Sin is no surprise

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When did you last feel really hurt by someone? Perhaps a close friend betrayed you? The pain of betrayal cuts deeply.

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Bible passage: Deuteronomy 31:14–29

Israel's Rebellion Predicted
 14 The LORD said to Moses, "Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tent of Meeting, where I will commission him." So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the Tent of Meeting.

 15 Then the LORD appeared at the Tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the Tent. 16 And the LORD said to Moses: "You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. 17 On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, 'Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?' 18 And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods.

 19 "Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. 20 When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. 21 And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath." 22 So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites.

 23 The LORD gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: "Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you."

 24 After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, 25 he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD : 26 "Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. 27 For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! 28 Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to testify against them. 29 For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall upon you because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD and provoke him to anger by what your hands have made."

New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Audio Bible passage

The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).


Terrible message
Joshua had been commissioned publicly, but now Moses and Joshua are alone with God in the tent of meeting. They saw the Lord! But what a terrible message he brought. God told them that Moses would soon die (as expected), and then the people would ‘prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land’. They were meant to be his people and he their God. This was betrayal! The covenant had provisions for their unfaithfulness, as well as blessings for their obedience. However, it is one thing to provide for possible eventualities, but it is another to know the betrayal is coming so soon.

No surprise to God
How many times does God know betrayal is coming and still move forward lovingly? There was Adam and Eve, it happened repeatedly with Israel, also Simon Peter (John 13:36–38), and it is true with us. Our sin and betrayal are no surprise to God, and yet he doesn’t destroy us and go with an alternative plan.

Enduring reality
In this case God gave them both a song (vs 19–22) and the words of the Law (v 26) as a witness against them. He did not change history because of their
sin and write a new story, he made sure his word stood as the enduring reality. He would have to work through history to win their hearts back and fulfil his promises.

Peter Mead


God knows how we will hurt him, and yet he loves us still. Praise God for that!

Deeper Bible study

Promises of deliverance (31:3,5) are replaced by prophecies of ‘disaster’ (vs 17,29). Comforting assurances (31:6–8) give way to warnings that God would ‘forsake’ his people and ‘hide’ his face from them (vs 17,18). While God’s grace is both unconditional and inexhaustible, hardness of heart can bring us to a point of no return, where we render ourselves unable to receive it. Concluding his public ministry Jesus warned: ‘Walk while you have the light, so that the darkness may not overtake you’, after which he ‘hid from them’ (John 12:35,36, NRSV). However, the predictions of disaster were not self-fulfilling prophecies. Human beings are never hapless puppets: they are image-bearers of God, enjoying the dignity of choice (Deut 30:15–20). God simply says, ‘I know what they are disposed to do’ (v 21). With loving forethought, longing that all be saved (John 3:16,17; 2 Pet 3:9; 1 Tim 2:4), God both warns against sin and makes gracious provision for forgiveness when we do sin (1 John 1:8–10).

Sandwiched between warnings of disasters wrought by disobedience (vs 15–18) and instructions about preserving the Book of the Law (vs 24–29), there comes an unexpected, almost light-hearted, divine order: write down a song! (v 19). Its theme is God’s unfailing faithfulness in the face of his people’s unfaithfulness. Though replete with warnings of judgement, grace abounds. The song concludes with a prophecy that sees its fulfilment in Jesus: ‘he will … make atonement for his land and people’ (32:43).

One of many strands of remembrance woven into Deuteronomy, this is truly a song to remember (31:21)! It sounds the trumpet call of judgement, but is also a melody that beckons lovingly to sinners. Above all else, it is the love-song of a God who constantly seeks to woo and win his bride-people back to covenant love (Hos 2:14–23).

Read the whole song in Deuteronomy 32:1–43. How is the Spirit convicting you through these ancient words? What life-lessons is he teaching? What comfort is he offering?

Tanya Ferdinandusz

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Counting on your name
Tim Hughes, Nick Herbert & Ben Cantelon
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  • Rachael Hampton | Thursday, 11 July 2019

    No Plan B. Not when the first people sinned; not when His special people betrayed Him; not when His own people tortured and killed His Son; not when even after the resurrection some still doubted; and not when we with new hearts still fail Him. Just dogged, persistent, mind blowing, determined love that works on through the disappointments and disruptions to bring His great plan to completion in a new heavens and a new earth. What an awesome God! Ruth thank you, how wonderful that link is, Jesus the Rock, with the Israelites in the desert, meeting their needs.

  • Mary Chaieb | Friday, 12 July 2019

    "Respond" makes me think of this song:

  • Angela Munday | Friday, 12 July 2019

    God always allows humanity to make their own choices, but there will come a time when the doors to the ark need to be locked to ensure the safety of all those who chose to go within. As time always moves forward, with it travels God’s justice and compassion. Time on earth comes to an end for everyone and as the LORD said to Moses “You haven’t much longer to live.” God is always waiting for people to choose to put their trust in Him alone......”I will make all things new! These words are true and can be trusted.” (Revelation 21:5)

  • Angela Munday | Friday, 12 July 2019

    MARY - Thank you for Nathaniel’s words “Nothing I do, can make you love me less.” Thanks be to God for His divine love. Amen.

  • Teresa Warner | Friday, 12 July 2019

    Thank you, MARY, beautiful song.

  • Roger Hall | Friday, 12 July 2019

    Time and again I realise how important the Story is as a whole. God is outside our real thoughts. How can we understand how, as time proceeds He can insert His influence upon His creatures in this way? Yes, He can see as we would look at a picture of the Panorama in front of us. It is really important for us to become, as we've said before, steeped in the Holy Scripture, for all the little things are so very valuable in being able to see the very great greatness of the God we love and praise.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Friday, 12 July 2019

    So true RACHAEL. No plan B and mind blowing love. Oh that our heart could grasp words like Eph 3:18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger: but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing. Ps 34:10

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