The tenth verse of Psalm 73 is heavily disputed. It follows a detailed description of the prosperity—the worldly success—of those who oppose God (Psalm 73:3-9). For important technical reasons, we would argue that the correct meaning of that verse is this: “Therefore His people turn to the wicked [the men mentioned earlier who hold power, who prosper, and whose words are broadcast throughout the whole earth] and waters of abundance are wrung out to them.” Abundance can also be rendered fullness, and the term is often translated a full cup. God’s people turn toward the powerful and prosperous and are rewarded for this with an abundance of water being sent their way.
Waters of abundance were due to be wrung out to Moses, but he chose not to drink from the full cup that Egypt offered him.
By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. (Heb. 11:24-27)
It is significant that Moses chose greater riches than were offered in the treasures of Egypt. He chose not to drink from the waters of abundance for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. He chose to drink water from an entirely different spring, and was not seduced by the waters of abundance that Egypy—the first great empire to oppose God’s Kingdom—had to offer him.
The fault that God here indicts in His people begins with their being seduced to drink the wrong waters, the waters of abundance.
For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jer. 2:13)
And humanism offers so many different flavors from its overflowing reservoirs! Humanists will wring out to you an abundance of “free” schools, an abundance of entitlements, an abundance of social services, etc. The list is endless, and the cultural promotion of these inducements is as widespread and aggressive as ever because “their tongue walketh through the earth” (Ps. 73:9). The media, the schools, and compromised churches—these all promote the abundance of waters being squeezed out to those willing to turn toward its purveyors.
When Dr. R. J. Rushdoony founded the Chalcedon Foundation, he spoke in earnest of “sponsoring a counter-measure to the prevailing trend.” The concern of Psalm 73:10 is that the prevailing trend can pull God’s people into alignment with it. This tragedy compounded the psalmist’s anguish at the temporal success of the wicked: “When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me” (Ps. 73:16).
Verse 17 is the pivotal transition text for the psalmist: his consternation persisted “until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end.” Seeing the false promise hiding behind the abundance of waters offered by the wicked prompts a new orientation. The psalmist indicts himself for walking by sight (verses 21 and 22) for he had forgotten what really mattered.
We’re finally seeing more Christians refusing the waters of abundance. They are saying No to public schools in greater numbers. They are learning to reject the many other cups filled with water that humanistic statism keeps offering them. They are learning to rely solely on the living waters from the one true Fountain.
The truth is, such metaphorical “waters” are never a neutral matter. Once before in the Chalcedon Report we discussed Isaiah 8:6: “Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son.” Instead of God’s gentle, decentralized government under His law, the people preferred the power state and its glories: they preferred false water in abundance. The folly of this becomes evident in Isaiah 8:7-8—those waters overflow their banks and channels and soon reach up to the necks of His people. So too now, humanism’s waters reach to the necks of His people.
The counter-measure needed today is the same counter-measure proposed by Dr. Rushdoony in 1965. God’s people must be taught to refuse the abundance of waters, which amount to “the treasures of wickedness” (Micah 6:10), and to turn back to the living waters our Redeemer so freely offers us. Like Moses, we must no longer “fear the wrath of the king” (Heb. 11:27) but must rather become living sacrifices for the King of Kings.
Chalcedon’s counter-measure isn’t as simple as Just Say No to the abundance of waters being seductively offered to us. We start with a firm No, of course, because Christians have indeed “slurped up” those waters (Lexham translation) for too long, but we must never fight something with nothing. We must raise the foundations of many generations (Isa. 58:12) and faithfully proclaim His Word in its fullness, so that His people might turn back to the One Who alone offers living waters in their purity.
God adds no sorrows to His blessings (Prov. 10:22) but the blessings offered by humanism always have sorrowful strings attached—strings that parasitically sap the strength of His people. Chalcedon’s counter-measure remains two-fold: (1) to help God’s people see that drinking from humanism’s Big Gulp water cup leads to “hands that hang down and feeble knees” (Heb. 12:12) and (2) to equip His people with the galvanizing message repeated twice by Zechariah: “Let your hands be strong!”
Victorious kingdom work requires strong hands trained to apply our faith to all of life. Help Chalcedon continue to equip and strengthen the Lord’s people in that work as we move ever deeper into our second half-century of service to the King.
[Originally appeared in the Chalcedon Report, April 2018]