Saturday, June 27, 2015


So Moses came with Joshua the son of Nun and spoke all the words of this song in the hearing of the people.  (Deuteronomy 32:44)

There was an old belief that a swan was mute until it came time for it to die—and then it would burst into a beautiful song.  From the fable comes the expression, “swan song,” speaking of a final deed or declaration a person performs.  In Deuteronomy 32, you have the swan song of Moses.  His journey through life is ending.  Death looms and eternity beckons, and so he has some final words to share with the people of God.  This is a hymn of heritage—the lyrics of legacy.  Wouldn’t it have been something to hear the old man, now one hundred and twenty years of age burst into song?

The first stanza focuses on the glory and greatness of God (v.1-4).  The intent of the song is to instruct the people in theology.  The music God wants is about more than a melody (we do not know this one)—it is about the message.  Too often, what we sing in churches today majors on style and not substance—meant to inspire rather than inform.  Our emotions ought to be moved when we consider God’s greatness, whether expressed in, “How Great Thou Art,” or the contemporary, “How Great Is Our God.”  Still, it is the text and not the tune that should stir us.

The second stanza contrasts the faithfulness of God with the unfaithfulness of Israel (v.5-6).  God had been the solid Rock—the God of truth—just and righteous.  His people had been compromising, corrupt, and crooked.  A loving Father had cared for them, yet they were disobedient children—ungrateful and unholy.  The music of the church leads us to consider our God, but also to confront our sin, and bring us to repentance.

The third stanza (v.7-14) extols the grace of God in choosing Israel.  God sought them out and selected them from all the nations to be His.  He kept them as the very apple of His eye and carried them on His wings as the eagle bears its young.  From a family of nomads tending sheep in the desert, then enslaved in Egypt, God multiplied them, delivered them, and made them a great nation.  The intent of Christian music, likewise, is to express a testimony of thanksgiving to God and His amazing grace.

Stanza four (v.15-18) portrays the ingratitude of the people—like a well-fed beast, rather than submitting to the Master’s will, they kicked back at Him.  They forgot God and embraced pagan idols.  I think of the lyrics of, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” which remind us how prone we are to wander despite all the blessing flowing from God.

The remainder of the song warns of the judgment that results from stubborn sin (v.19-35).  It had been the portion of their fathers, it would be theirs if they followed the same folly, and, sadly, it would predict the future of the Jews.  Yet, the intent is not to destroy but to discipline them.  It will achieve the results (v.36-43).  The second advent of Christ will bring the salvation of the nation.  May our songs ever point to the hope we have in Jesus!  This song was to be taught to the people of God (v.44-47).  It is the swan song of Moses (v.48-52).  Let us never forget the truth imprinted on our soul by the music of the church!

No comments: