Thought for February 14th. “THEY FLATTERED HIM …”
Can we “flatter” God? Human flattery emerges out of unhealthy attitudes of mind to achieve a fleshly purpose! There are many meaningful lessons to be gleaned from today’s Psalm 78. It surveys the whole history of God’s nation and the good – and not so good – indeed the bad – in their relationship with their God. What is a relationship with God? That’s a question we each need to answer.
The Psalmist draws most of his lessons from their experiences in the wilderness under Moses. Overwhelming evidence had been given to the people – in the way of visual experiences of God in action. Jesus said, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required ….” [Luke 12 v.48]
Up to verse 16 the Psalmist makes a summary of the physical evidence they had witnessed of their God in action; of the plagues in Egypt and their exemption from all but the first three; the dramatic Passover night, the drama afterwards and the parting of the waters so they crossed on dry land and then witnessed the drowning of the Egyptians. Then came the provision of water and now, says the Psalmist, “the bread of angels … in abundance” [v.25] and “winged birds … and they ate and were well filled” [v.27,29]
At this point “the anger of God rose against them … they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly” [v.31, 34] But what is their frame of mind as they express repentance and are seeking God? Were they motivated by a sense of love for God? Now to love someone in a genuine way one needs to be in a heartfelt and abiding relationship with them, so what was now the nature of their attitude toward God?
Verses 36 & 37 tell us, “They flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant.” So what did God do as a result? Humanly, we would have expected a rejection of them – or at least some form of punishment. But no! The next verse says, “Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often …”
This is the message in the New Testament – to those in the wilderness of this world. God’s all-seeing spirit surrounds us – as it did them in the wilderness. Paul told the Ephesians to “put off your old self … (it) is corrupt through deceitful desires ..” [4 v.22] Deceitful desires among other things use flattery to achieve deceitful purposes. Paul next says, “and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God … in true righteousness and holiness.” What challenging thoughts this provokes in our minds. In what way can our “new self” be “in the likeness of God?” This requires the deepest meditation – and the most earnest prayer.