Chapter 9

Judgment Under the New Covenant

As we near the end of Moses’ Song, Deut. 32:39-42 is section B2, corresponding to section B (32:7-14).

Section B was about the goodness and bounty of Yahweh to Israel as they were led INTO the wilderness. God reminded Israel how He alone carried them out of Egypt and provided for them in the wilderness. In Section B2 God begins by again reminding them that there is no other god besides Him who can deliver them from their wilderness captivity (or journey). But now that the second covenant has been established at the end of their wilderness journey, God shows His goodness under the New Covenant, by which He may deliver them—and with them, all of mankind.

Dr. Bullinger’s notes label this section, “Judgments of Yahweh upon Israel.” However, it is more accurate to view it as judgment under the New Covenant, not only upon Israel, but upon all of God’s enemies—that is, all flesh. The first half of the Song of Moses (sections A-E) reveal God’s judgments leading to Israel’s death and dispersion as a nation. But then, as the Song reverses course (sections E2-A2), the second (new) covenant brings divine deliverance.

God Vows to Deliver Israel

Deut. 32:39 says,

39 See now that I, I am He,
And there is no god besides Me;
It is I who put to death and give life.
I have wounded, and it is I who heal.

God takes equal credit for bringing judgment and deliverance, death and life, wounding and healing. In other words, neither the devil nor the other nations are given credit for bringing evil upon Israel. All of the evil that befell Israel was the consequence of violating God’s law after vowing obedience under the Old Covenant. God prophesied all of these judgments in great detail in Deuteronomy 28.

As we have already seen in Deut. 32:27, God seems insulted that men would give credit to any other nation, as if their gods were more powerful than the God of Israel. In verse 40 God says,

40 Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven
And say, “As I live forever…”

Here God takes another oath, not only to emphasize the importance of what He is about to say, but also to declare His determination to fulfill the oath in the next two verses:

41 “If I sharpen My flashing [baraq, “lightning”] sword,
And My hand takes hold on justice,
I will render vengeance
[naqam] on My adversaries,
And I will repay those who hate Me.
42 I will make My arrows drunk with blood,
And My sword shall devour flesh,
With the blood of the slain and the captives,
From the long-haired leaders of the enemy.”

Most people read this and assume that this is just another Old Covenant statement. It appears to picture an angry God beating His enemies to a bloody pulp. Those who have an Old Covenant mindset either approve of God’s “wrath” upon His enemies, or, if not, they tend to dissociate themselves from this angry God by presenting Jesus Christ as a different God altogether—a God of love.

In my view Jesus Christ, in His pre-incarnate state, was the Yahweh of the Old Testament, the One who gave the law to Moses. Jesus (Yeshua) inspired this Song of Moses as well. Isaiah 12:2, when read literally from the Hebrew, says, “God is my Yeshua,” and “The Lord God is my strength and song, and He has become my Yeshua.”

So we cannot separate Yahweh from Yeshua-Jesus, as if they conflict. Jesus did not come to save us from His angry Father. There is no heavenly disagreement, but only unity in character and purpose. With this in mind, let us look at these verses more closely through the eyes of Jesus Christ, knowing that these should be understood by the mind of Christ. After all, this is a picture of Israel’s deliverance, which could never come through the Old Covenant.

The Lightning Sword

Verse 41 begins, “If I sharpen My flashing sword” (NASB). Ferrar Fenton renders it, “I will flash My sword as the lightning.” Young’s Literal Translation says, “I have sharpened the brightness of My sword.” Rotherham’s The Emphasized Bible says, “If I whet My flashing sword.”

Why is the sword “flashing”? Why does Ferrar Fenton speak of “lightning”? The Hebrew word is baraq, which means “lightning” (Strong’s #1300, from the root word #1299).

A similar Hebrew word is barak (Strong’s #1288), which is a homonym (the same or similar pronunciation). Barak means “to bless.” So baraq and barak are closely related in the same way that naqam and nakam are related. Each sets forth the Old and New Covenants, and, when linked together in the divine plan, each leads us to the same good outcome.

In other words, naqam is divine “vengeance,” which, under the New Covenant, overcomes evil with good; while nakam is the action of the Holy Spirit as the Comforter which was given under the New Covenant to bring us deliverance from evil.

In the same way, baraq is the lightning of God’s sword of judgment, but the New Covenant reveals the Sword of the Spirit as being the word of God (Eph. 6:17), which is sharp enough to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12). The barak of God is His blessing, particularly seen in the Abrahamic promise of Gen. 12:2, 3, where God says,

2 And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless [barak] you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing [berakah]. 3 And I will bless [barak] those who bless [barak] you….

So when God vows to reveal His “flashing sword,” or “lightning sword,” we must ask ourselves if this is a physical sword or the Sword of the Spirit. Is it not another secret weapon that He is bringing out of His treasury? We have already seen in verse 34 how He claimed to have a secret weapon by which He would render “vengeance” (naqam) in order to have “compassion” (nakam) on His people. Paul quotes the word of God in Rom. 12:19, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” But does God repay in kind? Does God repay evil for evil? No, Paul says. God overcomes evil with good. In other words, He repays their evil with His own goodness, thereby overcoming all opposition by Love.

Is not His Sword of the Spirit also His secret weapon? It too refers to the Holy Spirit, for the Comforter (nakam) gives us the Sword of the Spirit by which we may conquer the world by the love of God, thereby turning all of God’s enemies into friends.

This is how God fulfills His New Covenant oath, whereby He vowed to turn the hearts of the people—both those who were present and those not present. Paul comments on this in Rom. 5:8-10,

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

In other words, God took the initiative on account of His vow to change the hearts of all men—including His enemies. Jesus Christ was sent to accomplish this on the cross, “while we were yet sinners,” and “while we were enemies.” This had nothing to do with the Old Covenant, for it had nothing to do with our own vows or decisions to follow Jesus. “We love Him only because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Without His initiating action, we would not have the ability to love Him or even to decide to follow Him. Even our faith is a “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

The Apostle Paul lays down this foundational principle in Rom. 5:8-10 in order to lead us to the last half of the chapter, where he shows how God may fulfill His vow to justify all men (Rom. 5:18). Most Christians do not question God’s desire to save all mankind, but most question His ability to do so. They think that the will of man is more powerful than the will of God, and that man’s flesh is stronger than the Spirit of God.

But the New Covenant, as we have seen, is based upon the oath of God, and so His credibility and reputation depends upon His ability to keep that oath. Hence, Paul says in 1 Cor. 15:25, “He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” When this is accomplished, God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

This is the “vengeance” of God upon His enemies. He reconciles them and turns them into His friends by the power of His Spirit, either in this life or in the next. This message of reconciliation is given to the Church as an ambassadorial calling, as Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 5:18, 19,

18 Now all things are from God [i.e., initiated by God’s oath], who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

This is how God renders vengeance on His enemies. This is how He repays those who hate Him. He Himself does what He tells us to do in Matt. 5:44-48,

44 But I say to you, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven… 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

We are to imitate our heavenly Father, so that we may be His sons. He Himself loves His enemies and has died on the cross, not just for believers, but for the whole world (1 John 2:2). Furthermore, in the end, the cross will be effective for all men, for God will not fail to fulfill His oath just because men now oppose Him and think of Him as an enemy.

God’s Arrows are His Sons

Moses continues in Deut. 32:42,

42 I will make My arrows drunk with blood,
And My sword shall devour flesh,
With the blood of the slain and the captives,
From the long-haired leaders of the enemy.

God’s “arrows” are His sons, as we have already seen from Psalm 127:4. He brings out His sons as part of His secret arsenal. God’s “arrows” are also pictured as baraq, or “lightning” (Psalm 18:14; 144:6), which God shoots as “arrows” from the heavens.

The Sword of the Spirit also devours the flesh, for as the Holy Spirit changes our hearts, the flesh, or carnal mind, is devoured and destroyed. Paul calls it the “old man” (Rom. 6:6, KJV), telling us that it is at “enmity” with God (Rom. 8:7, KJV). The carnal mind is hostile toward God, because it follows the law of sin, rather than the law of God (Rom. 7:25).

In translating the last part of Deut. 32:42, Rotherham captures the idea best that Moses was trying to say. He renders the verse this way:

42 I will make mine arrows drunk with blood,
And my sword shall devour flesh—
With the blood of the slain and the captive,
With [the flesh of] the chief leader of the foe.

In other words, God’s arrows and His sword devour the flesh of three types of men: those who are killed, those taken alive as captives, and the leaders of the opposing army. In this way Moses covers all possibilities in this war metaphor. The flesh of all men is devoured by the Spirit of God, which is delivered by the arrows (sons) of God who have been given the ministry of reconciliation.