Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Idols. Watch Out!
"Make Gods for Us"
1 When the people realized that Moses was taking forever in coming down off the mountain, they rallied around Aaron and said, "Do something. Make gods for us who will lead us. That Moses, the man who got us out of Egypt—who knows what's happened to him?"
2-4 So Aaron told them, "Take off the gold rings from the ears of your wives and sons and daughters and bring them to me." They all did it; they removed the gold rings from their ears and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from their hands and cast it in the form of a calf, shaping it with an engraving tool.
The people responded with enthusiasm: "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from Egypt!"
5 Aaron, taking in the situation, built an altar before the calf.
We are all familiar with this kind of idol in primitive cultures. People make their god exactly as they wish. The prophet Isaiah saw this as ludicrous. He suggested that in effect they were splitting a tree and using part of it for firewood for their cooking. The remainder they fashioned into an idol before which they bowed and gave offerings.
What are our idols? The renovated house? The favourite sport? The stock portfolio? The accomplished children? The position at work with the prospect of promotion? Some celebrity? The office held at the church? Physical fitness? Education? The hobby taking up more and more time? What is the thing which demands an inordinate amount of your time at the expense of life's greater endeavours? Paul reminded Timothy of the paramount objective of "godliness with contentment".
I chuckle when I remember an incident early in our stay in Chatham. We lived on the seventh floor of a tall apartment building. One Saturday there was a fire alarm and as per regulation all tenants had to gather on the ground floor for further instruction. Everyone had brought along for safe-keeping his/her favourite item (or idol). We saw the fur coat, the pet budgie, the set of golf clubs, the beautifully framed portraits, the colour TV. In some instances spouses had lost track of each other as they each dragged along their favourite junk. Hey folks, take a step back. Look at what is really going on. Re-assess your priorities!
In the case of the Church I would suggest another form of idol. This one involves the distinguishing of those truths found acceptable from those considered harsh, unpopular, costly or "beyond one's present light". Here the artist-idolator says, "Oh, I can handle the Gospel thus far, but the rest is not my cup of tea." He draws the line. Fashions a pleasant mental concept. Tells others, "I have my own sort of faith." But it is not the God kind of faith. One must consider the whole counsel of scripture. Must struggle through seeming contradictions. Must achieve balance.
The perceptive John, the beloved disciple who rested close to the bosom of Jesus ends his first epistle by saying, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen."