Haazinu — “Give ear”
Portion for the week leading up to September 23, 2017
Jeshurun Grew Fat
God instructs Moses to read the people of Israel a song about their past and their future. In it he describes God's love and care for the people and how after they enter the land and become comfortable, they will turn their back on God and worship idols. Let's look closer at the mistake they made so that we will be sure not to follow their example.
The song of Moses describes, in poetic language, God's election of Israel to be His special possession. It tells of the future, when the people would enter the land just as God has promised them. When they entered the land, God would fulfill His promises to bless and prosper His people, and Israel would enjoy the blessings which God allowed them to experience: "He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and He made him suck honey from the rock, and oil from the flinty rock, curds of cows, and milk of the flock, with fat of lambs, and rams, the breed of Bashan, and goats, with the finest of the wheat—and of the blood of grapes you drank wine" (Deuteronomy 32:13-14).
But because of their comfort and their decadence, they would forget about God and turn to the idols which their neighbors worshiped. Because of the ease and comfort in which they were living, they would forget the times when they relied on God for their every need: "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... You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth" (Deuteronomy 32:15, 18). The name Jeshurun means "upright one," and it is a name God calls Israel in several Scriptures, three of which take place here in the last few chapters of Deuteronomy. In this verse, we see the name "upright one" contrasted against the actions of rebellion which they have turned to.
God had brought the people of Israel into the land, and He was pleased to bless them with the abundance that lay within its borders. But Israel forgot about God and grew proud in their hearts. They believed that somehow they had merited God's favor, or perhaps they thought that the blessings would always continue as they were now, regardless of the peoples' behavior. God had previously instructed them that feeling comfortable was the first step toward this wickedness: "Then it shall come about when the LORD your God brings you into the land... and you eat and are satisfied, then watch yourself, that you do not forget the LORD who brought you from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).
While the song of Moses is directed toward, and prophetic of, the downfall of Israel when they entered the promised land, we must learn about this so we are careful not to follow in their example. We must guard ourselves so that we do not grow comfortable in our luxury. While many of us wouldn't consider ourselves as living luxurious lives, for the most part we do not have to worry about food, water, and shelter. Our basic physical needs are provided for and so we turn to other more artificial needs to pursue with our excess funds and time. But Yeshua warns against this behavior, telling us of a rich man who harvests many crops and only thinks of himself: "Then he said, 'This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry."' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:18-21).
James also gives a fiery warning to those who use their money only to provide comfortable lives for themselves: "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! ... You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter" (James 5:1-3, 5).
The song of Moses provides us with an example of what happens when we grow comfortable and self-indulgent. This is true with physical wealth, and it is also true in our spiritual walk. We must never believe that we are owed anything or that we deserve any type of blessing, and we must not assume that God will bless our path if it is not the path He wants us to be on. Let us give thanks to God, for He is the one who desires for us to enjoy the gifts which He has given us, both physical and spiritual, not by using these gifts lavishly upon ourselves, but by sharing joyfully with our brothers, sisters, and neighbors.