In 1775 Benedict Arnold was a superstar among the Revolutionary Army. He was, in fact, assigned to command West Point. Yet during the course of a few short years, he lost his way, he lost his loyalty, and he lost his principles. Benedict Arnold became a traitor- in his case we might say he did a slow fade into treason.
Sometimes the slide into treason happens more quickly. Let’s consider a biblical account in Exodus. Let me set the scene for you. The nation of Israel has been rescued from bondage in Egypt. They have witnessed firsthand the miraculous power of God as He dealt with Pharoah, up to and including God parting the Red Sea for them to pass through while escaping the Egyptian chariots. The chariots, you will remember, were destroyed when the waters came crashing down around them. They witnessed ten supernatural plagues that affected the Egyptians while sparing the Israelites. God, through his messenger Moses, did some incredible things for them.
The nation of Israel was so grateful and awestruck that they worshipped God and followed Moses’ leadership from that day forward. The nation was faithful the rest of their lives, as the memories of God’s sovereignty echoed through their minds. They all lived happily after…………. Or did they??
That takes us to chapter 32 in Exodus. Moses had been gone from them for 40 days while meeting with the Lord. And so we read starting in verse one: “When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!” Then Aaron replied to them, “Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off the gold rings that were on their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took the gold from their hands, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made it into an image of a calf. Then they said, “Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; then he made an announcement: “There will be a festival to the Lord tomorrow.” 6 Early the next morning they arose, offered burnt offerings, and presented fellowship offerings. The people sat down to eat and drink, then got up to play. “
Now Moses had not been gone for 40 years- he had not been gone for 40 months- not even 40 weeks, but 40 days…. And they had committed treason. Three thousand men died that day as a result of the nation’s treachery.
The nation of Israel lost their way in 40 days….
We have used the term treason twice now. The definition is “the act of betraying someone or something. Synonyms include treachery, disloyalty, betrayal, faithlessness; sedition, subversion, mutiny, rebellion.
I would never commit treason to my God. I tell myself that, and I mean it. And if we conducted a poll of everyone reading this blog, I daresay that all of us would make the same vow- we would never commit treason. And yet God’s people Israel, who had just witnessed unimaginable power and miracles from His hand, managed to do just that in only 40 days.
“Sin is a deliberate treason against the majesty of God, an assault upon His crown, an insult offered to His throne. “Author: Charles Spurgeon
What are some factors that could lead us into treason?.
First, let’s look at Benedict Arnold- what factors caused his fall? Biographers point to pride bordering on arrogance, blind ambition, and a lifestyle of living beyond his means. Are there scriptural safeguards against those things?
Regarding arrogance- Proverbs 8:13 gives us the warning- “To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate arrogant pride, evil conduct, and perverse speech.”
Philippians 2:3-4 gives us the antidote: “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Regarding thirst for power, Augustine tells us: “Sin comes when we take a perfectly natural desire or longing or ambition and try desperately to fulfill it without God. Not only is it sin, it is a perverse distortion of the image of the Creator in us. All these good things, and all our security, are rightly found only and completely in Him.”
The antidote to thirst for power is found in Philippians 4:13: “I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Regarding Living beyond one’s means, the warning is well-expressed by Billy Graham- “There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.”
The antidote is found in Hebrews 13:5- “Your life should be free from the love of money. Be satisfied with what you have, for He Himself has said, I will never leave you or forsake you.”
What, then, about The Israelites in Exodus- what factors caused their fall? Let’s consider two: an extremely short memory, and a desire for a God they could touch.
Regarding their short memory, the warning is described by David Wilkerson: “How quickly we forget God’s great deliverances in our lives. How easily we take for granted the miracles he performed in our past.”
Regarding wanting a god they could touch, the warning is given to us by DL Moody: “You don’t have to go to heathen lands today to find false gods. America is full of them. Whatever you love more than God is your idol. “
So there you have it. To protect ourselves we can practice humility, rely on God’s strength, be content with what we have, meditate on God’s Word and promises, and maintain an active faith.
I got to thinking about my GPS system on my phone, and how much I rely on it. Mine speaks to me in a female voice with an Australian accent. Most of the time we get along, until I miss a turn……I swear that her tone changes, and in a rather disappointed voice she tells me that she is – wait for it- RECALCULATING…If I behave myself and follow the new directions, we get back on track. What if we think about our own spiritual disciplines- our Bible study, prayer life, meditation time, Christian fellowship- as our spiritual GPS system? If we listen to the directions they give us, we enjoy a healthy relationship with our Heavenly Father. On those times we miss or take a wrong turn, our spiritual GPS system will recalculate for us and give us the directions to get back on track. Our job is to have the GPS turned on, with our destination programmed in, and to have the volume turned high enough to hear that voice which nudges us back on track. If we do that, our phone’s voice will tell us we have arrived at our destination. Our spiritual GPS system will one day tell us: “Well done, good and faithful servant! “