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The Last Psalm of Moses

Sep 11, 2013

Deuteronomy 33:26-29 is a psalm of Moses that Eleazer, his editor, placed in the record after concluding the blessing on the tribes.

26 There is none like the God of Jeshurun,
Who rides the heavens to your help,
And through the skies in His majesty.
27 The eternal God is a dwelling place,
And underneath are the everlasting arms;
And He drove out the enemy from before you,
And said, “Destroy!”

28 So Israel dwells in security [betach],
The fountain
[ayin, “eye”] of Jacob secluded [badad, “alone, only”],
In a land of grain and new wine;
His heavens also drop down dew,
29 Blessed are you, O Israel;
Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord,
Who is the shield of your help,
And the sword of your majesty!
So your enemies shall cringe before you,
And you shall tread upon their high places.

This psalm pictures Israel as the Upright Nation (“Jeshurun”). Although Moses was painfully aware of Israel’s lack of uprightness, he was able to see beyond men’s failure to achieve the promise by their own strength and to see that God would fulfill His oath to create Jeshurun.

This is a New Covenant psalm, for it is based upon God’s oath to write the law in the hearts of the people, turning them from corruption to uprightness. So in verse 26 God “rides the heavens to your help.” He surrounds Israel, riding “through the skies” above them while “underneath are the everlasting arms” (vs. 27).

Only God is Israel’s “security,” or betach (בטח). The root word is batach, “trust, confidence.” The Hebrew word is spelled beth (ב) which is a “house,” teth (ט), which is “to surround,” followed by a chet (ח), which means an inner room (heart). In other words, biblical “trust” is the condition of our heart when it is surrounded by God above and His arms beneath. The word carries a numeric value of 19, which means “faith and hearing.” (See The Biblical Meaning of Numbers from One to Forty.)

The Hebrew number 19 itself is written with the letter kof (ק). It is written with two marks, one as a covering, and the other as a vertical line. As Lawrence Kushner says in his Book of Letters, page 68, 69,

Kof is one of the letters made by two marks ... The lower mark of the kof is a man calling G-d. But G-d also calls man. With the upper mark of the kof He whispers very softly to see if you are really listening…”

Faith, then, is a two-step process, for “faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:17). Like faith, as pictured in the letter kof, for trust and security is surrounded by God from above and from beneath.

Moses was expressing the fact that Israel was secure in the love of God as He made His oath to save all who were present and those who were not (Deuteronomy 29:15). Only God’s oath makes our salvation secure, for man is incapable of fulfilling his vows of obedience as seen under the Old Covenant.

In Deuteronomy 33:27, the “enemy” is far more than just Canaanites or Amorites. Paul tells us that the ultimate enemy is death itself (1 Corinthians 15:26), which God will abolish in the end. Under the Old Covenant, the Israelites were more concerned with driving out the Canaanites by a physical sword. But under the New Covenant, our warfare is not against flesh and blood. Neither is our weapon so carnal and dull, for we are given the Sword of the Spirit, which is sharper than any two-edged sword.

The real enemy is death, which God Himself drives out of our “land” to fulfill His vow. Deuteronomy 33:28 is packed with a double meaning:

28 So Israel dwells in security [betach],
The fountain
[ayin, “eye”] of Jacob secluded [badad, “alone”]

The word ayin is literally “an eye,” but it is also figurative for a fountain when picturing tears that flow from one’s eyes. So the only source of Jacob’s security is God’s watchful eye upon Jacob. But the double meaning pictures a secluded (or protected) fountain of the water of life that is given to Jacob for his provision.

We see a similar metaphor in Revelation 7:17,

17 for the Lamb in the center of the throne shall be their shepherd, and shall guide them to springs [fountains] of the water of life; and God shall wipe every tear from their eyes.

It pictures Christ “weeping” fountains of water by His suffering to give us the water of life, and by this, He wipes the tears from our own eyes.

So Moses reveals the fountain of the water of life “in a land of grain and new wine,” not a dry land, but full of dew. Thus is Israel “blessed” in verse 29. In vivid metaphorical language, Moses pictures the secure heart that can trust God’s ability to surround it and protect it until such time as His promises are fulfilled. The tranquility of the heart is then portrayed as a fountain in a fruitful land with God’s eye watching diligently over Israel.

The message is clear: When God’s oath finally reaches its full manifestation in the plan of God, the hearts of all the people will be fruitful in the Kingdom of God.

Moses then finishes his psalm in Deuteronomy 33:29,

29 Blessed are you, O Israel;
Who is like you, a people saved
[yasha] by the Lord [Yahweh],
Who is the shield of your help,
And the sword of your majesty!
So your enemies shall cringe before you,
And you shall tread upon their high places.

The Hebrew word for “salvation” is yeshua, the name of Jesus Himself. The word “saved” is its verb form, yasha, the action of Yeshua. He is the Yahweh of the Old Testament. He is also both the shield of protection and the sword of conquest. When we put on the armor of God, we put on these attributes of Jesus Christ Himself, both the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16) and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). These two represent the whole armor of God, which includes the helmet of “Salvation” (Yeshua), for in putting on this helmet, Christ becomes our Head.

When we are fully clothed with the armor of God, our enemies will “cringe” before us, Moses says. The Hebrew word is kachash (כחשׁ). It carries the idea of failure, denial, disavowing, deception, submission, and lying—as well as cringing. When we view the “last enemy” as death, Moses was prophesying that death itself will cringe before us. Death will submit to us, rather than the other way around. Death will also prove to be a liar, for whereas it had claimed eternal mastery, in the end it proved to be too weak to overcome the immortality that flows from the fountain of life.

“And you shall tread [darak] upon their high places [bamah].”

The word darak not only means “to tread or march,” but also “to bend,” as in bending a bow.

The word bamah, "high places," can refer to places of worship, which were often on hills, or even to battlefields.

Moses uses this again as a metaphor that runs parallel to his previous line about enemies cringing before us. When an enemy cringes, his “high place” (head) bends downward. So the metaphor was meant to portray poetically the enemy’s act of submission, as he submits his religious views and traditions of men to the power of divine truth.

This is the final revelation of Moses to Israel. It is the culmination of the second law and the second covenant, prophesying total victory in the end. The carnal mind is at war with the things of the Spirit, but in the end, it will fail to hold power in the earth. All enemies will be abolished, including death itself.

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Category: Teachings

Dr. Stephen Jones

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