For the past week the blood of this blog has cried to me from the earth as Chris has tried to murder it by neglect. As he is sick right now, I’m posting in order to give him time to recover and write.
When I was a nine year old boy, I had two dream jobs. The first was to be the greatest right handed eighth inning setup man of all time, pitching for the Anaheim (not Los Angeles) Angels. You ask, “Why not a closer or a starter?” Because I fell in love with baseball through the 2002 world series and Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez (This was before the whole domestic abuse debacle). “Why not the Dodgers?” Because making pitchers hit is insane. Love the Dodgers, hate the National League’s rules. My other dream was to go to seminary and become a pastor, because all my friends’ dads were in seminary, and I didn’t want to be a lawyer like my dad, so clearly I was called to the ministry. Yes, I believed my dreams were compatible; all my friends’ dads had second jobs. So as a nine year old boy I’d plan out sermons for my future. There was one I wanted to do in particular: “But Jeshurun Grew Fat and Kicked,” taken solely from that line in Deuteronomy 32:15. Today I partially realize my childhood dream.
Considering Jonathan Edwards is my primary dead hero, and considering his most famous sermon was preached from the line, “Their foot shall slip in due time,” from Deuteronomy 32:35, no one should be surprised by my choice of text. But now let us look at the entire verse:
But Jeshurun grew fat and kicked—
You are grown fat, thick, and sleek—
Then he forsook God who made him,
And scorned the Rock of his salvation.
This post should be pretty straight forward, because the issues discussed in this verse are pretty straight forward. I want to consider the related thoughts of seeking God’s blessings over God’s person, forgetting the goodness of God, and trusting in riches for security.
Jeshurun is Israel. So recount all that God has done for Israel up to this point. He called Abraham to Canaan, made a covenant with him, and provided sons and heirs through the events in Genesis. He delivered His people from oppression in Egypt. He parted the Red Sea for them. He made a covenant with them as Sinai. He gave them the law, which no other people on earth had. After they rebelled, both with the golden calf and failing to enter the promised land, he did not destroy them. He provided for them through forty years of wilderness wanderings. And He would take them into the promised land and give them victory over the peoples there. YHWH, the Great I AM, the covenant God of Israel, would bountifully prosper them in Canaan. And at that time, they would grow fat and kick. Filled with numerous earthly blessings from the Lord, they would thank Him with rebellion and idolatry.
The Israelites forgot God’s goodness. They had never been a naturally mighty people. Consider Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. In their generations, Israel was simply composed of their families, making them far from a nation of political power or prominence. Had God not established Joseph to Egypt, they would have all been wiped out in the famine. Had God not raised up Moses and provided deliverance, they would still be slaves in Egypt. Israel owed its existence to God, beyond just the usual providential sense. But beyond this, we have verse 19:
For the Lord’s portion is His people;
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.
Not only did God provide for Israel, but God delighted in Israel. God loved Israel. His people were His joy. He allotted them to Himself as an inheritance, His portion, His chosen ones. And this is what Israel forgot. Jeshurun grew fat and kicked and forsook the God who made him, who loved him, who chose him. They scorned the Rock of their salvation. Because they forgot Him.
Don’t we do that too? Aren’t we just the same? When we sin, when we fall into gossip, or avoid prayer, or procrastinate Bible reading, or slander our fellow man, or lust after a person created in the image of God, don’t we forget what God has done for us? As in The Valley of Vision:
My great evil is that I do not remember the sins of my youth, nay, the sins of one day I forget the next.
That evil lying not so much in forgetting our sin but in forgetting God’s grace, God’s love, God’s forgiveness, Christ’s sacrifice, Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s intercession, the Spirit’s indwelling presence and anointing. When we sin, we deny the goodness and love of God in all its expressions to us as believers. And having forgotten it, we grow fat and kick, forgetting the God who blesses us, and instead gorging on what blessings of His we find, we fall into gluttony and sin.
Pursuing the blessings of God, to the exclusion of God Himself, is exactly what Israel did. They grew fat, thick, and sleek on the products of the land God had given them, and the peace and rest God gave them, and then turned to strange gods, with abominations provoking the Lord to anger. For us, what does that mean? Let me get practical.
When I pray for certain things, sometimes I ask for them in my heart knowing that I want them, in a sense regardless of what God’s will is for them. Thus I value God’s gift over the Giver. When I read the Word or Christian books, sometimes I simply want the factual knowledge from them and would like very much to ignore the implications of such verses as Philippians 4:8 or Ephesians 5:16, or I would like to laugh off as stodgy and old fashioned and legalistic the beliefs of ancient saints regarding sobriety of speech, particularly on Sundays, and the spurning of “idle conversation” and frivolities of daily life. But can I do that without desiring the blessing of knowledge over honoring God in my life? Or in worship music, do I value the harmonies and emotional comforts of poetry over being convicted by the fact that so often my life does not answer the words I implicitly pray through those songs? It is quite clear that quite often I desire God’s blessings more than God Himself, and I think the same is true for many of us.
Notice finally that Israel valued security through riches over God Himself. Riches themselves are not bad. And seeking our own security is in fact good, as God uses it to draw us to Himself, where alone may we find true safety. But humans throughout history have always been tempted to trust in earthly riches to provide them safety. The Proverbs frequently mention that rich people do indeed have it easier in life because they can use their wealth, but they also mention that wealth has wings. Ultimately wealth does not save, not even from physical danger. Maybe you do not find this doctrine practical to your daily life. Maybe you are a college or graduate student and consider the temptations to wealth irrelevant. I think there is still much for you to learn.
First consider that you cannot trust your future expected wealth. For those pursuing careers as doctors or lawyers or engineers, it can be tempting to see the expected wealth of the future and trust in that for your security. In turn, this implies that to secure yourself on earth, you must do everything you can to do well in school now. I fear this may actually cause you to turn from your trust in the Lord. Second consider that just because you don’t have riches now, doesn’t mean you don’t trust in a sort of proxy for riches. For example consider that you may trust in your natural abilities or your reputation. Finally consider that if you do not trust God now, with little, you will not trust Him later, should He decide to give you much. Fighting the temptation to trust in wealth is not a fight limited to wealthy people.
I post this now for a two-fold reason. First, I want to remind myself and anyone who reads this that we were chosen by God, united with Christ, and are being sanctified by the Spirit, and that we should therefore live to God in our thoughts and words and actions. We should seek and desire God above all else. But second, I want to introduce the theme of worshipping security, or desiring it above God, as introduction to a long series of posts I have forthcoming. I trust we can both be encouraged through that upcoming study.