Fatty Degeneration Of The Heart
FATTY DEGENERATION OF THE HEART -
By James l. Thornton
Deuteronomy 32:15 “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.”
This verse comes from the song of Moses which he spake to Israel just before God called him home (Deuteronomy 31:30).
The song of Moses (Deuteronomy 32) is a masterpiece of that class of poetry known as didactic ode which is used in morally instructive teaching. Majestic and full of divine fire, it consists of a review of Israel’s past history along with its future history, with the moral purpose of justifying the ways of God to man and to Israel.
God had appeared in the tabernacle (Deuteronomy 31:15) instructing Moses and Aaron. The theme for this song comes from the nineteenth and twentieth and twenty-first verse of Deuteronomy 31.
Deuteronomy 31:19 “Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.
20. For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.
21. And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.
It is this theme which is developed with the important addition that in the song, instead of concluding on that note of disaster, Moses goes on and describes God’s intervention on behalf of His people and their ultimate salvation. As Moses sang in the Spirit, he makes a retrospective survey of Israel’s history, and develops the lessons deducible from it.
As we survey the lessons from Moses’ song I want each of us to use them as a survey of our own lives.
1. The first period is that of innocent childhood of Israel, the period of Moses himself. God finds Israel as a child abandoned in the howling waste of the wilderness (Deuteronomy 32:10). Lovingly God gathers the child up into His protecting arms, cares for him. Looks after him like “The apple of his eye.”
Hovering over him through that blessed, happy state of childhood; “as an eagle over his young,” He leads and guides him with His presence “So the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange God with him (Deuteronomy 32:11-12).
But Israel would not always remain in that childhood innocence. In Moses’ song we see the passing of time. The child grows to manhood. He “makes good,” waxes prosperous, and disaster strikes. (Deuteronomy 32:13-14)
The Theme Is A Familiar One:
“But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked …. Then he forsook the God that made him” (Deuteronomy 32:15).
I read the story of a great Jewish Rabbi, one of the greatest teachers of young men of his day. He had five students of which one was very bright. This student excelled to the point where he was considered to become a spiritual giant among his peers.
His master made some outstanding remarks about this student.
“He is a spring flowing over with ever-lasting vigor.”
He added, “If all the sages of Israel were put in a scale of the balance and this particular student in the other scale, he would out-weigh them all.”
The “ever-flowing fountain,” outweighing the combined spiritual weight of all the other spiritual giants of the time, and truly there was giants in those days.
One day the master put two questions to these five students. Here are the questions and the respective answers.
1. “What is the essential quality which makes for the good life and to which a man should cleave?”
2. “What is the cardinal vice, which a man should shun?”
To the first question, the bright young student responds, “A good heart.”
To the second question, he responded, “An evil heart, for everything depends on the heart.”
That is the picture given of the towering intellect, the saintly character of this young student. Such high hopes were entertained for this brilliant scholar.
But alas for the high hopes, because this brilliant scholar stands out in subsequent history, not as the religious genius, but as the great disappointment, the man failed to fulfill the glowing promise of youth, because he forsook the way of learning for the debilitating luxury of the prosperous life.
Attracted by the wealth and the good living which was to be had in a spa called Emmaus, he forsook the centers of learning and took up his residence there. Became wealthy and living the life of ease. And in the course of time forgot all his learning, literally all.
Later, on a visit back to his original home he was called up to read from the law. And if we are to take the statement of the Talmud at face value, to such extent he had degenerated that he even forgot the very letters of the Hebrew Alphabet so much so that he could not read from the words of Moses.
Whether or not one believes that the debilitation produced by a life of luxury and prosperity could wreak such havoc, that a man, who was the pride of his generation, would descend so low as not to be able to recognize the alphabet is a matter of opinion.
A DUMB HEART:
I believe that there is a deeper meaning to his apparent gross error.
I think his heart had become “Dumb.” (lacking the faculty of speech or the power to speak). Speechless before God who found him.
Was it not the same young student who had placed the highest value on the heart?
Remember he called a “good heart” the highest quality which makes for a good life, and to which a man should cleave, and “and evil heart” the cardinal vise which man should shun.
But now his sad experience had taught him that there is another heart, the heart which develops from enervation of luxury and self-indulgence, the heart which is neither good nor bad, but which is dumb (lacking the faculty of speech or the power to speak, speechless).
That heart which in days of simple youth responded to every spiritual impulse, which was vocal, clamant and quivering before it became overlaid with the fat of the land.
And now a “FATTY DEGENERATION OF THE HEART” had set in.
The curd of kine (cattle) and milk of sheep, with fat of lambs…with the kidney of wheat; and the pure blood of the grape (foaming wine) Deuteronomy 32:14, had laid its successive layers of gross fat over that sensitive organ, rendering it impervious to any call from God.
And that tragedy of the failure of the glowing ideal hopes of youth which we have described in the case of this young student, repeats itself in every generation when the self-indulgence which is the fruit of prosperity sets in.
There is no place for the “good” heart, or the “evil” heart, there is just the “dumb heart.”
“And Jeshurun waxed fat and kicked…and he forsook God who made him” Deuteronomy 32:15.
God, through Moses, gives Israel a glimpse of the future. What God is saying in this song has not, at this point come to pass; it is spoken as a prophetic warning.
Now no lesson is of much value unless we can apply it to our own lives. I want to repeat the verse, and I want each of us to pay particular attention to the wording of this verse.
Deuteronomy 32:15. “But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.”
We will all agree and nod amen so long as Scripture and I confine themselves to the third person (the other person), and thus make these affirmations impersonal. We always like to hear about somebody else’s sins and not our own. But with superb dramatic effect, and sublime disregard for rules governing sentence structure, the song interrupts its impersonal dispassionate analysis and suddenly swerves round and points an embarrassing, accusing finger at you.
“Why,” says the hearer in shocked tone, insulted and offended, “It is I to whom He is speaking. He means me, not him.” Alas, it is too true.
Consider and tell me if I am wrong. Consider the days of your youth before you amassed that wealth which is your glory to-day, the days when you were common folks, when you were plain business men, when your hearts were vocal, and your faith a real thing.
And compare that with your spiritual stature now.
Hast thou not waxed fat?
Hast thou not grown thick?
Hast thou not become gross?
Are not many of you suffering from a spiritual degeneration of the heart, which makes it neither good nor evil, only dumb (lacking the faculty of speech or the power to speak)? Have you been rendered speechless before God who found you?
Some of us can remember when the broth was thin and cupboard was empty, closets were not so crowded but our spiritual life was full and vocal. God was in our thoughts and dreams, the Bible was our daily guide, our hearts were happy and a song of praise was always ready to break forth from our lips. We said with the Psalmist, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Songs and sermons about heaven caused us to close our eyes and look away from the daily grind to a better home and environment where we would get relief from the struggles of life.
We prayed for happiness and freedom from want. God heard our prayers and gave us most of our hearts desires. But like the Children of Israel, “And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul” Psalms 106:15.
Today people can yawn through sermons, and songs about heaven, because their environment, they think, is just as good as any of that. Our cabinets are full and the closets are running over, so we can say “We are not hungry, God.” We need to remember that this was one of the sins of Sodom before God took her away Ezekiel 16:49-50.
Let us hear from God today. Let us pray and sing praises to Him today. Let our hearts become vocal and not dumb before Him. The Lord wants us to restore our spiritual fellowship, and not let the things He has given us become a stumbling block to in our path. Let us purpose in our hearts to “be on speaking terms with God.”
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By James L. Thornton