Songs help us to remember and reflect on God’s word. Songs also help to change our hearts. When Moses finished speaking the words of the song to the people, he made the statement, “Set your hearts on all the words which I testify among you today, which you shall command your children to be careful to observe” (Deut. 32:46). Of course, he is referring to the entire Torah as well, but it is significant that this immediately follows the song. Setting one’s heart on something implies reflection, intentionality, and repetition. The people are not just to hear and forget, but to examine and analyze and reflect on how the words of the Torah, and especially the song, impact them personally. They are also to be intentional about speaking and singing the words of the Torah and the song. They are to pass it along to their children, and to think about how and with whom they can share it. The English Standard Version translates this phrase as, “Take to heart,” which indicates the repetition that is also involved in the process. This is not something that they do once, but something that becomes a very part of them, and that they do often and with joy.
The song is also a warning to the people of what will happen if they do not remain faithful to God and continue in their rebellious ways. As they set their hearts on the song, it will serve to protect them from falling further away from God. Moses concludes this admonition to keep the Torah and the song in their hearts, by noting why this is so crucial: “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life” (v. 47, ESV). The temptation would be to think that these are just words, empty and useless. But in reality, the words bring life, they are not futile! In fact, especially in light of Deuteronomy 30, the Torah points to God, who is their life (30:19). And the word needs to be passed on to the next generation, to continue this life-giving power that a relationship with God brings.
And ultimately, this song brings hope! Although there will be consequences for their sins, God will forgive, bring atonement, and destroy their enemies. As they set their hearts on God’s word, God’s song, He is enabled to work through it to reach and change their hearts, as He promised to do in Deuteronomy 30:6.