Monday, October 1, 2012

Music As A Teaching Tool

Deuteronomy 31:14-30

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.  And the LORD appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.” (Deuteronomy 31:14-15)

Inevitably, any organization that lasts will be forced to change leadership.  No leader lives forever.  Joshua had worked alongside Moses from the time they left Egypt.  He had led the army in defeating the Amalekites in Exodus 17 and had accompanied Moses to the top of the mountain, in Exodus 24.  Exodus 33:11 tells us that while Moses went to and from the Tabernacle,  “… his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle.”  In Numbers 14, he was the only one of the twelve spies to stand with Caleb, insisting God was able to give the victory.  It is not surprising that God chose him to take Moses‘ place.

Now God has revealed that Moses is to relinquish leadership to Joshua.  He needs to spend a little time giving Joshua specific directions as to how to proceed as he first steps into Moses position.

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.  Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?  And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.” (Deuteronomy 31:16-18)

Nothing stays the same forever.  Eventually, when Moses was not there to prevent it, the Nation of Israel would begin to let down their standards and turn away from God.  When they did, they would experience exactly the things God had warned them about.  They would begin to feel that God had forsaken them.

“Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.  For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.   And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.” (Deuteronomy 31:19-21) 

Songs are a powerful teaching tool.  An old Rock song speaks of the kind of music that “just sooths the soul.” One hardly ever forgets the old nursery songs, or the ones he listened to as a teenager.  The tune just keeps coming into our mind and influencing our thoughts.   God directed Moses to write a special song to remind them that the things they experienced were the result of their turning away from God, because it would not be forgotten as easily as a lesson.  It would serve to remind them to obey God long after Moses was dead.

Because music has such a power influence, we need to consider the kinds of music we listen to.  Colossians 3:16 commands, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms(songs of praise) and hymns(songs of worship) and spiritual songs(songs which promote a spiritual attitude), singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord."  According to Hebrews 13:15, praise is giving thanks for what God has done.  Worship is acknowledging his holiness and power.  The songs that please God are the ones that teach about what God has done or encourage us to obey him.  It is troubling how many modern songs are only about building excitement, rather than teaching.  The right songs will be a powerful influence to guide even those who have backslidden toward what is right.  The wrong ones can be used by Satan.

“Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.  And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.” (Deuteronomy 31:22-23) 

Though he knew they would someday turn away from the Lord, Moses had done everything he could to prevent it happening.  An orderly transition to Joshua’s leadership would delay the eventual change.  His charge here was an expression of confidence in Joshua and his abilities, and a warning not to spend a lot of time trying to second guess himself or worry about what Moses would do, but o just trust God to lead him.

Over the years, I have watched hundreds of Missionaries and Mission groups who were afraid to relinquish control of their churches because they were afraid they might fall away.  While some of those who are released do turn away, most of them go on to become strong autonomous churches.  Those who are not released become increasingly dependent on the parent organization for support, much like a child who is never allowed to grow up.  A twenty year old church, like a twenty year old man, should not be dependent on their parents.

“And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.  For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the LORD; and how much more after my death?” (Deuteronomy 31:24-27)

The Ark of the Covenant already contained the two tables of stone on which God had written his commandments.  Now Moses puts all the laws from the rest of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy into a single book which the Levites were to put into the Ark as well.  Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy all focus largely on the historical events.  Leviticus focuses mostly on the Law.  Moses is never credited with writing the history, but he is credited with writing the law.  He had the law put into the Ark, that their behavior could be compared at a later date to show their wrong.  It is probable that Moses did not write the entire Pentateuch.

"Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.  For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.   And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.” (Deuteronomy 31:28-30)

Moses then ordered all the people together knowing that they would one day turn away from God, bringing his wrath upon them.  He would teach them his song as a way of influencing them to serve God in the future .


  1. Fascinating post! I love the old hymns that are so rich in sound theology and doctrine. Conversely, I find some of the modern trends in worship music a bit disturbing, such as songs that repeat the same phrase over and over with little or no content between the refrains, or songs that could just as easily be sung to a romantic interest as to God. The latter group speaks of love but not of our sin or His sacrifice and divinity. Good, Bible-based songs are an excellent way of teaching young people and of reinforcing doctrine and worshipful attitudes even in mature believers.
    Blessings to you,

  2. Thanks, Laurie. Sadly, so many today equate the emotional with the spiritual. Many of the songs today are geared to producing an emotional response, rather than a spiritual on, and many do not realize the difference.