The Old Testament lesson for this Sunday is from the fifth book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. The text is Deuteronomy 32:36-39 and is designated for “The Sunday of the Passion,” or as us older guys remember, “Palm Sunday.” The pericope forms a small part of the entire “Song of Moses” located in Chapter 32. Perhaps a good question would be why this particular passage was chosen for the Sunday of the Passion? Maybe because after everything has fallen apart, it is the LORD who comes to deliver and save. The LORD vindicates His people in the midst of their misery and despair—for this He has come.
The Song of Moses extols the virtues and the faithfulness of the LORD in contrast to the unfaithfulness of the people and their struggles to walk in His paths. As the LORD points to His own faithfulness and His actions to deliver and save, He also points to the lack thereof of the other “gods” to whom the Israelites have turned or eventually will experiment with. These “gods” have and will continue to prove unable to provide for the needs of the people—they will let them down for they are “no-gods.” Some have also pointed out how the lyrics of this Song of Moses bring charges against the people of Israel and end up being the equivalent of “legal briefs” in a lawsuit which the LORD charges against His chosen people.
Verses 36-38 deal with the condition of the people as they live out lives in the embrace of other gods. When they have been brought low and all their “gods” and all the things they have sought refuge in have failed them and proven ineffectual to providing help, then... verse 39. The LORD identifies Himself and who He is and what He does—in contrast to the false gods: “I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal...” I am He. There is no god beside me!!
Another interesting component of this text is the language concerning these other “gods.” The LORD is basically engaging in an ancient form of trash talking. This could provide an excellent introduction to the sermon. By pointing out the inabilities of these false and foreign gods, the LORD is focusing the people on what He has done and what He will do. We see this same move in the ten plagues as the LORD prepares to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. Every plague is directed toward one of the gods of Egypt, even to the death of the son of the god Pharaoh. Then for good measure, the LORD kills the false god Pharaoh in the Red Sea. In Genesis when Rachel steals the family gods, she hides them by sitting on them during her time of the month. A woman is protecting these “gods” and makes them unclean by sitting on them in her condition! In Isaiah it is recounted how a man goes out and chops down a tree to obtain wood for his cooking and the heating of his house. Then, with a nice piece of the leftover wood, he carves a god and worships it. Ancient trash talking! The LORD God ridicules and mocks those useless gods the people chase after. Only He is God. There is none beside Him!!
By pointing out the inabilities of these false and foreign gods, the LORD is focusing the people on what He has done and what He will do.
32:36 יָדִין (ya-Din) root: דין (deen) Qal: “to plead ones case; to plead one’s cause; to act as a judge; to minister justice/judgement” The LXX has “judge” but the Hebrew is best translated as “vindicate” as in a court room scene.
יִתְנֶחָם (yit-ne-Cham) root: נחם (naw-kham) Hithpael: “to have compassion” “He himself will have compassion.”
אָזְלַת (A-ze-lat) root: אזל (aw-zal) Qal: “to disappear; to go away; to be gone”
וְאֶפֶס> (ve-E-fes) “end”
עָצוּר (a-Tzur) root: עצר (aw-tsar) Qal: “to restrain; to hold back; to keep back; to retain”
32:37 אֵיe (ei) “where?” Interogative
צוּר (tzur) “rock”
חָסָיוּ (cha-Sa-yu) root: חסה (khaw-saw) Qal: “to seek refuge; to take refuge”
32:38 חֵלֶב (Che-lev) “fat”
יִשְׁתּוּ (yish-Tu) root: שׁתה (shaw-thaw) Qal, imperfect: “ to drink”
נְסִיכָם (ne-si-Cham) from: נסיךְ (nes-eek) “drink offering; libation”
וְיַעְזְרֻכֶם (ve-ya-ze-ru-Chem) root: עזר (aw-zar) Qal: “to help”
סִתְרָה (sit-Rah) “shelter; protection”
32:39 עִמָּדִיI (im-ma-Di) “with; beside”
מָחַצְתִּי (ma-Chatz-ti) root: מחץ (maw-khats) Qal: “to shatter; to smite; to smash”
אֶרְפָּא (er-Pa) root: רפא (raw-faw) Qal: “to heal”
Concordia Theology- Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Deuteronomy 32:36-39.
Lectionary Podcast- Prof. Ryan Tietz of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Deuteronomy 32:36-39.