Wednesday, August 13, 2014

There is None like the God of Jeshurun

“There is none like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to your help, and through the skies in His majesty.  The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms; and He drove out the enemy from before you, and said ‘Destroy!’” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27).

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” (Deuteronomy 32:15 NASB).  Kicking in the womb from infant feet is adorable and a sign of abundant life, but kicking in the tomb from adult feet is deplorable and a sign of redundant strife.  Why do we fatten ourselves for the slaughter?  Why do we overindulge and satiate our flesh when discipline and moderation pleases us more deeply anyways?  Jeshurun conveniently forgot the admonition, the warning against forgetting God after he received all the things he was promised.  He should have remembered: “He [God] humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

Again the admonition, and with a complete explanation: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today; otherwise, when you have eaten and are satisfied, and have built good houses and lived in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and gold multiply, and all that you have multiplies, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  He led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water; He brought water for you out of the rock of flint.  In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, THAT HE MIGHT HUMBLE YOU AND THAT HE MIGHT TEST YOU, TO DO GOOD FOR YOU IN THE END.  Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’  But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.  It shall come about if you ever forget the Lord your God and go after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you today that you will surely perish.  Like the nations that the Lord makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you would not listen to the voice of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 8:11-20).

It is God’s desire and plan to bring many sons to glory, not to shame, BUT we must realize our weak frames and evil tendencies and allow God to fully purge us of them.  There is a reason why we do not inherit the Promised Land straightway.  He MUST first humble and test us so that we learn our true nature; then, as we partake of His divine nature consistently, daily/fully, we eventually supplant our evil nature with His good nature.  The fall of man debased us, and by so doing, removed the evidence of that baseness from our eyes (baseness blinds us from seeing ourselves as we really are).  God must lead us through “great and terrible” wilderness experiences to draw up those debased natures of ours before our minds.  It is as G. K. Chesterton once said:  “Humility was largely meant as a restraint upon the arrogance and infinity of the appetite of man.  He was always outstripping his mercies with his newly invented needs.  His very power of enjoyment destroyed half his joys.  By asking for pleasure, he lost the chief pleasure; for the chief pleasure is surprise.”

Deuteronomy means “the second law,” and primarily, it is a recapitulation of the first law as it was written down previously in the book of Leviticus.  But actually, the Torah (the first five books of the Bible—and that portion of the Bible to which both Leviticus and Deuteronomy obtain) was originally made as a whole document, and so the distinction made between the books is artificial.  And just like our excuses are when we feign to either not hear, or we claim to hear, but don’t understand.  You know how your parents used to say, “Don’t let me tell you twice!”?—and how they always had to repeat themselves nonetheless (and we empowered them to do so)?  Although they didn’t want to repeat themselves, God will, does, and did (and for many of us, for many more times than twice).  Of course, in all fairness to our parents, they didn’t stick with their convictions either; they told us twice, then thrice, then…well, you get it.  And is often the case, as we did with our parents, we do with God; “Indeed God speaks once, or twice, yet no one notices it” (Job 33:14).

The name “Jeshurun” is an affectionate name for Israel, sort of like how a spouse might call their mate “honey” or “sweetie.”  It literally means “To be straight or even,” “upright.”  “Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright [morally straight], but they have sought out many devices [to distract them from their proper place beside God in marital relationship to Him]” (Ecclesiastes 7:29).  But the way it’s supposed to be: “The upright will dwell in Thy presence” (Psalm 140:13).  Indeed, as was stated earlier, “THE ETERNAL GOD IS A DWELLING PLACE.”  God is our home!  He is our sanctuary, our peace, a stronghold, a secure place that we may run into and be safe.  There is, indeed, none like the God of Jeshurun!
Even the God of Jacob, and even more so, the God of Israel, does not tell the whole story.  There is, in particular, NONE like the God of Jeshurun.  “But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen...and you Jeshurun whom I have [also and more specifically] chosen” (Isaiah 44:1-2 NASB, insertion mine).

Alexander Maclaren in his brilliant article “JACOB—ISRAEL—JESHURUN,” noted some excellent points regarding Jeshurun.  He said, “You observe that there are here three different names applied to the Jewish nation. Two of them, namely Jacob and Israel, were borne by their great ancestor, and by him transmitted to his descendants. The third was never borne by him, and is applied to the people only here and in the Book of Deuteronomy.  The occurrence of all three here is very remarkable, and the order in which they stand is not accidental. The prophet begins with the name that belonged to the patriarch by birth; the name of nature, which contained some indications of character. He passes on to the name which commemorated the mysterious conflict where, as a prince, Jacob had power with God and prevailed. He ends with the name Jeshurun, of which the meaning is 'the righteous one,' and which was bestowed upon the people as a reminder of what they ought to be.”  Thus Maclaren’s point is that the sequence of names suggests a sequence of maturing relationship, a transformation of character from Jacob the conniver, to Jeshurun the righteous soul (really), through his Israel experience.

Maclaren says it too well not to quote him directly:  “Have you ever been beaten out of all your confidence, and ground down into the dust of self-disgust and self-abandonment? Have you ever felt, 'there is nothing in me or about me that I can cling to or rely upon'? Have you ever in the thickest of that darkness had, gleaming in upon your solitude, the vision of His face, whose face we see in Jesus Christ? Have you ever grasped Him who is infinitely willing to be held by the weakest hand, and who never 'makes as though He would go further,' except in order to induce us to say, with deeper earnestness of desire, 'Abide with us, for it is dark'? And have you ever, in fellowship with Him thus, found pouring into your enlightened mind a deeper reading of the meaning of His character and a fuller conception of the mystery of His love? And have you ever—certainly you have if these things have preceded it, certainly you have not if they have not —have you ever thereby been borne up on to a higher level of feeling and life, and been aware of new impulses, hopes, joys, new directions and new capacities budding and blossoming in your spirit?

“Brethren! there is only one way by which, out of the mire and clay of earth, there can be formed a fair image of holiness, and that is, that Jacob's experience, in deeper, more inward, more wonderful form, should be repeated in each one of us; and that thus, penitent and yet hopeful, we should behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, and draw from Him our righteousness. That is the path of transformation. The road passes through Peniel, and Jacob must become Israel before he is Jeshurun. He must hold communion with God in Christ before he is clothed with righteousness.

“How different that path is from the road which men are apt to take in working out their own self-improvement! How many forms of religion, and how many toiling souls put the cart before the horse, and in effect just reverse the process, and say practically—'first make yourselves righteous, and then you will have communion with God'! That is an endless and a hopeless task. I have no doubt that some of you have spent—and I would not say wasted, but it has been almost so—years of life, not without many an honest effort, in the task of self- improvement, and are very much where you were long ago. Why have you failed? Because you have never been to Peniel. You have never seen the face of God in Christ, You have not received from Him the blessing, even righteousness, from the God of your salvation.

“Dear friends, give up treading that endless, weary path of vain effort; and learn—oh! learn—that the righteousness which makes a soul pure and beautiful must come as a gift from God, and is given only in Jesus Christ.”

As wise Solomon put it: “The end of a matter is better than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7:8).  And remember, only those who endure to the end [of the process of redemption] shall be saved [in the ultimate sense of having their souls fully orbed and restored to their Edenic—and beyond Edenic—condition].  It is so true, THERE IS NONE LIKE THE GOD OF JESHURUN!