TODAY’S READING: Deuteronomy 32–34; Psalm 91
As we end our missiological traverse of the Pentateuch, it is fitting to remember that the story therein frames the metanarrative of the Bible. The Psalms, some scholars say, are divided according to the five books of the law. Some consider Deuteronomy 32 to be “Romans in a nutshell.” Evidently, Paul drew deeply from the whole book and ended his magnificent epistle by quoting directly from that chapter. Christopher Wright makes the connection for us, saying that in Romans Paul “quotes [Deuteronomy 32’s] final doxology, calling on the nations to praise God with his people (Deut. 32:43), in his exposition of the multinational nature of the gospel and its implications for the need of cross-cultural acceptance and sensitivity between Jewish and Gentile Christians (Rom 15:7-10).” Wright points out that it was Paul who “recognized that the fulfillment of God’s purposes for Israel could never be complete without the ingathering of the nations as well.”
Moses sang and taught one last song, knowing that we remember truths when put to music. To punctuate God’s passion, Moses’ last words in his last song, which is the last point of his last sermon, were these: “Rejoice, O Gentiles with His people… He will provide atonement for His land and for His people” (v. 43). With one last thunder, Moses laid out the heart of God: God will redeem for Himself people out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation for their great eternal joy and His great eternal glory. Then Moses gathered himself and died.
God’s Old Testament dealings with non-Israelites can seem contradictory. On the one hand, He extended blessings to them; on the other hand, He seemed intent on wiping them out. On the one hand, the nations seemed the recipients of His blessing through His instrument Israel, and on the other hand, the nations were the instrument of God to judge His own. Moses reminded the people of God of the great privilege they had been given—to extend God’s fame to all the peoples of earth—and he foresaw that they would fail spectacularly. But because God by nature cannot be defeated, Moses prophesied that God would even use our failures for His trans-national glory. Christopher Wright says that this reversal is not explained, just listed:
- The nations will be enemies whom God will use to judge Israel.
- Yet God will finally defend Israel against those very enemies.
- God will ultimately lead all—Israel and the nations together—to the praise and worship of God.
In God’s wonderful wisdom, the blessing and cursing, life and death, exile and return, redemption and atonement for Israel is ever linked (past and present) to the same being done for all the nations of the world. The simple and repeated message of the Pentateuch is threefold: (1) God chose Israel to be His covenantal holy priesthood among the nations; (2) this choosing was evidenced by the awesome wonder of God living among His people (which was the singular difference between them and all the peoples of the earth, and the source of their power and witness); and (3) the failing of Israel to be holy, to cherish the presence of God, and to bless the nations ironically led to the nations being included, not dooming them to exclusion. These principle understandings shape the rest of the Bible story, even the theology of Jesus and Paul.
May God grant us eyes to see, ears to hear, and wills to obey. May we choose the life and blessing of joyful participation in the great mission of God.
 Christopher J. H. Wright. The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006. 343.
 Ibid. 342.
 Ibid. 344.