The Scriptorium

A Song for the Ages

God's gift and witness to His people. Deuteronomy 31.19-23

Next Stage in God’s Covenant: Deuteronomy 30, 31 (5)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 102.1-4
Hear my prayer, O LORD,
And let my cry come to You.
Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble;
Incline Your ear to me;
In the day that I call, answer me speedily.
For my days are consumed like smoke,
And my bones are burned like a hearth.
My heart is stricken and withered like grass,
So that I forget to eat my bread.

Psalm 102.1-4
(Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
Lord, hear my prayer and cry; hide not Your face from me!
In my distress and tears I sigh – Lord, hear my earnest plea!
My days like smoke blow past; my bones are scorched with sin.
My heart, like wilted, withered grass bends low to earth again.

Today’s Text: Read Deuteronomy 31.19-23

1. What was the purpose of this song?

2. What were the people supposed to do with this song?

Why a song? The obvious reason is that it would remind the people, in their times of wandering from the Lord, that they needed to confess their sins and return to Him. God knew His people were not going to keep covenant with Him. But He was not content to leave it at that. He wanted a song to be in their hearts and on their lips, a tune they would remember and sing to call themselves back into fellowship with the Lord.

Moses was to teach the song to this generation and to command them to teach it to their children (v. 19). This was a kind of national anthem for the people of Israel; it was to be remembered and sung in every generation. It was to be there, ready and available, whenever the people needed it to call them to repent and return to the Lord.

Songs have power to rally people to unity, remind them of their heritage and mission, and move them to action. This must have been a deeply emotional song, given its subject matter. Its main purpose was to indict, convict, and call to remembrance the promises of God. This song – which we will consider in chapter 32 – is so important, that it’s still sung by the servants of God in heaven to this day (Rev. 15.1-3).

Moses wrote the song and taught it to the people. Then he inaugurated Joshua and strictly charged him to bring the people into the land of promise. Everything was just about ready now for the great adventure of conquest to begin.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves.” That seems nice enough. Okay. A Song. Sounds good. “…and teach it to the children…put it in their mouths…” Can do. That will be fun. We’ll listen to it and sing it as a family. “…that this song may be a witness for Me against the children.” Oh. Wait. This is not a little Christian ditty like “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam”? “Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten… for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them.” So being a Christian is not really about fun and games and I’m happier than you? And our church is having more fun than yours? You mean, this is serious business? Yes indeed. “Be strong and of good courage.” Take heart. God’s Word will not return void (Is. 55.11). Make the effort. Teach the song. “…be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15.58). It is a song for the ages. Sing and teach it with gusto!


1. Why are songs good ways to teach and remind people about our calling in the Lord?

2. What does it mean to teach a song? Is it only how to sing it? Is it more?

3. What songs in particular keep you mindful about what your calling in the Lord requires?

this song was the means of assisting the elect to seek after repentance, when they were smitten by the hand of God. Still, although the word of God should do nothing more than condemn its hearers to death, yet it would be enough that it was a sweet savor to Himself. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 31.19

Lord, give me a song for today, so that I…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 102.12-14, 22-28
Pray and sing these verses, and let them remind you of God’s power to revive, and encourage you in your walk with Him.

Psalm 102.12-14, 22-28
(Leominster: Not What My Hands Have Done)
But You, O Lord, abide forever in Your place.
Arise and stand on Zion’s side and lavish us with grace!
Revive Your Church, O Lord! Let all her dust and stones
be strengthened by Your mighty Word, and compact be as one.

Yet let us tell God’s Name and praise His glorious grace;
Let all as one His love proclaim together in this place.
Though now our strength is low; though shortened grow our days,
our God will not forsake us so, but keep us in His ways!

Of old You made the earth and heavens by Your hand.
Though they shall perish You endure; forever shall You stand.
They change, yet You remain the same, without an end.
Our children shall Your favor gain, and theirs shall be Your friend.

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here. And check out our current ReVision series on encouragement.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore