Monday, October 1, 2007

By Faith... Or Not? Israel's Exodus and Conquest, Part 33 of 41

TEXT: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image -- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments" (Exodus 20:4-5).

IDEA: Idolatry was selfish.

PURPOSE: To help listeners realize that those who serve the god can make the god serve them.

When I learned the Ten Commandments, I felt that there was one that definitely did not apply to me—the second commandment. I had never made a graven image (whatever that was).

Do you think the people we’ve been reading about in Hebrews 11 would have reacted to the second commandment the way I did?

I. What made idolatry so attractive to the Hebrew people that they turned away from God to worship all kinds of idols?

It was part of a system that dominated the ancient world. It’s hard not to fit in.

It guaranteed the worshiper access to a god or goddess. They felt that it put them in the god’s presence.

II. Idolatry was also very selfish. People worshiped the gods for what they could get out of them, and the gods helped the people to help themselves.

It was a quid pro quo deal. The people believed that the gods and goddesses collectively could do anything—give one crops, children, protection from enemies, etc.

The one thing the gods and goddesses could not do was to feed themselves. They needed the people to feed them. (In one of the flood stories from Babylon, the gods wanted to solve the problem of overpopulation by wiping out all people through a flood. Atrahasis [like Noah] built a large boat and all the animals were in the boat. The gods were stupid because they almost wiped out their source of food. While the animals were in the boat there were no sacrifices. When Atrahasis finally offered up an animal, the gods are described as hanging over the altar like flies as they smelled the offering that fed them.)

The people needed the gods, but the gods needed the people. Idolatry was materialistic. In the fertility cult the gods and goddesses could make the crops grow, but if they did that for you, they expected that you would feed them in return by your offerings.

In contrast, the psalmist records God speaking: “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, your God! I will not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are continually before me. I will not take a bull from your house, nor goats out of your folds. For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me” (Psalm 50:7-15).

III. There are only two kinds of gods in the world: one is a god you have to carry; the other is the God who carries you (Isaiah 46:1-4).

The two are vastly different.

Do you think those two kinds of religion exist today?