In my last post in this series, I argued that Paul urges in Ephesians to use singing as an instrument of instruction in the church.
But this started way before in the days of Moses.
The book of Deuteronomy is a covenant between God and Israel. It was written by Moses as the children of God were about to enter Canaan to possess the land He had given them. The covenant stipulates that if they obey God and the terms of the covenant in the land they were about to possess, he would bless them abundantly. If they did not obey, they would suffer divine wrath.
Pretty straightforward, isn’t it?
The problem, however, was that every generation would need new motivation to obey the law. Sure, mom and dad may obey just fine. Getting their teenage kids to follow God is a totally different animal. As the generations pass, how would each succeeding generation, who was not present at the covenant ceremony and who did not ever see Moses (he died before they entered the land), know the covenant? It wasn’t like Moses could post the covenant on his blog and send out daily RSS feeds with covenant reminders. Writing materials were scarce. It takes a lot of work to memorize the entire book of Deuteronomy, with all of its 34 chapters, and there were lands to conquer and people to kill. Who has the time?
Moses’ solution was two pronged: get the elders to hold their tribes responsible, and to get the people to sing the covenant.
God commanded Moses to write this song and teach it to the people of Israel. Put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the people of Israel.” Deut 31:19. This song must have been a top 40 hit, because God said that “will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring.” (31:21).
Before Ipods (I have the 8GB gray one) and the abundant supply of music we have available today, songs were forever forgotten if they weren’t taught to their children. Since there weren’t that many songs to begin with, memorization was easy. How many songs can you sing by heart that you haven’t even heard in years? Music is memorable.
God says that this song will “witness for me against the people of Israel.” In a sense, the song multiplies judgment because it is another evidence that God goes to great lengths to plea with his people to obey him.
God spoke to them the words of the covenant through Moses. God summarized the words of the covenant in the Ten Commandments. God performed miracles to demonstrate his power in the words of the covenant.
And God sang the covenant to them. Their job was to sing along.