The Unveiling of Jesus Christ
The Concordant Version
THE SONG OF MOSES AND
OF THE LAMBKIN
BEFORE the bowls are poured out we are given a comprehensive outline of Israel's history as foretold in the song of Moses. This is the key to the judgments that follow. Although Moses' song is not incorporated into the Apocalypse, it is really an important part of it. It is the longest and most comprehensive of all the songs of the end time. We would lose very much, indeed, if we should pass it over as a mere musical number without meaning or message. If our exegesis is correct, we will welcome its confirmatory testimony.
After Moses had finished the writing of the law, he turned from present to predictive prophecy. Apart from the promises and the types, there is very little foretelling in the Pentateuch. To compensate for this, Moses, at the close of his career, gives us a complete epitome of Israel's future history. Though it was called a song, it does not seem to be set to music until it is sung in the days to come. Then it is introduced as the divine prelude to the pouring out of the seven bowls. Let us turn to the thirty-first chapter of Deuteronomy, the twenty-fifth verse, and note how closely the setting corresponds with the scene in the Revelation, where the temple of the tabernacle of the testimony is opened (15:5). We will give the concordant rendering.
What a lurid light is cast upon the phrase "the tabernacle of the testimony" by Moses' act! Throughout Israel's career, the law has not only been a light to illumine, but also a document to condemn. It is not the basis of blessing, as they vainly imagine, and as its promises seem to imply. In the preceding portion of this Apocalypse, where Yahweh is protecting His people, there is no mention of the law. The opening of the temple did not reveal the testimony, but the covenant. Blessing comes by God's grace, through Christ, and not through law observance. But the curse of the law must come on the apostate people, who have corrupted the earth.
Moses predicted that evil would meet them in the latter days, at a time when Yahweh would be vexed by their doings. Is not this precisely what occurs under the bowls? The song of Moses settles the setting of these inflictions. They are not concerned with the nations but with that law-illumined but apostate portion of His ancient people who break the first commandment. The bowls are poured out upon the Jewish worshipers of the wild beast.
The literary structure of the song of Moses may be familiar to some, but it will bear repetition. It is an epanodos, or reversal, of four or more couples. Each subject is treated twice, just as is the case with the Unveiling. The introduction (1-6) and the conclusion (43) are general. First, we have God presented in His creation perfection and Israel's failure to sustain their relationship to Him. At the conclusion, however, all is based on propitiation, and there is vengeance for their enemies and joy for His people.
The second couple deals with Israel during the periods of the Pentateuch (7-14) and at the time of the end (37-42). The third couple deals with Israel's apostasy in the land from the standpoint of the period of the kings (15-19). Corresponding to this is His judgment of the apostasy in the future (34-36). The central couple (20-21, 22-33) deals with their long dispersion.
THE SONG OF MOSES
Blessing comes down from above. It is the fruit of heavenly moisture on the plants of earth. It is the water of the Word falling on the human heart. It is based on the divine assumptions, as expressed in the names and titles He assumes. The emphasis is indeed laid on the covenant name Yahweh, for they are His people, but much is made of the fact that He is also Elohim, the great Arbiter, and El, the Disposer, Who is faithful and just. Besides this, He is the Rock, stern, strong, and severe in judgment, yet secure, steadfast, and safe.
Having described Yahweh as the Arbiter and Disposer of all, we should be prepared for the abrupt straight-forward declaration, "He corrupts" (5). It is so difficult to receive, that almost all versions have changed it. But its very difficulty is the greatest point in its favor. No one would put such a statement in the text, though we can see how readily they would change it. The fact that this "corruption" consisted in satiating them with the material blessings that their souls desired, seems to be the key to its understanding. This puts it in line with the context.
This rendering may be challenged. But this is the exact force of the pointed Massoretic, or traditional text. Without the points, it may be read as the infinitive to corrupt, but this is not intelligible. It may also be the imperative, singular, corrupt [you], but this gives no relief. Possibly it may be a contraction for the second person singular indicative, you corrupt, but this does not help. All of this version is tentative, and would not be published at this time if the occasion did not insist upon it.
This passage answers the grave objection which His action arouses. If He corrupts them, why does He hold them "responsible?" It is noteworthy how often this word is found in human theology, and how foreign it is to the divine records. An Arbiter and Disposer is "responsible," but we may hardly use that word of those who are the subjects of His activities. If His action results in ultimate harm and loss to His people, He must bear the blame. But if it is a temporary measure, with a view to ultimate blessing, He will gain the glory. His corrupting and His judgment of corruption are complementary measures, neither of which can be excused or defended, by themselves, but their combination is fraught with so much good to His people and glory to Himself that they need no defense.
Immediately before this statement is made we are assured that, as the great Disposer of all, He is faithful, without iniquity, just and straight. Such emphasis as this seems needless unless there were some reason for thinking otherwise. It is necessary to establish His integrity before making the statement that He corrupts, for few can understand how He can do this and remain righteous.
ISRAEL'S EARLY HISTORY
The early history of Israel is an exhibition of the disposing power of El. All the earth is His. Its central and most desirable section He reserved for the nation of His choice. But before bringing them into it, He puts them through the evils of Egypt and the discipline of the desert. There He taught them to rely on Him, and look to His care and protection. Then He brought them into the land with its milk and honey, its oil and wine, as well as the spiritual benefits which these signify. Briefly, the process of corrupting the people consisted in loading them with physical delights. The corrupting process was quite the opposite of what we would expect, for it appeared to be the reverse. He gives them their soul's desire.
THE PERIOD OF THE PROPHETS
Surfeiting the soul with good things should lead to the worship of the Giver. But when His people no longer needed His help, their hearts forsook Him and they invoked the gods of the nations. They forgot His goodness and His pains in the past, and transferred their adoration to alien gods and demons. Compare this section with the companion portion (34-38). Only in the land do they transfer their worship to other gods. So, in the time to come, they will worship the wild beast and draw down the vengeance of God in the latter days.
ISRAEL LO AMMI
The remedy for idolatry is very simple. Yahweh withdraws His presence and blessing. Since the captivity, they have not worshiped other gods, but they have transferred their affection to the vain things which seem to be the source of felicity. Yahweh is jealous and decides to give them over to the sorrows of the dispersion.
THE PERSECUTED NATION
Israel is under the heel of the nations. They are being disciplined by their enemies. Yahweh restrains their persecutors in order that His hand may be evident. Even their joy, under the figure of wine, is bitter and poisonous. This leads us up to the end time.
THE FAITHFUL JUDGED
On some, this discipline has the desired effect. Yahweh judges among His people, as seen in the ecclesia of the Revelation, and in the redemption of the hundred and forty-four thousand and the vast throng. At the end time, the divine restraint reaches its limit. He arises to avenge His saints and repay their enemies.
THE PERIOD OF THE BOWLS
How apt is God's appeal to His apostate people at the time of the end! When the wild beast is exalting himself as the divine arbiter of humanity, when he threatens with death all who do not worship him when he makes it well nigh impossible to escape from his hand, when he threatens dire destruction on all who remain faithful to God, then it is that the great Arbiter protests with sublime vehemence.
No weightier testimony could be given to the apostates of Israel in the end time than this part of Moses' song. He is accorded the highest place among the prophets. His song has been on the lips of the nation during its entire history. All Israelites are acquainted with it. It is a full vindication of the judgment of the bowls. It is Israel's function to teach the nations to worship the true God. There can be no higher pitch of apostasy than for them to receive the mark of the wild beast. This act calls for the supremest possible punishment.
Can we imagine the feelings of a direly distressed Israelite when the wild beast gives him the option of devotion or death? With what power will he remember Yahweh's word: Ani, Ani, Hu! "I, I am He!" "I put to death and keep alive!" He may well reason that, though it seems impossible to escape the wild beast, surely no one can be rescued from the hand of Yahweh! He lives for the eons. He is far more to be feared than the wild beast. But many will not reason thus. Upon them, He pours out the besom of the bowls. For them, He whets the lightning of His sword. His arrows become drunk with their blood.
ISRAEL RESTORED AND BLESSED
Hitherto the nations have caused Israel to groan in anguish, but, when propitiation comes to Israel and Yahweh becomes their God, they will become a channel of blessing to the nations and will receive their appreciation and applause. This leads beyond the period of the bowls. It refers rather to God's judgment of the nations, based upon their treatment of His people. For, while God uses the alien peoples to discipline the holy nation, He deals with them in judgment also, so that there is a double benefit. The result is rejoicing and shouts of joy which will echo throughout the earth for the thousand years.
THE SONG OF THE LAMBKIN
The prelude to the bowls includes the song of the Lambkin also. It is the complement of Moses' song. That dealt with Israel's past history, as the basis for the judgment in view. This deals with their future story which follows these inflictions. Those who come off conquerors from the wild beast and from its image, and from the number of its name, tune their lyres to the song of the Lambkin, which celebrates the acts and the ways and the name of the Almighty King.
The concordant method, at first glance, seems to be a great hindrance to any attempt at versification. It leaves little or no room for such changes as poetry require. But the lofty strains of this song should be set to music, its diction should be measured, to accord with its exalted style. We have sought to do this without seriously modifying its meaning.
The song of Moses recites the failure of Israel's sons to worship their God, but the song of the Lambkin celebrates the glorious fact that all the nations will bring their service and adoration to Yahweh. They have seen His acts; they have learned His ways; they rejoice in His justice. Israel's priestly work prevails.
Such is the preparatory scene for the most awful of the divine inflictions. Before the bowls are poured out upon His apostate people the Lord God fully vindicates the righteous beneficence of His strange work. He uses the fatal failure of His people to observe the first commandment as an object lesson which brings Him the worship of all nations. We are now prepared to apprehend the out-pouring of the seven bowls.
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