Every parent works hard to instill within their children the ability to contemplate the outcomes of their words and actions, but such an effort is not always easy. A father tells his little boy to clean up his toys, tell the truth, and follow the rules but often the little boy just wants to know “why?” Parents have something that their children do not—life experience, and with it, wisdom, and foresight. A child may not understand why Mom and Dad have certain rules, but Mom and Dad know that the foundation for good moral and ethical behavior is laid in childhood. A teenager may think his parents are the worst for not allowing him to be out as late as he wants or date whomever he wants, but parents want what is best for their children and possess a kind of wisdom that allows them to see the outcome of an action that their teenager cannot. Often, a parent’s wish is simply that their children might step into their shoes and see things from their perspective. We want our children to see the end result of their actions.
Similarly, the book of Deuteronomy may be viewed as the Father’s final exhortation to a son coming of age. The generation of Israelites to exit Egypt had died in the wilderness and a new generation was now ready to stand in their shoes and cross the Jordan into the Promised Land. Deuteronomy stands as a final exhortation to prepare them for that undertaking. The final stanza of the book is a song which Jehovah gave to Moses, who wrote it and taught it to Israel (Deu. 31:22). The song was to be a permanent witness to the requirements of the covenant and penalty for violating it. Like the historical Psalms, the children of Israel were to sing this song throughout their generations that they may be reminded of the lessons of the past and their responsibilities in the present and future. Embedded within this song is the same desire discussed previously–the desire of a Father for His children to contemplate the consequences of their actions– “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end” (Deu. 32:29)!
A study of God’s desire in Deuteronomy 32:29 begins by recognizing Israel’s inability to accomplish it. Though Jehovah wanted them to consider the consequences of their actions they could not because “they are a nation void of counsel, neither is there any understanding in them” (Deu. 32:28). To be “void of counsel” is to lack sense and to have no “understanding” is to have an inability to understand basic truth. In other words, they were senseless! They lacked wisdom and discernment regarding their actions. Famine, destruction, and the sword had all come upon them because of their sinfulness and yet they lacked the wherewithal the recognize that such judgments had come upon them due to their own actions. Jeremiah would say many years later,
Jerusalem hath grievously sinned; therefore she is removed: All that honoured her despise her, because they have seen her nakedness: Yea, she sigheth, and turneth backward. Her filthiness is in her skirts; she remembereth not her last end); Therefore she came down wonderfully: she had no comforter (Lam. 1:8-9).
How tragic that even their enemies could see what they could not (Deu. 32:31).
How does a nation or individual reach the point of being unable to think clearly about their actions? How can one be so senseless? Moses gives three causes: materialism, idolatry, and forgetfulness. Deuteronomy 32:15 says, “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: Thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; Then he forsook God which made him, And lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.” Such is language of materialism. Israel got fat on God’s provision and grace then forgot the source of those blessings and turned their back on Him. Their refusal to recognize and thank God as the source of blessing lead to their idolatry. “They provoked him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoked they him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; To gods whom they knew not, to new gods that came newly up, Whom your fathers feared not” (Deu. 32:16-17). The only thing left was a complete removal of Jehovah from their minds. “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee” (Deu. 32:18; cf. Jer. 2:32). This was no incidental slip of the mind like losing a television remote or forgetting to put the trash out. This was a willful removal of the knowledge of Jehovah from their thoughts.
However, God’s desire for them was very different (Deu. 32:29-33). He wanted them to “be wise” and “understand” and “consider.” Wisdom has to do with the correct application of information, foresight, and skillful living. To “understand” is to “be attentive with scrutiny in order to produce wisdom.” To “consider” is to “perceive and to make the best choice.” The Lord wanted them to be able to examine the difficulties they had endured and recognize that the cause for such was their sinful actions. He wanted them to be like the Prodigal who “came to himself” and realized that being a servant in his father’s house was far better than dining with pigs (Luke 15:17-19). The trouble is that Israel had rejected God and to reject God is to reject wisdom–the ability to see life as it truly is! “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Pro. 2:6).
If one is to clearly see life as it truly is, then one must view life through the lenses of scripture. God’s Word is a lamp and a light (Ps. 119:105). David said, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8). “The commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Pro. 6:23). Had Israel listened to God their vision would have been clear. They would have been wise and able to see their latter end! The same is true for all humanity. But when we reject God and His will and embrace the philosophies and thinking of the world we suffer a very different outcome. We become wise to do evil and ignorant to what is good (Jer. 4:22). Lack of knowledge breeds destruction (Hos. 4:6) because outside of Jehovah there is no genuine knowledge or direction. The Father wanted Israel, His children, to see where their actions would lead. But, like the Pharisees in the days of Christ (John 9) they could not because they would not.