Monday, March 25, 2013

No Idols!

One Year Bible
Old Testament passage for Monday, March 25: Deuteronomy 4:1-49

23 Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.  Deuteronomy 4:23-24 (NKJV)

When we think of idol worship, images come to mind of golden calves or gyrating dancers circling a hideous statue.  I have been in regions of the world in which true idol worship was obvious on every street corner.  This was a major reality in the world of the Bible (and in portions of our world today).

God addressed this when He gave the second commandment.  There He says, "You shall not make for yourselves a carved image .... you shall not bow down to them nor serve the, for I, the Lord you God, am a jealous God..."  (Exodus 20:4-5).  It's clear:  NO IDOL WORSHIP! 

The Western mindset can easily say that this applies only to pagan societies with golden images set up before incensed altars.  But, should Western society be concerned about a different kind of idol worship?  I say, "Yes."  Our idols may not look like the stereotype of Shiva or Ganesh in India, but they are nonetheless just as real. 

Someone once said that our problem is America is not METAL GODS but rather MENTAL GODS.   We want to remake God in our own image.  We tend to figure out for ourselves the way we want God to be and then demand that He meet our expectations.  We no longer serve Him, but instead expect Him to serve us.  God becomes our Heavenly Butler.

J.I. Packer, in his classic book Knowing God, speaks to this when he writes, "To follow the imagination of one's heart in the realm of theology is the way to remain ignorant of God, and to become an idol-worshipper -- the idol is this case being a false mental image of God, made by one's own speculation and imagination."  We fashion a god after our OWN MIND instead of taking God at His Word and believe Him as He displays Himself in the Bible.   

Isaiah 40:18 echoes this when it says: "To whom then will you liken God?  Or what likeness will you compare to Him?"  It is humorous at times to hear someone say, "I like to think of God as a Wind or as a Fire... or as a Lion or a Lamb."  All of these things can be mildly helpful in humanizing our transcendent God.  But remember that our God is higher and bigger, grander and more awesome.  Does it really matter how we like to view God.  LET GOD BE GOD!

Which brings us to the very definition of an idol.  It is not really a "false god."  (That's what the first commandment dealt with -- "no other gods before me")  An idol is something WE MAKE to represent the God we can't see. It's something we invent.  Scripture says that in the beginning "God created man, in the image of God He created him" (Gen. 1:27).  Ever since then, fallen man has been trying to create God in our own image!

This leads to a simple prayer:  God, I want to know You are You really are!  I don't want to worship my idea of who You are, I want to KNOW you. 

If you and I will pray that prayer, I know that God Almighty will come and show new vistas of Himself that will thrill our hearts.  There is nothing better that simply knowing the true and living God.

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