Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
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And an angel of the Lord came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you. And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.
— Judges 2:1-3
Repeatedly, God has promised to take care of his chosen people, and in exchange asked only that they stay true to Him, and not worship other gods—the inevitable result of making leagues with other nations.1 Here, after repeated failures the angel of the Lord acknowledges the seeming impossibility of the request, and simply reminds the Israelites that there will be consequences, they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you. The unfolding history in the books of Judges, Kings and Chronicles shows how Israel repeatedly falls into this snare as it spirals downwards, and away from the one true God, resulting in division, civil war and ultimately capture and enslavement. Consequences.
The desire to neglect God—the path of righteousness—and succumb to the things of this earth, the quick-fixes and instant gratification, is as prevalent today as it ever was, and the consequences similar. In his recent book2 theologian Christopher Wright calls out the three most common of the false gods we worship, those of prosperity, national pride and self-exaltation, the last one, better known as self-love being especially insidious, the one idol we wouldn't even consider to be an idol so deeply engrained is it in our culture and psyche, becoming ever more so with the repeated promise in films and books. To quote Christopher Wright:
"[Narcissism] has become a virtue, fed by the advertising industry. 'You owe it to yourself.' 'Because you're worth it.' 'Believe in yourself.' The slogans of our culture get into the bloodstream of children from a very early age. The message of successive Disney movies is that you can be whatever you want to be. You just have to believe in yourself. Some of our leaders never seem to leave that childhood stage of narcissism verging on ego-centric megalomania."3
None of us are immune to this, and by no means do I intend to point the finger at others, as perhaps Wright does in his book. We all have a part to play in the creation of the culture in which we dwell. We get the leaders we deserve, even the leaders we desire, and they make decisions we endorse. Only later do we come to regret it, when we realise the short term gains are not worth the long term suffering—either that or we become so entrenched in our own self-righteousness that we become effectively blind, staying inwardly focused for the rest of our days, losing God altogether in a society that is polarised between atheism and idolatry. These are our consequences.
1 E.g. Be careful not to make a treaty with the inhabitants of the land you are entering, lest they become a snare in your midst. — Exodus 34:12. See also Exodus 34:13 & 23:32, Deuteronomy 7:2 & 12:3
2 'Here Are Your Gods!' Faithful Discipleship in Idolatrous Times by Christopher J H Wright, IVP, 2020
3 Ibid. p 101