The Scriptorium

Life and Death

Every day, it's the same choice. Deuteronomy 32.44-52

The Song of Moses: Deuteronomy 32 (6)

Opening Prayer: Deuteronomy 32.4
He is
the Rock, His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,
A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.

Sing Deuteronomy 32.3, 4
(Sagina: And Can It Be)
He is the Rock, His work is sure, and justice defines His every Word:
A God of truth, upright and pure, both just and righteous is our Lord!
Perfect is He in all His ways, without injustice, deserving praise!
Refrain, v. 3
I will proclaim our Savior’s fame, and sing the greatness of His Name.

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 32.44-52

1. How did Moses stress the importance of singing this song?

2. Why was Moses not permitted to enter the land of promise?

The book of Deuteronomy continually holds out the contrast between what God chooses for His people – obedience and life – and what His people choose for themselves – disobedience and death. The Song of Moses aptly summarizes this theme, as do these last verses of Deuteronomy 32.

Moses strictly instructed the people to learn and sing this song, and all the words of God’s Law, and to teach them to their children (vv. 44-46). This would not be a “futile thing” for them to do, because the Law, and the song that reminds them to obey God’s Law, gives God’s instructions for life (v. 47). If they want to live and prolong their days, they will do as Moses commands.

It’s sad that many people today consider meditating on God’s Law and internalizing and obeying it more consistently (Pss. 1; 119.9-11), a “futile thing.” They must consider it so, since they give so little time and effort to it. The same with singing the Song of Moses, the psalms, and other great hymns that remind us of our calling and duty, and of God’s warnings for disobedience. Singing is just not something we regard as essential or helpful. Those who believe this say of singing that it is a “futile thing.” Singing can stir our hearts to pay more attention to God’s Word, so that we delight in it and in Him, obey and serve Him, and shine the light of His glory and truth into our world. The state of Christian faith today bears sad testimony to the truth of Moses’ words concerning the cost of failing to hear and heed the Law of God.

Not even Moses could escape the judgment of God for disobedience. His failure to obey God cost him entrance to the land of promise (vv. 48-52). And do we think we’re somehow better than Moses? That we can disregard God’s Law and fail to sing His praises, and still know fullness of life in Christ?

We’re kidding ourselves. Tragically.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Life: the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body. Futile: serving no useful purpose; completely ineffective. Your choice. Which would you rather be? Which would you rather exemplify? The answer hinges on one decision. What will you do with Jesus Christ and His Law? “Set your hearts on all the words…” (v. 46). Yes. “My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end” (Ps. 119:112 NIV). “…you shall command your children to be careful to observe—all the words of this law” (v. 46). Yes. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6.7). “For it is not a futile thing for you, because it is your life…” (v. 47). Yes! “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he die, he shall live.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (Jn. 1.4; 5.21; 6.63; 11.25; 14.6) Futility or life? Life or death? “…therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…” (Deut. 30.19). “For there is born to you this day…a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

(Lk. 2.11) The choice. The decision. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14.15).


1. Why does it make sense that Christians should choose life by obeying the commandments of God?

2. Meditate on Matthew 24.12. How does this warning apply to our day?

3. Choosing life is a daily and moment-by-moment calling. How would you counsel a new believer to improve in carrying out this calling?

…lest, then, the teaching of the Law should be despised or forgotten, or, from being but languidly received, should gradually be obliterated from their minds, he as it were spurs them up by the vehemence of this Song, and commands that their posterity should be instructed in it, in order that their attention may be aroused by its menaces.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 32.46

Lord, I would sing of Your grace throughout this day, to help me remember that…

Closing Prayer: Deuteronomy 32.9-14
Pray that God will guard you and all His people today, and that He will advance His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven through us all.

Sing Deuteronomy 32.9-14, 3
(Sagina: And Can It Be)
Think now on all the days of old, the generations passed above,
how, by our fathers and elders told, we learned of God’s redeeming love.
When He the nations set apart, He kept His people in His heart.
Refrain, v. 3
I will proclaim our Savior’s fame, and sing the greatness of His Name.

Just like an eagle guards its nest, and spreads its wings to shield its own,
takes them and shelters them in his breast, so God preserved them all alone.
No foreign god assistance brings: He carries them on His own wings.
Refrain, v. 3

I will proclaim our Savior’s fame, and sing the greatness of His Name.

He made His people lords of earth, to eat the produce of their fields,
lavished them all with creation’s worth, and blessed their harvests and their yields.
He made their flocks and herds abound, and blessed the vintage of their ground.
Refrain, v. 3
I will proclaim our Savior’s fame, and sing the greatness of His Name.

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