“Israel is a lush vine; it yields fruit for itself. The more his fruit increased, the more he increased the altars. The better his land produced, the better they made the sacred pillars.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you experienced success before? That’s a bit of an open-ended question. What kind of success? There are many different kinds: relational, financial, vocational, social, athletic, parental, life generally. Okay, let me narrow the question in a bit: Have you experienced success before? See what I did there? That’s not really the question I’m interested in right now. Here’s that one: Where did that success come from? Here’s why that matters: If you know where your success originates, you can experience more of it more easily.
Israel was, by all contemporary accounts, a successful nation. They were wealthy. Their military was strong. Their land was fertile. Their religion seemed to be functioning properly to those not in the know. They had all the external markers of things going really well. They were successful. But, they didn’t understand the source of their success.
Israel was neck deep in idolatry. They started with the golden calf of Jeroboam I and gradually began branching out from there. Mostly they worshiped the local chief deity, Baal, and his companion, Asherah. These two were the god of the storms and the goddess of fertility. One brought the rain, the other made the crops grow. He puts in, she puts out. And if that image seems a little crass, so were the worship practices associated with these two.
The trouble here is that, as Jesus Himself observed, God makes it rain on the just and the unjust alike. God had given them a fertile land. He hadn’t suddenly taken away the land’s productiveness. The ability to put together a large military depends on population and they were having plenty of babies. Just because they started worshiping these false gods doesn’t mean the normal environmental and social functions ceased.
Here’s where things get tricky. Israel worshiped their idols and things continued to seem to go well. Guess what they concluded. Their idols were real and did the trick. The false gods they worshiped weren’t false at all, but powerful and pleased. Thus, “the more his fruit increased, the more he increased the altars. The better his land produced, the better they made the sacred pillars.”
Israel was equating their success with the wrong things. As a result, instead of getting more of it, they ultimately undercut their prosperity and it eventually went away.
The same principle applies in our own lives as well. So, let me ask the question again: What is the source of your success? Let me answer it: Though you may have contributed to it in some way, God is the ultimate source. Everything good comes from Him. All of it. If you experience any kind of success, it started in Him.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it came from anywhere else and honoring that thing instead. You’ll cut yourself off from your only source of fuel. You may run for a bit on what you already have, but that’ll only take you so far before things screech to a halt.
Here’s what this means: If you want to keep experiencing that success and even more like it, stick with Him. Keep pursuing living life His way. Keep seeking to honor Him with every single thought, word, and action. Then you’ll get to keep enjoying the good you have known. That seems worth it to me.