Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, subjecting us to hard labor. Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our ancestors, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him.
After accomplishing some great success in life, perhaps you have been given the counsel: “Don’t rest on your laurels.” A sign of victory in ancient times was to wear a wreath made of laurel leaves as a kind of crown. To rest on your laurels, then, means to be so satisfied with your past achievements that you make no further effort to improve. Such a person basks in the glow of glory years gone by.
When the people of Israel entered into the Promised Land after wandering in the wilderness, they would be tempted to “rest on their laurels.” After years of suffering, they had found success. They had journeyed to a land “flowing with milk and honey” with rich soil that produced abundant crops. But Moses reminded them that the laurel wreath of victory was not theirs to wear. The Israelites, descendants of Abraham, owed everything they had to the Lord, the God of their fathers. When they were helpless, the Lord had saved them from slavery and had led them safely to this new land. By all rights, the Lord deserved their thanks and praise.
Can Christians be tempted to rest on their laurels? After all, we believers have been promised an eternal home in heaven. As God’s children we have the privilege of going to him in prayer. By his grace we even see some successes in our struggles with sin and may have been able to resist temptations that have been the ruin of others around us. But no, the crown of victory does not rightly belong to us. We sinners could never earn peace with God ourselves. It was won by Christ Jesus the Son of God, who with his outstretched arms on the cross defeated sin, death, and the devil for us. He gives salvation as a gift to all sinners through faith. We rest secure on Jesus’ laurels—his victory—rather than our own. And responding to such a Savior in faith and gratitude, we bring the firstfruits of godly living, setting apart for him the best of our resources, our schedule, and our heart.
Lord Jesus, you used your mighty power to win me back from death and the devil. Let all my thinking, speaking, and doing this day reflect your great love for me. Amen.