I was never a big card game player. It was more than just a bit frowned upon by my parents at home, my church, and at my Bible College in the 70s – where traditional playing cards were in fact disallowed! That may seem a bit odd to some of you reading this, but it was certainly not an unusual view in the fundamentalist Christian world in which I grew up. Traditional playing cards were viewed as having an occult background with attendant satanic overtones – particularly related to the face cards. Nobody was ever able to explain exactly what they meant, but it was seen as something in the category of stuff to not touch or get involved with. A passage – not unlike today’s where it talks about not letting the images of false worship to become a life snare – would be often used to promote avoiding it altogether. I think the evidence for all of this is a bit sketchy, but this is not really my point today anyhow …
There was a card game at our college that everyone played: Rook! I warn you now, don’t ever challenge me in Rook, because I will bury you and you will end up crying on the floor in a fetal position!
There are a variety of ways of playing the game, which features all number cards of four colors, along with a single card called the “rook card.” This card counted for the most points in the game, but by rule it could be used as either the highest trump card or the lowest in trump value. It was never settled in college rules as to which it should always be … so that had to be established at the outset of every game. I hated playing the game with the “rook” as the highest trump, because it gave so much power to one card that fell by chance into one person’s hand that it took away from the skill nature of the game.
Here is the point of today’s passage: God is the ultimate high trump! He trumps every other power all the time. In fact, he trumps all the powers combined into one power. For success in life, you want to be aligned with the ultimate trump – God!
But here is the challenge to accepting and trusting in this fact all the time – the high trump power is not always visible. At times, it seems that other things have the power – the allure of the natural world, the accumulation of the objects of value in this temporal world, and the shine of silver and gold. But all of this gets trumped sooner or later.
Like the title of our previous sermon series called “What Endures” … that which endures is our relationship to God through Christ. That is where our investments need to be. The interest upon them is eternal, bearing dividends not only for eternity, but for this world as well.
May our values be revived!
12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. 14 You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor will any of your livestock be without young. 15 The Lord will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you. 16 You must destroy all the peoples the Lord your God gives over to you. Do not look on them with pity and do not serve their gods, for that will be a snare to you.
17 You may say to yourselves, “These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?”18 But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. 19 You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the Lord your God brought you out. The Lord your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. 20 Moreover, the Lord your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished. 21 Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. 22 The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. 23 But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. 24 He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them. 25 The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the Lord your God. 26 Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction. Regard it as vile and utterly detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.