Hovering over Psalm 106 this morning and a well known quote comes to mind from Ralph Waldo Emerson (technically, a well known quote comes to mind and I have to Google it to find it was by Emerson).
“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”
Psalm 106 sparked the memory of that quote not because it enforces it, but because it presents a Mr. Hyde antithesis to Emerson’s Dr. Jekyll truism. Psalm 106 is an anti-progression of Emerson’s thought-to-destiny connection. As the songwriter recounts his people’s history, he spends a fair amount of time on the yoked-to-provoked connection.
Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; they provoked the LORD to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them.
(Psalm 106:28-29 ESV)
The psalmist expands on this later in the song:
They did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them . . . they mixed with the nations . . . They served their idols . . . They sacrificed their sons and their daughters . . . they became unclean by their acts . . . Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people . . .
(Psalm 106:34-40 ESV)
They yoked and they provoked. Disobedience in the beginning led to destructive behavior later on. Sowing seeds of idolatry eventually resulted in the soiling of their character. Being yoked to the ways of the world around them ultimately provoked the God of heaven above them.
Oh, thank God for the cross! Praise Him for the well-worn path to Calvary where we trek, again and again, to confess our sins knowing He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn. 1:9). It is not kindling God’s anger we fear as much as it is breaking His heart. Not that we won’t discipline those He loves, He will. But less than fear of discipline, it’s fear of disappointing our loving, gracious Father who loved us to the point of giving His Son for us.
So, I note that it can start with seemingly small things. Less about rejecting God outright and more about giving the world an invite. Not about removing the way of Christ but about adding the way of the world.
Sow a yoking, and you reap an idol; sow an idol and reap disobedience, sow disobedience and you reap destruction, sow destruction and reap discipline.
Or something like that. I’m no Emerson.
Maybe leaving it to the Scriptures to summarize is a better approach:
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
(James 1:14-15 ESV)
Oh, to be faithful in the small things and on guard against our own desires. To value, as much as lies in me, fidelity to the Savior and His words, over the “it’s no big deal” claims of the world and their alluring call. To believe that an unhealthy yoking can lead to an unwanted provoking. And then to flee from temptation and cling to the the truth.
Possible by the grace of God. Desirable for the glory of God.