They yoke themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods; they aroused the Lord ’s anger by their wicked deeds, and a plague broke out among them. But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked. This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come. By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord , and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips. – Psalm 106:28-33
This passage starts off with an interesting concept…that of “yoking” oneself to something. Now I am no oxen but I am pretty sure that most oxen would not choose to be yoked to a plow or a cart if given the choice. What does it say about the people this passage that they “yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor”? What does it say about us when we yoke ourselves things?
What sort of things do we voluntarily attach to ourselves that make our toil here on earth all the more difficult? What comes to my mind is things like guilt that we hang around our neck; the small voice of perfectionism that can convince us that we must carry more than we ought; comfortable philosophies that promise much but deliver little in the way of truth and clear direction; and perhaps the most insidious of all – an unmoving “cart” of apathy that prevents us from examining our lives and radically following a God who loves us and wants to carry us like a son or daughter.
The people of this passage also “ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods”. This statement is both perplexing and profound. The perplexing part to me is the significance of “eating sacrifices” — consuming something intended for some other purpose. In a sense that is what we are doing when we “yoke” ourselves to things other than those that God intends for us. We are consuming the spiritual “food” that God provides to pull the wrong cart. The profound part of this statement is that the God the people of this passage are to follow is not lifeless — He is alive — or “God is not dead” to quote a recent movie of the same name.
Water comes up in this passage with a reference to the Meribah incident described back in Numbers 20:6-13, where Moses and Aaron were given a clear choice of whether to lead by following or lead from behind…Moses and Aaron chose poorly and forfeited the opportunity to enter the long awaited promised land.
Although buried in a seemingly obscure reference in the book of Numbers the “Meribah test” was clearly an important turning point for Israel. Unfortunately it was a turning away, rather than toward, God and Moses and Aaron had the steering wheel. Moses had yoked himself to something other than God and it cost him dearly.
Prayer: God help us to identify those things in our lives that are consuming spiritual resources intended for another purpose.