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10 March. Deuteronomy chapters 32-24
There are two ‘songs’ or poems here, attributed to Moses (although since Moses is referred to in the third person in one of them, we may question the authorship!)
The second is easier to deal with since it is a song of blessing. As we saw earlier with Isaac and Jacob blessing their sons at the end of their lives, it is natural for old people to want to see their descendants prosper, to feel that their life has not been in vain if the next generations are doing well for themselves. But for Moses it is more than this, as his life’s calling was to bring the whole Israelite people, all twelve tribes, to this point of being about to cross the Jordan and claim the Promised Land. Everything depended on them being obedient to the teaching he had received and passed on.
That is why the first song reads as it does, lurching backwards and forwards between a vision of God as loving parent, and of the same God as vengeful and jealous. For Moses understood the relationship that God had already showed, and would continue to show, to his people. If they honoured and worshipped him, all would be well and they would prosper. There was no reason not to do so. But whether through human nature, or the influence of other cultures, or the Devil’s temptation – take it as you will – they would constantly turn away from this loving God, who would then both be angry with them (as any parent is angry with a rebellious child) and protective of them in taking vengeance on those who have led them astray.
So as Moses climbs the mountain, at the incredible age of 120, to glimpse the promised land before he dies, he has the bittersweet experience of knowing that God would always love and be with his people, but that the people would not always love their God.
And so ends the first part of the Bible. The Law, the Torah, the Pentateuch, the Books of Moses. The foundation for all that follows, the scriptures that Jews, Christians and Muslims all acknowledge. Blessed be the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As it was in the beginning, as now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.