Grace and Government: Deuteronomy 32:48-33:5

DEU 38:48-33:5  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 10
After this Moses told them that his work was done. The Lord told him to go up to the top of Mt. Nebo, and from there he could see the goodly land of Palestine which the Lord was going to give to His people. He could not, however, go over the Jordan and enter it with them, because he had lost his patience with the people at Meribah-Kadesh. It is a solemn thing to lose one’s patience with the people of God, no matter how much they have failed or tried our spirits. Moses was a wonderful man of God, but being the law giver and representing it typically, one sin was enough to keep him out of the land. It is good to be able to turn to Luke 9:30-3130And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30‑31) and find him in the land on the mount of transfiguration, speaking of the only ground of blessing, Christ’s work upon the cross. We learn from Hebrews 11:2626Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. (Hebrews 11:26) that eternal blessing will be his, “by faith.”
The Grace of God and the Government of God
We now come to a very interesting and instructive chapter, telling us of the blessing which Moses pronounced upon each of the twelve tribes. Something of their true character and future is seen in Genesis 49 when Jacob gathered his sons around him before he died, but what a difference here when we see what grace has done, and will do for them because God is faithful. Nevertheless, we find mingled with these blessings the government of God, for even though Israel were the people of God and loved by Him, they must come under His government. In fact, as believers, these two things follow us all through our lives — the grace of God and the government of God. Blessing is made sure to us through grace alone, but there is, nevertheless, God’s dealing with us as His children, which we cannot escape, just as Israel could not escape it.
God had given His people the law and He could not deny His own character in holiness, but He loved the people to whom He gave it, as indeed He had promised them blessing according to His own faithfulness, long before giving the law (Galatians 3:17-1817And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (Galatians 3:17‑18)). And not only does God love His people, but they are in His hand. What a safe place to be! How precious the promise of John 10, where the Lord Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.” There we are eternally secure because we are eternally held by those mighty hands.
Empty Professions of No Avail
They all received His Word, though sadly with some, it was not “mixed with faith” (Hebrews 4:22For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. (Hebrews 4:2)), and they were not saved. If you have heard but never believed the precious Word of God, may your heart be opened to receive Christ today. God has told us that many will come in that day of judgment saying, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works?” only to receive His solemn answer, “I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22-2322Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:22‑23)). Their empty profession will be of no avail, any more than Israel’s boasting of having the law of God, and yet not walking in obedience to it. God must have reality. May we who are saved, too, remember the words “It is your life,” and walk in the truth God has made known to us.
Further Meditations
1. What is mingled with the blessing Moses pronounced on the twelve tribes?
2. How did God work with David in both pure grace and faithful government?
3. There’s a very nice little booklet God’s Grace and God’s Government by P. Wilson that will extend your study of this important topic.