Monday #CoffeeTimePrayer #devo

Pq1vSe3

Made gods vs the making God

The idols shall utterly pass away.
Enter the caves of the rocks
and the holes of the ground,
from the terror of the Lord,
and from the glory of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.
On that day people will throw away
to the moles and to the bats
their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
which they made for themselves to worship,
to enter the caverns of the rocks
and the clefts in the crags,
from the terror of the Lord,
and from the glory of his majesty,
when he rises to terrify the earth.

Isaiah 2:18-21 NRSVA

Recently while flipping through the Handbook to the Bible I came across a diagram illustrating how difficult it was for Corinthian Christians to escape paganism[1]. The diagram shows that the dining rooms often used for social functions were located in a pagan temple right beneath the area where sacrifices to idols took place. In fact, most meat served in these dining rooms had been sacrificed to pagan deities. I noted the information, thought in a vague way how much that must have sucked for the Corinthian Christians, and moved on. But I remembered this picture when I started reading the book of Isaiah.

We’re lucky, aren’t we? Unlike the Corinthian Christians, our faith is now (or at least has been) the faith dujour for centuries. Our “temples” dot skylines in small towns and large cities; our ethos has been infused into almost every aspect of society, and most of its biggest institutions. Many Christians enjoy the freedom to participate in their religion how often (or not) they wish to. Our holy text can be found in hotel rooms and book shops, online and disseminated in various formats. In many respects, we enjoy the opposite situation to those luckless Corinthian Christians. We have driven paganism to the fringes; we’re safe from idolatry.

Right?

This isn’t a trick question. But I do wonder if our definition of idolatry isn’t in need of some revision. When we read in the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 6:4-13) that we are to serve only one God, I don’t think many of us experience this as a difficult directive, at least not in the sense that we are knocking on old Baal’s door. But if idols are made things, made gods, then the definition of what an idol is jumps right open.

What have we carved in silver and gold in our lives? Have we made money, pleasure, work, ambition, relationships or hobbies into idols? What have we “promoted” into the realm of godly? If we want to know what controls us, a good question to ask ourselves is what desire or impulse we have to appease in order function well. Food, drink, more, those are the obvious ones. But idols can also be spiritual things: needing to do certain things to appease our desire to appear religious (and it’s still idolatry, no matter how sincere our intentions). In short, idolatry occurs when we substitute anything for God.

The language in Isaiah doesn’t tip-toe around how unacceptable a practice idolatry is. Idolatry separates us from God and so it incurs his wrath. How wretched it must be for him, our creator, to see creations he values above all else worship the very things that brought about our fall and continues to try to drive a wedge between us and him today! And that’s the greatest irony of idolatry: that while we generally indulge it in order to maintain a semblance of control, this dead, ineffectual thing always gains control over us. In making gods we nominate and approve the very things that will come to ruler over us. Lord if we aren’t stupid!

This week, rather than trying to fashion gods from the dust of our lives, let’s rejoice in the fact that we have been made by God. Rather than glorify things made from silver and gold, let us – made in the image of God – glorify him.

Prayer inspiration: Psalm 40:4-5

Happy are those who make
the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after false gods.

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us;
none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
they would be more than can be counted.


[1] p 699. Alexander, Pat and David, 2005. Handbook to the Bible. 4th ed. Cape Town: Lux Verbi.BM.

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One thought on “Monday #CoffeeTimePrayer #devo

  1. Thank you for drawing out the application for us today-it is easy to dismiss talk of statues and temples (of other gods) thinking I am immune from such idolatry. The physical symbols may have changed, but my heart is just as prone to wander as anyone’s. And, like the Corinthians, the temples of my idols are everywhere as well-shopping malls, television, movie theatres, restaurants, etc. Diligence! I must look (as you said) to what my heart and appetite demands that I appease. Good stuff!

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