28 “For they are a nation void of counsel,
and there is no understanding in them.
29 If they were wise, they would understand this;
they would discern their latter end!
30 How could one have chased a thousand,
and two have put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
and the Lord had given them up?
31 For their rock is not as our Rock;
our enemies are by themselves.
32 For their vine comes from the vine of Sodom
and from the fields of Gomorrah;
their grapes are grapes of poison;
their clusters are bitter;
33 their wine is the poison of serpents
and the cruel venom of asps.
34 “‘Is not this laid up in store with me,
sealed up in my treasuries?
35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
for the day of their calamity is at hand,
and their doom comes swiftly.’
36 For the Lord will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants,
when he sees that their power is gone
and there is none remaining, bond or free.
37 Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods,
the rock in which they took refuge,
38 who ate the fat of their sacrifices
and drank the wine of their drink offering?
Let them rise up and help you;
let them be your protection!’” – Deuteronomy 32:28-38 ESV
Israel had enemies. From their days of captivity in Egypt to their journey to the promised land, the people of God had found themselves opposed by foreign nations. Even on the eastern side of the borders of Canaan, they had been forced to fight the forces of Og and Sihon, two Amorite kings who had refused to allow the Israelites to pass through their land. But God gave the Israelites victory over these enemies, allowing the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh to settle there.
And there would be plenty of other enemies on the other side of the Jordan, once the Israelites crossed over and began their conquest of the land of Canaan. There would always be enemies of God and His people. And the song God had given to Moses to teach to the people of Israel contained foreboding warnings about future enemies who would defeat the Israelites and take them captive. They would be used by God to punish the Israelites for their persistent and unrepentant rebellion against Him.
But God had a message for these nations. Rather than understand their role as His divine instruments of judgment, they would take credit for the conquest of God’s people, even bragging about their victory and robbing God of glory.
“Our hand is triumphant,
it was not the Lord who did all this.” – Deuteronomy 32:27 ESV
But God had news for these arrogant and pride-filled upstarts.
“…they are a nation void of counsel,
and there is no understanding in them.
If they were wise, they would understand this;
they would discern their latter end!” – Deuteronomy 32:28-29 ESV
God describes them as clueless. When the day came, and they defeated the people of God, they would consider their conquest the byproduct of their own military prowess. These two nations, Assyria and Babylon, would each enjoy unprecedented success, conquering much of the known world and being used by God to punish His rebellious people. Assyria would conquer the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC. And 136 years later, in 586 BC, the Babylonians would conquer and destroy the city of Jerusalem, leaving the temple of God in ruins.
But God points out the obvious. The only explanation for the future success of the Assyrians and Babylonians would be because God ordained it. The eventual fall of the Israelites would be because “their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up” (Deuteronomy 32:30 ESV). Neither the Assyrians or Babylonians would be able to take credit for the destruction of God’s people. It would be the work of God’s hand, not the result of their superior military strength.
The enemies of Israel would find their victories to be a walk in the park, with one of their soldiers giving chase to 1,000 Israelites, and two putting 10,000 to flight. In other words, their battles would be ridiculously lopsided. But, strange as it may seem, the reason behind their success would be the God of Israel. And God lets them know that their gods would be no match for Him.
For their rock is not as our Rock;
our enemies are by themselves. – Deuteronomy 32:31 ESV
They were on their own. Their false gods would prove powerless before God Almighty because they were lifeless. And after self-congratulating themselves for having defeated the forces of Israel, these two nations would find themselves having to answer to God for their actions. Why? Because these pagan nations were no better than Sodom and Gomorrah. They were equally as wicked, like vines branching off of the original plant and producing the same evil fruit.
And God reveals that He already has plans in store for them. He is going to use them to punish His rebellious children, but then He is going to repay them for their involvement.
“I will get revenge and pay them back
at the time their foot slips;
for the day of their disaster is near,
and the impending judgment is rushing upon them!” – Deuteronomy 32:35 NLT
These nations will destroy Samaria and Jerusalem. They will enslave the citizens of Israel and Judah. But they will have to answer to God for their actions. And, one day, God will turn the tables, reversing the fortunes of Israel and extending once again His mercy, grace, and love.
The Lord will judge his people,
and will change his plans concerning his servants;
when he sees that their power has disappeared,
and that no one is left, whether confined or set free. – Deuteronomy 32:36 NLT
Just when things look like they can’t get any worse, God will step in and rescue His chosen people. He will remember and redeem them. He will redeem them from captivity yet again. And He will mock the mighty nations of Assyria and Babylon, challenging them to seek help and hope from their false gods.
“Where are their gods,
the rock in whom they sought security,
who ate the best of their sacrifices,
and drank the wine of their drink offerings?
Let them rise and help you;
let them be your refuge!” – Deuteronomy 32:37-38 NLT
And their calls for help will go unheard and unheeded because their gods are false. The Assyrians and Babylonians would one day find themselves on the wrong end of the world-domination game. They would become the conquered rather than the conqueror. Their 15-minutes of fame would come to an abrupt and ignominious end. Because their false gods would fail to rise up, rescue them, and provide refuge for them. But Israel would experience the gracious hand of God Almighty. Right when their strength is gone, and all hope is lost, their God will show up, and He “will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants” (Deuteronomy 32:36 ESV).