Reading Psalm 78 this morning, I’d been lying in bed thinking about the deluge of weak Christians who continue to report how helpful they’ve found Dane Ortlund’s blockbuster hit sold by Crossway. How to warn all these weak ones? How to protect even my own sheep from him?
Then I got up, put my thoughts out of mind, and was reading Psalm 78. This psalm tells the story of the constant rebellions of God’s people as they travelled through the wilderness to the land God had promised them. They rebelled this way. They rebelled that way. God’s people wanted this. God’s people complained and moaned and groaned about that. They didn’t want God leading them. They didn’t want Moses leading them.
They wanted Aaron leading them because Aaron said what they wanted. He promised to give them the golden calf they were hankering after; to satiate their idolatrous hearts.
Tickling their ears where they itched, Aaron was insanely popular.
This is the account of God’s people on the road to their Promised Land. This is not the account of the Canaanites, who were certainly not God’s people.
Rather, these were God’s people. God’s covenant people. God’s wicked covenant people, and yet He was patient with them—only killing many thousands of them, rather than all of them, entirely. You remember Moses had pleaded for their lives.
In the middle of this Psalm 78 account of the rebellion of the sons of Israel in the wilderness, a particular rebellion is condemned:
And in their heart they put God to the test
By asking food according to their desire. (v. 18)
Dane’s bestseller popped back into my mind: “food according to their desires.”
This is the perpetual sin of the people of God. We are not willing to eat the table God sets for us, but demand to set the table ourselves. We are unwilling to be content with the food God sets before us but demand to choose and be served the food we prefer.
How many times have I had children of guests at our table and watched those children turn up their noses at what Mary Lee had prepared for us. Having the children do so is bad enough, but worse is their mother and father sympathizing with them as they complain, then telling them they don’t have to eat the meat, bread, salad, or vegetables Mary Lee has served them.
It’s rude for children to complain and turn their noses up at food served them by their hostess, but what about parents who allow them to do so? What about those parents?
What has been particularly disturbing to me is all the pastors who are cooperating with Dane and Crossway’s attack upon their sheep. Not Dane and Crossway’s sheep, but these pastors own sheep.
Boxes of this product are being shipped to pastors around the country and God’s people are eating it up. Pastors are reading the book during their sermons. Pastors are holding Sunday school classes reading the book and showing videos of Dane’s handsome face matching his pretty truths. It’s so professional, this marketing. Dane’s so easy to look at. Dane’s words are so pleasing to the palate.
Now, dear souls, stop and think what it means when something’s a runaway bestseller within Evangelicalism? Does it mean revival? Stop and think about it. Is huge popularity a mark of Godly preaching and teaching?
Rather, it’s a mark that people have found a teacher who gives them food “according to their desires”:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (2Timothy 4:3-4)
Pastors and elders, do not fail to warn your sheep against Dane’s tickling. Don’t let strange men tickle those little ones the Good Shepherd has put under your protection.
You do love your sheep, don’t you?