Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Attitude of Idolatry


The attitude of idolatry is a failure to trust God. It is one thing to “do” for God, but it is an entirely different thing to trust God for your needs. Anyone can read the the Bible, believe the right things and do things for God, but it doesn't automatically follow that they have trusted God for any particular thing (Matthew 7:21-23). This failure to trust is born out in our behavior. And this behavior is exemplified in the relationship of the Hebrews to Moses and God.


After the Hebrews had been freed from Egypt, they were lead to a mountain where God would speak with them and with Moses. Before Moses ascended the mount to speak with God, he had some parting words for the Hebrews: “Then Moses came and recounted to the people all the words of the LORD and all the ordinances; and all the people answered with one voice and said, 'All the words which the LORD has spoken we will do!'" (Exodus 24:3) After the Hebrews made this affirmation of consecration and service to God, Moses ascended the mount and stayed there for 40 days. During this time God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and many other instructions regarding offerings, sacrifices, atonement, the tabernacle and the duties and adornments of the priests and various other things. This experience of Moses covers Exodus chapters 24 through 31, until we see the golden calf in chapter 32.

Sometime during those 40 days Moses was on the mountain, the Hebrews began to loose faith (trust and belief) in Moses and his God. So the Hebrews said to Aaron, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." (Exodus 32) From these actions we can see that the faith which the Hebrews testified to have in God, “all of the words which the LORD has spoken we will do”, was actually wrapped up in their perceived performance of Moses ("the man who brought us up out of Egypt") and his relationship to his God. In other words they said, “Moses is the one who got us here. And Moses has been gone for a long time and he’s probably dead. Nevertheless, we need a god. So, Aaron, make us a god because we don’t know what has happened to Moses and his God.”

This behavior is not unlike that which we see today - we just gussy it up so that it doesn't look the same. Today, Christians wrap and tie their faith to men, churches, denominations and Bible translations. If their denomination or church lets them down, they find another one. If their Pastor lets them down, they find another one. If some Bible translation appears to have an error or two, they cling to a different one.

Clearly, there are instances wherein one should divorce themselves from one thing or another. If you’re reading the Reader’s Digest Condensed version of the Bible, then I would suggest you get something else. If your pastor tells you He’s the Messiah, then you should move on to another church.

But those things are not the point of this conversation. The point is this: where do you find your security, your happiness, your peace and your comfort? Those are exactly the things the Hebrews believed they lost by coming out of Egypt. We see them complaining to Moses because they're being chased and cornered in by the Sea. We see them complaining because they didn't like the food. Over and over we see them complaining, rejecting to the point of looking elsewhere and failing to trust the LORD Jehovah.

As soon as the Hebrews had determined for themselves that Moses wasn't going to come through for them, they moved on to something of their own construction.

Which is precisely what we do today. We’ll find ourselves in a unhappy state, with one thing or another, and instead of turning to God or instead of waiting on God to deliver us, we’ll spend our effort in shopping and eating, or in sensual and erotic literature and activities, or something else that takes us away from the presence of God instead of into His presence.

Idolatry is a behavior, but it is fueled by a belief system which breeds an attitude. The belief system says “I can find {security, happiness, peace, comfort} in something other than God.” When that happens the attitude of self sufficiency takes over. That is the point at which we stop focusing on God and focus our attention on something else that meets our desires.

I’m certain that you've found yourself in this circumstance when waiting on God to act and He took longer than you wished, or He didn't meet your desires in the manner you wished. It is at these points in life that we become discouraged and downcast. Just like the Hebrews did. They were already upset that they had left the good life in Egypt. The 40 day delay of Moses was more than they could take, so they turned their focus onto something they could control: themselves and a golden calf. We do the same thing. We take our focus off of that which we deem to be causing us discomfort (God’s perceived tardiness or failure to work things out like we want) and redirect to something more manageable.

Jesus taught that it’s the attitude behind adultery that’s the problem. We tend to think of idolatry as a well defined action, of bowing down to a false god, but it’s the attitude behind idolatry that’s the real problem. We don’t think of our jobs as a form of idolatry. Nor do we tend to think of our shopping habits as idolatry either. But when we find comfort and security in something else other than God, in those dark periods of life or otherwise, then we have erected an idol to replace God.

The person who does not trust God, says one or more of the following.

See if you can honestly fill in the blanks:

When I do not trust God for happiness, I find happiness in __________________
When I do not trust God for security, I find security in _____________________
When I do not trust God for peace, I find peace in ________________________
When I do not trust God for comfort, I find comfort in _____________________

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