It may not look like it, but I’m still working my way through Beale’s We Become What We Worship. (I’m actually in chapter 6.)
Chapter 3 “Evidence Elswhere in the Old Testament” is a biblical theological road-trip. Heres the route Beale takes us on: From Isaiah 6:9-10 turn left to Deuteronomy 29:4; then turn left to Exodus 32; next turn right to Psalm 106:20; stop at Hosea 4:7; don’t forget to turn around and go back to 1 Kings 17 and finally arrive at Jeremiah 2:5,11.
Here are some other highlights that I didn’t share in my previous (and misleadingly titled) post.
I benefited the most from Beale’s discussion on Psalm 106:19-20 (cf. Romans 1:23) and his explanation of how the post-Exodus Israelites “exchanged their glory” when they worshiped the golden baby cow. The simple and most common option is to understand “glory” as a synonym for God. In other words Israel traded YHWH for an idol; they should have worshiped the true God but instead worshipped an idol. Case closed.
Beale argues quite convincingly that this exchange of glory is more extensive. His summary:
“Thus Psalm 106:19-20 speaks of Israel not merely exchanging the true God for a false calf god but also includes the glory of God, which was demonstrated toward them and that they should have reflected, for the image of the idol that they subsequently reflected….[A] twofold reference is being made in the theologically packed expression their glory: a reference to God’s presence, and his glorious attributes demonstrated toward Israel and which they were to reflect in themselves.” (p. 91)
The implications are the same for us as they were at the base of Sinai: our sin, our idolatry, our worship-gone-bad will make us more and more un-like God. We are either reflecting God’s glory or we are reflecting our idol’s un-glory. There is no stasis of the soul. Thank God that he is more committed to our reflecting his glory by conforming us into the image of Jesus than we are (Romans 8:28-30)!
Beale sees this “glory-exchange” theme developed in other passages too. His analysis of Jeremiah 2:11-13 is nothing short of Christian Hedonism 101.
“Jeremiah 2:12-13 confirms this twofold notion in verse 11 of “his glory” (i.e. “his glory” including both exchanging worship of God and the reflection of his glory)….
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water. (Jer 2:12-13)
It is “appalling what Israel has done in verse 11, and verse 13 gives two formal reasons for the appalling nature of this idolatry: (1) they have forsaken God and (2) have manufactured other gods….As a result of “forsaking” God, they are not able to share in the “living waters” that come form the “fountain” (God) from which they have cut themselves off, but now they share in “broken cisterns” that can hold no water; that is, they share in the “emptiness” of the false gods (who do not have the waters of life). Therefore, they have forsaken God for other gods and they no longer share in the life that emanates from God, but only the dead emptiness of their idols.” (p. 116)
Over the past month God has used this chapter to expose the ruinous nature of my idols, aka my “beloved sins.” By God’s marvelous grace I’m finding myself agreeing with Jeremiah, and I’ve been preaching my soul “Stop trying to find your joy, pleasure and security in these worthless pursuits.” I’ve wept in repentance and wept in rejoicing as I’ve sipped afresh from the Fountain of Living Water. Who knew biblical theology could be so life-changing?!