Following the Valentine’s Day candy surge, my wife picked up Dove dark chocolate squares at shockingly low prices! Last night after dinner I passed out a square to each of my kids, who love to read the little maxims printed on the inside of the wrapper. One read: “Chocolate never lets you down,” and another read: “The only certainty in life is smooth dark chocolate.” Now, I have little doubt that the Dove people are trying to promote a dark chocolate cult (although the thought has crossed my mind given the fact that it seems impossible to eat just one!), but it is interesting how theologically oriented the language is.
The message: People will let you down, life will let you down, but you can always trust in dark chocolate. It will be there, like a beacon of light in the midst of life’s hard days. It will comfort, sooth, and bring chocolaty peace into your hard times.
Now, I think there is a fundamental lie in this message that goes far deeper than the chocolatiers recognize, and it emerges if we simply replace dark chocolate with senses of pleasure. The message then becomes: People will let you down, life will let you down, but you can always trust in sensual pleasure. It will be there; always ready to make you feel good when you are down.
The Bible is very clear that God intends us to experience pleasure. He created good food, beautiful sights, powerful harmonies, and satisfying marriages (1 Tim 4:1-5). However, not one of these things is to be the stability in our lives. Chocolate desserts, sunsets, music, and sex will never come through for us. They will never satisfy the way that advertising campaigns promise.
The question becomes where do we turn in the midst of life’s hardships? What is our certainty? It is not to be found in personal, sensual pleasure. In our modern culture, we don’t look at desserts, homes, and cars as idols in the sense of embodying a deity, but we can certainly turn toward these things and say, “Satisfy me,” “Fill me,” “Define me,” “Make me a new person!” Let’s hear the words recorded by a man who had quite a lot to say to the people of Israel about idols and true satisfaction:
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” (Isaiah 55:1–3 ESV)
God tells his people where they can find food and drink that will satisfy forever. He asked them why are they working and wasting on things that will not satisfy them, when he offers a feast! Indeed, the feast language points toward an everlasting reality, or more accurately, an everlasting relationship. A relationship that is established based on God’s faithfulness to the line of David.
Our Heavenly Father is not stingy, and he does not withhold good things from his children. Paul marvels at the benevolence of God saying, ““He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32 ESV). There is nothing more valuable than the Son of God, and he died that we might be brought into the family of God. When life gets hard, my hope is that we would be people who do not turn to the false gods of our appetites, but to the one living and true God who always keeps his promises, who satisfies in the truest sense, and who has provided a way for eternal pleasure in his presence. The one who offers bread of life (John 6:35) and living water that will indeed satisfy (John 4:10)!
Rusty Osborne is Assistant Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri, and is the editor of the Journal for the Evangelical Study of the Old Testament. He frequently writes on the Old Testament at www.lawprophetsandwritings.com.
The views expressed by guest writers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of B&H Academic, Lifeway Christian Resources, or their employees.