnes idem.

Et qui habitabant in domibus,
Veneruntque ad collegium,
In qua posuit sunt in capsularum.
Et exiit eadem.
Sunt autem et legis doctores,
Et negotium executivæ.
Quae omnia fiunt ex ticky-tacky.
Atque omnes idem.
Et hi omnes in sphaera cursum.
Et bibere martinæ in aridam.
Et omnes pueri pulchri est.
Et omnes pueri ad scholam.
Et omnes filii ire aestiva castra
Et postea ad collegium,
In qua posuit sunt in capsularum,
Eadem omnes exeunt.

Et ad pueros ire in negotium
Uxorem et suscitet familias
In capsularum fiunt ex ticky-tacky.
Atque omnes idem.
Et est viridi et est rosea
Et est hyacintho unus fulvum.
Quae omnia fiunt ex ticky-tacky
Atque omnes idem.

Karl XVI

Remarkably, all Swedes look the same as well.

A minister

Their foot shall slip in due time

August 4th 2019 West Hill

Deuteronomy 32:35 Their foot shall slip in due time (the word order varies in our English translations)


About 3500 years ago the descendants of Jacob were delivered out of the house of bondage in Egypt and started their journey to the Promised Land. The passage (Deutoronomy 31:30-32:52) which was read in your hearing this evening, records Moses’s words spoken to the people before he was to die on Mount Nebo and before Joshua was to lead the people across the Jordan and into the land. At that time they had already tasted the goodness of the land, as two and half tribes had already settled on the east bank of the Jordan.

Let me first of all affirm that this text records for us actual events which took place in real history. We also believe that the record of these events was created in, as we would say today, real time. There are some who would seek to deny this and would want us to believe that this is only myth, albeit a very valuable myth, written many hundreds of years later. But to the contrary we believe, and the Lord confirms to us (no need to say this, ref: the necessity of two or three witnesses – one is the eye-witness on earth the other is the Spirit of God from heaven), that this is a contemporary eye-witness account of the events, as are all of the events – apart from one which man did not observe – recorded for us in the books of Moses.

We have an interesting point to note here, but it is not in one sense our main point. In another sense however it is. Moses had brought the people out of Egypt, and perhaps at the beginning of their journey there would have been the expectation that Moses would also be the one to take them into the Promised Land. But that was not to be.

Whilst they were in the wilderness Moses had taught the people much about the necessity of sacrifice and of the kind of sacrifice that was acceptable to God. If a sacrifice were to be an acceptable sacrifice, it had to be a sacrifice without blemish. The apostle returns to this in the letter to the Hebrews (7:27) when introducing us to the sacrifice to end all sacrifices: [Jesus, our high priest], does not need daily to offer sacrifices first for his own sins, for (v26) [he] is holy harmless and undefiled pointing here to the suitability of the sacrifice that he made.

A man, even the God-man, must be fit, in the manner that God requires, to serve God in God’s work. Moses was not fit to lead the people into the land (v51) because [he] trespassed against [the LORD] among the children of Israel … and did not hallow him.  Joshua on the other hand had been faithful, and in particular after the reconnaissance of the land, along with Caleb, the son of Jephunnah, had come back with a good report, assured that the LORD would give the land to them despite the apparent strength of the occupants. Joshua was therefore a fit and capable leader of the people for that time.

And so we have this illustration, and pointer, at the end of the life of Moses, the law-giver, that the law only condemns. Something different was needed. And at the end of Moses’s life a Jesus, for that is the Greek name for Joshua, steps in to take the people to their home.

Later the law, contrary to the law, condemned our Lord Jesus to death, not for his sins for he is spotless, but for ours. And it is this Jesus, the new Joshua, who will take his people to their eternal home, as prefigured here in Deuteronomy, and who brought it to actuality when he told the thief (more properly in our contemporary understanding of his crimes a terrorist): Today, you will be with me in paradise, so that the thief would be the first to be taken to the promised land, which beforehand had only been seen in pictures.

With this great picture in mind we turn to a few words in the midst of all that Moses had to say (v35): Their foot shall slip in due time. Jonathan Edwards, preached at least twice on these words, in 1741 in Enfield and Northampton. His sermon, Sinners in the hands of a mighty God, is well worth the read, if you have not already done so, but this evening’s is not that sermon.

We have to ask three questions:

  • Who are they whose feet shall slip?
  • What does this mean to slip?
  • What can be done to prevent slippage?

The NT provides answers to these questions, and in effect commentary on these words though not explicitly quoted, at least five of which are found in those difficult passages in the letter to the Hebrews (2, 3, 6, 10 and 12) the last of which was read to you this evening. You may have wondered at times what the apostle was saying in these passages in Hebrews for at first glance you may think that he is saying we could lose our salvation. You may have heard it said that although the Lord said ‘No-one is able to pluck [my disciples] out of my hand’ that doesn’t mean you cannot jump out yourself.

I want to show you from what Moses had to say to the Hebrews that that is false, bad theology and a complete and utter misunderstanding of these passages in the letter to the Hebrews. We do not have time to consider those passages, nor even other passages in the NT which also have a bearing on this matter, but we may touch upon them, so we shall do this not so much by considering those passages but by grasping in our minds and hearts what Moses said here to the children of Israel.

The song itself

First of all however we must get hold of this Song of Moses, and understand the general flow of the song, and therefore how the words we are to consider fit in, for this song speaks very clearly about men falling away from the calling of God, perhaps in an even clearer way than the apostle did in his letter to the Hebrews.

Its delivery to the people

The song is introduced for us in the previous chapter: Moses spoke in the hearing of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song until they were ended/when they were finished.

All the congregation – I try to imagine this. There were 3-4m people in the camp. It seems impossible that he could speak to them all at the same time. The descriptions provided however in the previous chapter suggest that it is likely that the words were spoken many times over, either directly by Moses to many assemblies throughout the camp, or once to the elders who then repeated the words to their subordinates, and so on, until the whole camp had heard. We must remember that the camp was well organised following the visit some forty years earlier by Jethro, Moses’s father in law.

The division of the song

However it was done, it is the words that were spoken that matter. They are words of warning. They are words similar to Joshua’s words to the people before he died. They are words repeated time and again by the prophets. They are words repeated by Paul in his letter to Rome, and to the Ephesian elders as he returned to Jerusalem, though the words were adapted to the context in which Paul spoke them. And they are words which need to be repeated to us today.

So briefly, we have an overview of the song, which may be divided into three parts, an introduction v1-4, a history v5-42 and a, perhaps surprising, conclusion v43.


The first few verses introduce us to the LORD and to the beauty of the LORD. The message is so important that Moses calls on the heavens and the earth to pay attention. By heavens and earth we should understand not the senseless, ignorant creation but all sentient beings, the vast hosts of angelic beings, and men on earth, all who are capable of understanding what Moses had to say. The words are described as a gentle rain or dew – but when we read them perhaps our minds would rather turn to the fierceness of the rain in a storm than dew on the grass. But Moses is right, taken in the right way, these are gentle words of warning, and they come from the God who longs to gather his people together, who loves them with an everlasting love and, who, from their perspective, would give his own life for them.

Then Moses turns us (v3-4) to the attributes of God which will infuse this song with its life: his truth, justice and righteousness, and which will be resolved in the concluding verse.

Middle section

The middle section itself may be divided into two parts, which may themselves be subdivided.

5-18     The first part is a description and assessment of the people and the Lord’s provision for them.

19-42   The second part shows the Lord’s response to the people’s wickedness

The parts are overlapping and we find here, intertwined, descriptions of the problem, of judgement and the graciousness of the LORD towards his people.

This part clearly sets out what the problem is. It is found in the hearts of the people. It is that which will in due time cause their feet to slip.


The conclusion is perhaps surprising for it calls on the Gentiles to rejoice with his people. You will find that reading in the footnote in the pew Bibles (ESV). They are not to rejoice over them, nor are they to rejoice for them, but with them. The LORD has something in mind for the Gentiles which they shall share with his people, Israel.

Let me say that there is a small problem here. The Hebrew text, the Dead Sea scrolls and the Septuagint (LXX – the Greek translation of a Hebrew text which is older than the Hebrew text preserved for us by the Jews) are slightly different, though not irreconcilably:

Hebrew: Rejoice, Gentiles, his people
Dead Sea scrolls: Rejoice with him, O heavens,
            Bow down to/Worship him all the angels of God
Septuagint: Rejoice with him, O heavens,
            Bow down to/Worship him all the angels of God
            Rejoice, Gentiles, with his people
            Be strengthened in him all the sons of God

The Hebrew has one line. The Dead Sea scrolls have two different lines. And the LXX has all three lines plus one extra perhaps to complete the Hebrew parallelism.

I am not concerned with the words Worship him all the angels of God, different considerations apply to those, which though not in the Hebrew are attested in the NT, but nor indeed with Rejoice with him. O heavens as it is in the ESV, but rather with the omission of, or the relegation to a foot note of, Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.

This is not the place for textual criticism, nor is the speaker the man to do it, but I am disappointed that the pew version (the ESV) had ignored the witness of the Hebrew text and the LXX and used only the Dead Sea scrolls version in the main text, and especially so as Paul quotes this part of the verse in Romans 15:10 exactly as the LXX have it Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people. However, at least this reading is in the footnote!

I prefer the Hebrew reading, which you will find in the footnote: Rejoice, Gentiles, with his people not for reasons of textual criticism but for theological reasons. This reading fits with the whole plan of salvation that the Lord had devised in which Israel would play an important part, secondly it flows naturally out of the promises made to Abraham on which the benefits that Israel had received and were to receive depended, for by them blessing was intended to come to the Gentiles, of which we also read in this song. The necessary outcome of this is that the Gentiles shall rejoice with his people.

So, stepping back then, there is a reference here back to the promise made to Abraham, that in his seed all the nations of the earth shall be blest (Gen 12:3). Israel was a special people, but only as a type of the people that God would call together out of all the nations to be, as Peter reminds us, a chosen people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation and his special people (1 Pet 2:9). Paul speaks of the same in Romans – to the Jew first and also to the Greek/Gentile/Barbarian, whether he speaks of judgement or of salvation. We then, who are Gentiles, should remember this, that when we rejoice in the Lord, it is together with, and not apart from, the Jew.

The conclusion also shows us how the LORD will deal with the problem. It is not the blood of bulls offered by the Aaronic priesthood that shall absolve the people, but the LORD himself who shall provide an atonement for the land, his people – both Jew and Greek – again a reference back to Abraham’s reply to Isaac: God shall himself provide the lamb for the burnt offering (Gen 22:8).

With these things in mind we can turn to the middle section. And I apologise that we cannot deal with this exhaustively, nor even comprehensively, it would take far more time than we have available. If as a result you think I have misrepresented something, please do corner me later.

The middle section

The middle section consists of two parts, which may be further divided into seven. The divisions I have used are not strict, they overlap, and you may find different ways in which to organise them.

5-18     The first part is a description and assessment of the people and the Lord’s provision for them.

19-42   The second part shows the Lord’s response to the people’s wickedness

The description

5-6       A description of the people – their wickedness

It is put very simply: they are corrupt or as some say they have corrupted themselves. And as we would say, they bite the hand of the one who feeds them. They are ungrateful to their own Father, the God who brought them out of Egypt.

7-12     A description of the Lord’s care for them, his provision, his keeping

Moses then reminds the people something of their recent history. Ask your elders, he says, they will tell you how good the LORD has been to you whilst here in the wilderness. Then stepping back further he speaks of the Lord separating the peoples, probably here referring to the separation of the nations after the judgement at the tower of Babel. In this separation the cursed children of Canaan were given the land into which the Israelites were about to go. Their boundaries had been set, defining the boundaries of the Promised Land. The long awaited judgement was about to fall on them at the hand of the Israelites for Jacob is the place of his inheritance.

Then we are told something about the deliverance of the people out of Egypt, the land of bondage, here described as a desert land, a howling wilderness, for this is how it seemed to them when they raised their voices and their cries were heard in heaven. It was the Lord alone who had led them out and as it were carried them on eagle’s wings.

13-14   A description of their enjoyment his goodness, having tasted they fell away

The enjoyment of the riches of the Lord’s provision is described in terms of the blessings of rich and plentiful food: curds, milk, the fat of lambs, the best of breeds, choice wheat and the finest wines. This blessing however was abused and Jeshurun grew fat, not healthily.

15-18   A description of turning away to false gods, despite all of this they turned aside to false gods and provoked the Lord to anger

And in his fatness, he forgot that all of these good things came from the LORD, and he turned to false gods, to demons, and not even to the gods their fathers served before the Lord called them, but to novelty gods, inventing their own.

Such is the ignorance of men’s hearts, that they cannot be content with one false god, they must have more. Look at the pantheon of India, and how it has grown from a handful to the millions of today. Or to Athens, where the people were so concerned that they appeased all of the gods that they included an altar to the unknown god, just in case. And this, our own, land is falling back into such ignorance. You may have seen only this week that special, so they were described, prayers were said by animistic elders from Brazil before certain artefacts, presently held at Kew Gardens, from the Amazon were handled. This ignorance even went so far as requiring you to paint yourself in a very particular way before you even looked at some of them lest some dreadful fate befall you. What ignorance! Medusa is once again alive and well in London. But should we be surprised? In the light of this song of Moses is it not but what we can expect? Men who turn from the true God are quite adept at inventing their own.

Drawing out from the first section

In brief what this shows us, and it is extraordinary, that Israel to whom all of the promises had been given, despite their apparent benefits, rejected the Lord who provided them. If there were ever a health, wealth and prosperity gospel, it was this for they were going into a land flowing with milk and honey. They had received the promise that none of the diseases that had afflicted the Egyptians (Dt 7:15) would fall upon them. Later in the days of Solomon even silver was accounted as of little worth (1 Kings 10:21). Not only were they going into such a land, they had already tasted its benefits (v13-14) and had grown fat on it (v15). And in their fatness they abandoned the LORD.

But, as we shall see, God had something better in mind. We find that the promises are all about Christ. They are all fulfilled in him (2 Cor 1:20), and we find that Moses had instituted not a ministry of life (2 Cor 3) but of death for the law could only bring condemnation.

Christ institutes better things than Moses, for in him is life. In him we are not taken out of Egypt into a promised land in this world, in the same way that Noah was taken out of the old world into the present world and as they were taken into Canaan to take their sins with them. As if to reinforce this later these words would be heard. Jesus/Joshua asked this as he was about to depart from them: Choose you this day whom you will serve, will you serve the gods of your fathers [from beyond the Euphrates] or the gods of the land [into which you have been brought]? They were in the Promised Land, and would take all of it, but they had brought their sin with them. That sin would remain to corrupt the people, and ultimately to corrupt the land in which they lived so that it would not yield its fruit to them.

So we see that the benefits that Israel received were temporal not eternal. That is not to say they were small benefits, the benefits were great and glorious. Paul (Rom 3:1) asks the question: What advantage has the Jew? And answers in the affirmative, that there is much advantage in every way for the oracles of God had been committed to them and the LORD had promised that he would dwell among them if they were faithful to him.

But God’s judgement on them was that they had corrupted themselves (v5). Men are rebels against God. In God’s common grace he provides for all men: the sun rises and sets, the rains fall, the seed is planted, the Lord provides the harvest. Paul speaks with the Athenians of the general goodness of God to men as grounds for seeking, and knowing, the true God (Acts 17:24ff, v27). If we have no excuse in the face of his general goodness, how little excuse when he shows his special grace and care as he did to Israel in bringing them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. But even in the face of his special grace men are rebels. We continue to corrupt ourselves.

In this world nothing could have been better than to have lived in a faithful Israel in the Promised Land, but the health, wealth and prosperity gospel failed. The law failed. It could not change the hearts of men.

The Lord’s response

So we turn to the Lord’s response.

19-22   A description of the Lord’s response, the provocation to jealousy by the Gentiles and how he shall extend his grace towards them – Paul speaks of this in Romans (10:19 and 11: 11).

The chasing after false gods provoked the Lord to jealousy and ultimately to reject the people. He spurned them (v19). He hid his face from them. Time and again we see this cycle in the time of the judges. The people go after the false gods. The Lord hides his face. The people of the land oppress them. They cry out to the Lord and he delivers them, only for them to return to the false gods.

They were not faithful, v16 They provoked him to jealousy by serving false gods. God was right to judge them. And in turn God provokes them to jealousy by showing greater grace to those who are not one people (v21) but many, that is to say to the Gentiles.

But even that was not enough to prevent the falling away, as we know looking from our day. Even when the Lord brings judgement upon them and extends his special grace to the Gentiles – to [most of] us – to provoke Israel to jealousy, Israel continues to harden her heart. Indeed the extension of grace to the Gentiles, seems to further the opposition of the Jews to the work of God. It did during the Lord’s ministry; it did during the lives of the apostles; and it continued to this day. But God will not give them up. Has God given up on Israel? Paul asked and answered in the negative. Of course not he replied for he himself was a Jew.

The reason why they are not given up is found in the next verses where the Lord’s judgement is described.

23-35   A description of the judgement that shall fall

These verses describe the judgements. They are natural disasters, pestilence, hunger, destruction, and at the hand of the wild animals. They are also wars; the sword shall devour them. There shall be no distinction of person, whether old, or young, man or woman. A thousand shall be put to flight by one. Surely under the judgement of God every heart is put to fright. No-one has safety.

And how is this possible? How was it possible that one man can put 1000 to flight? The Lord tells us that it was because he had sold them to their enemies. It was he who surrendered them (v30).

Then we see that though the judgement on Israel comes at the hands of their enemies, the enemies are no better than Israel. The LORD is the Rock of Israel (v31), and he is a faithful, righteous God. But their rock is like Sodom and Gomorrah, their grapes are grapes of gall, their wine is the poison of serpents and the venom of cobras. And so a judgement is laid up in store for them (v34). 

Note that this judgement is sealed up, and does it seem strange? It is sealed up with his treasures. Doesn’t this tell us that judgement is a precious thing? It is a not an ordinary work of God. It is not to be kept on display at all times, though the evidence of it is always present – even the rainbow in the sky reminds us of that – the Lord keeps judgement in his storehouse. He holds back his hand. When a man asks, why does God not deal with the wicked? Perhaps we should point out that if God dealt with the wicked in the way that that man had in mind, all of us would be snuffed out in an instant. But the judgements of God are far wiser than that. And he holds back his hand.

Vengeance belongs to the LORD (v35). This means that calamity shall fall on all who will not be obedient to him. Whether they ignore his common grace to all men or whether they ignore his special grace to his people, their foot shall slip in due time. One day the seal shall be broken; the store-house shall be opened; and the judgement that has been stored up shall be poured out.

I suggested that the judgements of God are wiser than man’s idea of judgement. In the midst of this description of the terrible judgement we find this strange phrase: had I not feared the provocation [or wrath] of the enemy (v27). If God had not feared the enemy he says, he would have destroyed his people from the face of the earth (v26 paraphrased). But why would God have reason to fear his enemy? Perhaps we misunderstand fear here to be fear as we would feel it. Let us consider the reason the Lord gives as to why he will not give up on them, and try to understand. He said for fear of men he will not destroy. What does he mean?

He says in v19 he spurned them, but there is a limit to his spurning. The Lord has made promises and the glory of his name is dependent upon the keeping of those promises. He will not dash them to pieces (v26) or erase their memory from among men – unlike Nineveh whose name when Alexander came across its ruins had been forgotten by those who still lived in the land.

Then, is this a reference back to Moses contention with the LORD when he said Stand aside, and I shall destroy the people? And Moses replied, Not so! For these are your people whom you brought out of Egypt. What will the nations say if you destroy them? (Ex. 32 I have condensed the words more than Moses did). Moses was bold because he was mindful of the promises that the Lord had made, and he knew that the LORD will honour his own name and therefore keep his promises to men.

But then again in considering this, think carefully that the honour of his name is independent of us or of anything he has made. He must keep his promises for they are also made to himself. The promises were in the first place to the Son, all of the other promises flow from this one. Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as an inheritance (Psalm 2:8). Even if God were to erase everything he has made, so that nothing that had been made remained, this promise must stand for it was made by the Father to the Son, the Son fulfilled all of the conditions attached to that promise and so (Rom 3:25) [he] was set forth as the propitiation for sin. The promise must be kept or God is not God. The nations have been given to the Son, and the Son must therefore bring them to glory. God cannot cut them to pieces, nor can he wipe them out of existence or God is not God. What confidence we may have then in him. In the first instance he will save his people and bring them to glory because he is faithful to himself. As Paul says  to Timothy (2 2:13): If we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.

Likewise, when he judges his people he will not allow men to say that it is the hand of man that has given them success. When Nebuchadnezzar, who had executed the Lord’s judgement on Judah, attributed the glory of Babylon to his own work, God humbled him to eat grass like the beasts of the field. Men will not take to themselves the glory of a victory over Israel.

And again, it may have been the Romans who nailed the Lord to the cross, but the Lord by Isaiah declared beforehand that this was the work of God (Is 53:4,10), and Peter also afterwards (Acts 2:23) that this was the carefully planned intention of God. The work of God in judgement is not to be overlooked by men.

Which brings us to the final part of the middle section. where the LORD says here: Now see that I, even I, am he, and there is no God besides me (v39) I kill and I make alive, I would and I heal,. Nor is there any who can deliver from my hand.

36-42   A description of the mercy that he will show

In v36 suddenly there is a change of tone. The Lord had pronounced judgement on his people at the hands of his enemies and also judgement on his enemies, and here we have the words: The LORD will judge, in the sense as it is in the ESV of vindicate, his people and have compassion on his servants.

Suddenly judgement is apparently turned on its head. This is not the judgement the man in the street means. This is a different judgement. They hated Jesus because he associated with tax collectors and sinners. The thief was condemned by a Roman court to crucifixion, but a higher court washed him and absolved him as he hung there and he was admitted to Paradise that same day.

But see the circumstances of this. It is in their extremity that the Lord reaches out to them; when their strength has gone. When his people reach the end of their strength, when they understand that by their own works they cannot please him or serve him, then he steps in to save. And so he shows this in history for in the fullness of time Christ entered this world to make atonement for his people and the land. Even when we, and they, were his enemies he stepped in to save us.

The Lord then declared that it is he who does all of these things. He kills. He makes alive. He wounds. He heals. There is no escape. And he leaves us in these words with no doubt that he is the judge. There is no other.

So then, Their foot shall slip in due time. I said that there were three things we had to ask,

  • Who are they whose feet shall slip?
  • What does this mean to slip?
  • What can be done to prevent slippage?

How do we answer these questions? So what is the cause of the slippage? What are the consequences? How can it be prevented?

Who are they? They are all men. No-one is excepted from this; the Hebrew who refuses the special grace of God; the Gentile who refuses the common grace. Both are equally enemies of God. They forsake him and turn to idols and fall under his righteous judgements, which are stored up in his treasury to be revealed in due time.

What does it mean to slip?

It means whatever the outward appearances are, and the Hebrews knew far more of the blessings of God than any other nation. How easy would have been to look at them, see how favoured they were by God and then to think that they were also pleasing to him. But no, their hearts were as ready to slip away from the outward obedience to God as the hearts of the Gentiles who made no pretence of obedience.

It means then to forget the true God. It may not mean falling into open immorality, it could mean this, but at heart it is idolatry. It is a placing of other things in our lives where God should be. We make gods for ourselves and we serve them.

What then can be done to prevent this falling away? The Lord shows in this song the inadequacy of a temporal salvation. The law cannot work, it merely condemns. The gospel of health, wealth and prosperity cannot work, it merely inflames our desires for more of this world’s good things. These things do not change the hearts of men. Something else, something different, is required in order that the something better can come. It is only at the end of the song that that is revealed to us: [The LORD] will provide atonement for his land and his people. Paul echoes the inclusion of the land in this salvation when he also says: The whole creates groans with eager expectation waiting for the revealing of the sons of God (Rom 8:23 para). The salvation of his people is intrinsically bound up with the renewal of the land and hence, by inference, of the whole creation. It is only when the Lord provides atonement for his people that we shall be brought back from the brink.

It is when we are without strength, whilst we are his enemies, whilst we are dead in our sins that he comes to show mercy to us. To those who think they are alive he says I kill, but to those who are dead and without strength he says I make alive.


We have seen that the law was totally incapable of helping the people. The law merely condemned. Indeed it provoked sin, and showed sin up to be what it is. Something better was required, which is here only hinted at in the final verse, but the source of which is clearly shown throughout the song, in the love, compassion and mercy of the God who desires that all should be saved and come to him through faith in the sacrifice that he would provide, Jesus Christ, so that men are left without excuse. And the better solution, the only solution, was revealed in him, when he steps in and provides atonement for the people: as Paul describes it for us in Romans (Romans 3:21-31):

Now then without the law the righteousness of God is revealed, which was spoken about by the law and the prophets (including here), a righteousness of God through belief in Jesus Christ for all who are believing, for there is no separation/distinction, in the same way as all have sinned and mangled the glory of God, they will be declared righteous as a gift by his grace through the salvation in Jesus Christ, whom God openly set forth as a pleasing sacrifice through belief in his own blood to make known/show his own righteousness in [having suffered] the sins of former times in the patience of God, in order to show his righteousness in the present time, in order to show that he is both righteous/just and the declarer of righteousness/justifier of those out of/by reason of faith of/in Jesus.

Where then is boasting? It is locked out. Through the doing of the law? Through works? No, but by the law of belief. We reason in this way, a man is declared righteous through faith without the works of the law. Is God of the Jews only? Not also of the (heathen) nations? Yes, also of the heathen. Otherwise, [not only] one God, who declares righteous the circumcised out of belief and the uncircumcised through belief?

Do we make nothing the law through faith? Not at all! But we establish [firmly, rightly and securely] the law.

And what of us? Will our foot slip in due time? We should each ask ourselves the question.

As Moses said to the people (v46-7): Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe – all the words of this law. For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.

And, should our foot slip, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, so let us confess our sin and know that for fear of the enemy God will not destroy us, for he cannot deny himself.


199      The God of Abraham praise            578 We come before our fathers’ God

579      Thy hand O God hath guided…

773      A debtor to mercy alone

The terrors of law and of God with me shall have nothing to do…

How happy but no more secure….

774      A sovereign protector

Romans 3:21-31

Hebrews 12

25        See that you do not refuse him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28        Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

Deuteronomy 32

31:30   The Moses spoke in the hearing of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song until they were ended:

The Song of Moses

32:1     “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.

2          Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distil as the dew, as raindrops on the tender herb, and as showers on the grass.

3          For I proclaim the name of the Lord: Ascribe greatness to our God.

4          He is the Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is he.

5          “They have corrupted themselves; they are not his children, because of their blemish: a perverse and crooked generation.

6          Do you thus deal with the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, who bought you? Has he not made you and established you?

7          “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you:

8          When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel.

9          For the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the place of his inheritance.

10        “He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; he encircled him, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.

11        As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading out its wings, taking them up, carrying them on its wings,

12        so the Lord alone led him, and there was no foreign god with him.

13        “He made him ride in the heights of the earth, that he might eat the produce of the fields; he made him draw honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock;

14        Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs; and rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the choicest wheat; and you drank wine, the blood of the grapes.

15        “But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; you grew fat, you grew thick, you are covered with fat [obese]! Then he forsook God who made him, and scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation.

16        They provoked him to jealousy with foreign gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger.

17        They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know, to new gods, new arrivals that your fathers did not fear.

18        Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten the God who fathered you.

19        “And when the Lord saw it, he spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters.

20        And he said: ‘I will hide my face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith.

21        They have provoked me to jealousy by what is not God; they have moved me to anger by their foolish idols. But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.

22        For a fire is kindled in my anger, and shall burn to the lowest hell; it shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.

23        ‘I will heap disasters on them; I will spend my arrows on them.

24        They shall be wasted with hunger, devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction; I will also send against them the teeth of beasts, with the poison of serpents of the dust.

25        The sword shall destroy outside; there shall be terror within for the young man and virgin, the nursing child with the man of grey hairs.

26        I would have said, “I will dash them in pieces, I will make the memory of them to cease from among men,”

27        Had I not feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should misunderstand, lest they should say, “Our hand is high; and it is not the Lord who has done all this.” ’

28        “For they are a nation void of counsel, nor is there any understanding in them.

29        Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!

30        How could one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had surrendered them?

31        For their rock is not like 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 serpents, and the cruel venom of cobras.

34        ‘Is this not laid up in store with me, sealed up among my treasures?

35        Vengeance is mine, and recompense; their foot shall slip in due time; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things to come hasten upon them.’

36        “For the Lord will judge his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone, and there is no one remaining, bond or free.

37        He will say: ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they sought refuge?

38        Who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise and help you, and be your refuge.

39        ‘Now see that I, even I, am he, and there is no God besides me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from my hand.

40        For I raise my hand to heaven, and say, “As I live forever,

41        If I whet my glittering sword, and my hand takes hold on judgment, I will render vengeance to my enemies, and repay those who hate me.

42        I will make my arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh, with the blood of the slain and the captives from the heads of the leaders of the enemy.” ’

43        “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people; [let all the angels of God worship him – Psalm 97:7, Heb 1:6 and Dead Sea scrolls] for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and render vengeance to his adversaries; he will provide atonement [cleanse] for his land and his people.”

44        So Moses came with Joshua the son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people. 45 Moses finished speaking all these words to all Israel, 46 and he said to them: “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe – all the words of this law. 47 For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life, and by this word you shall prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess.”

48        Then the Lord spoke to Moses that very same day, saying: 49 “Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, across from Jericho; view the land of Canaan, which I give to the children of Israel as a possession; 50 and die on the mountain which you ascend, and be gathered to your people, just as Aaron your brother died on Mount Hor and was gathered to his people; 51 because you trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the Wilderness of Zin, because you did not hallow me in the midst of the children of Israel. 52 Yet you shall see the land before you, though you shall not go there, into the land which I am giving to the children of Israel.”