Our small group had a discussion about idolatry a while back.
We are studying a great book about Revelation: Discipleship on the Edge by Darrell W. Johnson. Johnson points out how the book of Revelation reflects the Biblical theme that the church is the bride of Christ. Our group discussed Johnson’s point that every time we sin, we commit adultery. We choose the favors of another lover over the beauty of the Lord.
We talked about why Israel (in the Old Testament) continued to turn to other lovers — the Baals, the Ashteroths, the Chemoths.
They turned when times were bad. If God won’t meet our needs, maybe we can persuade (i.e., control) one of these other gods to. For some reason, we can’t get the God of the universe to give us rain when we want it, so let’s try these other gods, see what they can do for us. Maybe they aren’t as unyielding as Jehovah is. Sacrifice enough children and maybe it will rain and we’ll have good crops.
They turned when times were good. Who needs God when things are going well? It must have been our efforts or strength or beauty or talent or money, anyway.
They turned when they couldn’t see Him. He accompanied them through the desert as a pillar of fire by night and of smoke by day. Once in the Promised Land, He spent His time in the Holy of Holies, not visible to the people. They couldn’t see Him, so they created gods they could see.
They turned to Him when they got mixed up with the cultures around them. “Hey, that’s a good idea: let’s do it. They seem to be getting what they want. They seem to have a neat sacrificial system. Let’s do what the neighbors are doing. Let’s worship their gods.”
They turned when they forgot. God often reminded them to remember: “Remember when I took you out of Egypt. Remember when I saved you.” But they forgot that He cared enough to save and had the power to do it.
We turn for the same reasons. He doesn’t deliver what we want, so we turn away in anger. He gives us what we want and we thank ourselves, instead. We can’t see Him, so He doesn’t seem real. We look elsewhere to worship. We convince ourselves that the prevailing culture is wiser than what the Bible has to say.
And we forget. We forget the Cross. We forget that He shed His blood to purchase for Himself a wife. He loves us that much. We somehow get Christ confused with Santa and think He is here to make us happy. He IS here to make us happy, not with the things He gives us, but with Himself.
How thrilled is the wealthy man when he discovers his wife married him for the money, not for himself? How cherished does the beautiful woman feel when she realizes her husband married her for her looks, not for who she is?
We are betrothed to God. And we turn from Him when we are in it for the blessings, not the blessor. When we remember the Cross, we remember the beauty of our husband, the price He paid for us, and we turn from our adulterous ways.
At least that’s the theory.
Oh, Lord. I am a sinner. Help me to see your beauty. Help me to know that You are my true happiness. Give me a broken heart over my many harlotries. Amen.
* formerly published under the title “Turning to Idols.”