Sunday: Psalm 124 & Deuteronomy 29:16-30:10

From Sarah Philbrick

God’s jealousy for His chosen people is a consistent theme throughout the Old Testament in particular and the entire Bible as a whole. Repeatedly, God warns the Israelites about the severity of having other gods and idols. “Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison” (Deuteronomy 29:17). Yet time and time again, the Israelites are swayed into worshiping the alluring false gods of other nations, turning away from the Lord and the richness of His promises to those who obey His decrees.

As a child, I always used to find the First Commandment of having “no other gods before me” rather straightforward. Didn’t it just mean that as Christians, we weren’t supposed to worship a physical idol, such as a shiny god-looking sculpture? Yet I know now that I’m older that the First Commandment is far harder to keep than I had once expected. Having other gods, or, in other words, putting anything else above God, is direct disobedience of that command.

The tricky thing about this commandment is that it seems to be so easy to break without even noticing. As a very goal-oriented person, I find it especially difficult because I focus singularly on whatever I want to achieve and place God in the “I’ll get to it when I get to it” sort of tier. My goals take priority because achieving that goal seems to be the best way to satisfaction and happiness. In college, my ultimate goal was to get into medical school right after undergrad. I worked hard at all my classes and did extracurricular activities to boost my application; I stressed and worried myself over every “bad” grade, and felt panicked and lost when I didn’t get accepted after applying my senior year. The pursuit of medical school had become my idol. Once God took it away from me, it crumbled to pieces and I ended up feeling confused, broken, and lost.

Fortunately, God promises great things to those who turn from other gods and return to Him. He promised the Israelites that if they turn from their other gods and returned to the covenant they had made with the true God that “The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your fathers, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 30:9-10). In my case, God had to take my idol of medical school because I was not strong enough to turn from it, therefore humbling me in the process. Shortly after, He began to bless me. He opened the doors for me to be able to move to Boston, get a job that I love, row on the beautiful Charles River (a Midwestern rower’s dream!), join the wonderful CotC community, get married, and now get accepted into medical school. Truly humbled through the process, God had taken away my idol, brought me back to Him, and in his great mercy and grace, blessed me through the process. We truly do have an amazing Lord who desires to bless those who love, honor, and obey Him.

Originally from Indiana, I now live in Somerville with my husband, Thomas, and work as a research assistant in palliative care and spirituality at the Dana-Farber. Outside of work, you’re most likely to find me rowing on the Charles, biking, running, cooking, or coloring.