“And also, I say that I will not continually drive them out from before you, but they will be at your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.”
And thus, the warning given in Numbers 33:55-56 comes to pass. Barbs in the eyes, thorns in the side, and trouble — this is indeed the result of compromising with sin. Thus, while the word “thorn” is not present in the actual text, it is inferred from the context. Interestingly, the Greek translation of this text inserts the word sunoch/ (sunoche), which literally means “distress” or “anguish,” but is also the term that Paul chooses in 2 Corinthians 2:4 when he speaks regarding his distress over the people of Corinth who had been abandoning his teachings. How these faithful parents must distress the idolatry that will be enticing their children.
This statement is hauntingly relevant to us today as well. The snares are all around us — the gods of money, reputation, vanity, recreation, entertainment, etc… — and while as believing adults, we are discerning enough to recognize the dangers, those snares are dragging our children down faster than we are willing to admit. Even whole church movements have fallen prey to the trap that the time of worship is to be a time of entertainment and that church growth is about who can put on the best show. And indeed, that is not at all what church worship is to be about. Worship is about giving honor to God for who he is and for what he has done — not about giving honor to man for man’s creativity and cleverness. Worship is about sitting under the instruction of God’s Word and prayerfully seeking to apply that instruction to one’s own life. Worship is not a matter of feeling good about oneself; it is a matter of recognizing that we have a long way to go until we arrive at perfection — something that won’t be completed until we are in God’s presence eternally. Worship is about a communal gathering of God’s people and publicly pronouncing that God is the sovereign king over our land, not political parties and special interest groups.
But because we have allowed the gods of vanity and self to inundate our society, we have created the cult of the selfie-stick. And until people are made to realize the emptiness of vanity, there is no going back. But, do we really want to go back? Do we really want to go back to the world that preceded the selfie-stick? I would challenge that we don’t because sinful hearts are always drawn to anything that elevates self — just as a moth is drawn to a flame. What we want is to push through — to demonstrate to the world that the selfie simply leaves one hollow and empty and there is nothing compelling about it. Instead, what is compelling is the Lord of Hosts who can not only fill us and satisfy our longings, but who can show us how we need to leave behind these snares that entangle and grow in Truth and Grace.