Day 5 – December 3, 2020
Note: if you’d like to start with the Introduction to the whole series, please start here.
Light a Candle:
If you have a candle, light it. This is a reminder that we are a people who live in darkness, without the light of God. And in the coming of Jesus, we anticipate that the light that was to come. He is our light.
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’”
Exodus 32:1-8 NIV
It’s hard to imagine the Israelites giving up on God so quickly. He was the One who had fed them and given them water from the rock. And now, they don’t hear from Moses for a while, so they take their own golden trinkets and fashion an idol. It was a god they could understand. A calf. But why? It seems God didn’t meet their expectations. He wasn’t responding in a timely fashion. His laws were difficult to perform. With a god of their making, they could cut loose in the desert and feel good again about all that had happened to them.
Idols are an attempt by us to create meaning, purpose and order without having to deal with a God we don’t appreciate, or understand. When God doesn’t meet our expectations, idolatry frees us to create a god that does. Since idols are things of our own making, they let us set the agenda. We set up a system of promised results with demands we are more than willing to meet.
Idolatry seems to be hardwired into us. We know we need something bigger and stronger to handle the difficult challenges of the world, namely the meaning of life in the face of impending death. It is easier to create this, than it is to yield ourselves to the reality of God. So idols become a God-replacement fantasy. If we are devoted to something else we ascribe value to, we don’t have to face the One who is true.
Idolatry is a trap. It enslaves us in a false system of empty promises with devastating results. It’s a trap that keeps us away from truth. It is a wide path that leads to destruction, because it leads us away from a God who loves us and has come to redeem us.
We know idolatry comes in all shapes and sizes. Simply put, idolatry is the practice of ascribing devotion, service and sacrifice to something to a greater degree than God himself. Idols can be objects, careers, relationships, theologies, and ideologies. Idols are anything we put trust in to deliver us from our trials and struggles, and add meaning to life other than God himself.
In the days of our pandemic, we have people taking both sides of the argument of going to church and wearing masks. Some say, “stay home at all costs.” Our health is more important than gathering for worship. Health can become an idol. Are we more concerned with staying alive, than we are with living our lives for Christ? On the other hand, some say “No government can tell us not to worship.” We claim to be defending the true worship of God. Our rights can become an idol. Are we more concerned with the right to worship, than we are following the Savior who tells us to lay down our rights for the other? It takes the leading of the Spirit to truly learn to worship in spirit and in truth. But idolatry is devilish. It tricks us into thinking we’re doing the right thing, the valuable thing. Instead it’s leading us from the God who saves us.
Jesus came to deliver us from the idols of this world and of our own minds. He is the image of the invisible God. He is the One to fashion ourselves after. He displays the One who alone is worthy of our worship. And he makes true worship possible through reconciliation.
Lord God in heaven. I yield myself to you as the only true God. You are worthy of my worship. You are the One revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Help me see where I have made idols. What, O Lord, have I worshipped? [Name them as the Lord brings them to mind.] Lord, I ask that you forgive my idolatries. Deliver me from those things that clamor for my attention and devotion above you. As I await the celebration of your coming, help me see the truth of my choices. And help me come to grips with the ways I’ve been trapped.
Guide me in accepting you, as Lord. Give me the grace to let go of my desire to set the agenda of my life. You are my Truth. You are my Way. You are my Life.
Lord, I pray that you will make yourself known in new ways in this Advent season. I pray that your people will find everlasting joy in you. And that we will be witnesses to the world of Your worth, Your holiness and Your grace. In Christ, I pray. Amen.