“‘Now therefore write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel’” (Deuteronomy 31:19).
Prior to Israel entering the Promised Land, Moses made sure they understood God’s law. The previous generation had failed to honor their Lord, and Moses wasn’t about to let that happen again. At God’s behest, he wrote a song detailing all God had done and would do for Israel. This song was to be a testament to God’s greatness, despite the disobedience of the people that was sure to come.
The song opens with a declaration of God as the Rock. “‘The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he’” (Deuteronomy 32:4). In a song about Israel’s unfaithfulness, God introduces Himself as a steady, strong, never-changing rock. This metaphor continues throughout the song, always in contrast to the wavering of Israel.
The song goes on to describe ways in which Israel was unfaithful. Many of these moments occurred well after Moses’ day. The song discusses Israel’s decision to go after false gods and how as a result God gave them up to their enemies. This happened time and again, from the era of the judges to the climatic exile to Babylon. The implications of this are powerful: God already knew exactly how His people would turn against Him. The curses about which He had warned them would come upon them as He delivered them into the hands of those who hated them.
But even then, God would not forsake Israel. “‘For the LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free’” (32:36). No matter what rebellious Israel did, their sins could never make God forget His covenant with them. They will always be His special people. The song ends with a promise to enact vengeance on those who dare to hurt His children. Their Rock would stand firm against their enemies, holding fast to His promise to deliver them.