It appears that our gods are dying. I use this expression loosely because false gods cannot really die. They were never alive in the first place. False gods only live in the hearts and minds of their worshippers. Now we are seeing these false gods turn to dust and ashes right before our eyes. Obviously this is painful and disconcerting to many people.
CHOOSING THE WRONG GODS
We in America have been blessed by being heirs to an extremely rich Judeo/Christian heritage. This heritage is no doubt largely responsible for the many good things we have received in this country. Unfortunately, as a nation we have turned away from the True God and from his heritage, and that act of turning away is already costing us dearly.
In Romans 1:21-23, the passage almost seems to be speaking of our country: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” We have thrown away the real God and have set up junk gods for ourselves.
These junk gods have many names, like materialism, rationalism, humanism. We have no shame today and even refer to some of our gods as “idols.” We openly talk about our Hollywood idols, sports idols, music idols, etc. We have lost the glory of the true God and we try in vain to give glory to these false gods. Unfortunately, they continue to prove themselves unworthy of our devotion. In addition to these idols we have a host of others, like shiny new automobiles, fat bank accounts, fancy houses, etc.
WHAT FALSE GODS DO TO US
False gods make us look silly. Few people would bow down and kiss a cow, but millions of ancient people did this very thing repeatedly as they kissed their calf idols. Most people have the common sense to protect their children. However, millions of ancient people abandoned their children into the blazing arms of Molech and other false gods.
Isaiah speaks of the utter foolishness of idolatry. He speaks of a man who cuts down a tree and uses half the wood to make a fire to warm himself and cook his meal. With the other half he carves out an idol, before which he bows down to worship (Isa. 44:16-17).
False gods cheapen us. They distort our judgment and our morals. Paul speaks of such idolatry in Romans 1:26-27: “…God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.” The scripture makes plain that gross sexual sins, particularly homosexuality and lesbianism are a result of our inward idolatry.
Yes, idolatry destroys our morality. We are seeing a rapidly growing evidence of this in our society today. Again, Paul almost describes us in Romans 1:28-31: “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
The depth of our depravity is seen in the fact that we not only do these things but we “…approve of those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32b). In Proverbs 28:4 we read: “Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them.” Also in Psalm 12:8 we read: “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.” Today we have wicked people strutting about everywhere. What a sad and tragic people we are!
The scripture assures us that we become like our idols: “Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them” (Psa. 115:8). Since idols are dumb they have a “dumbing down” effect upon humanity. They make us senseless, faithless, heartless and ruthless just as Paul has told us.
THE END OF FALSE GODS
God has been busy bringing about the demise of false gods through all the centuries of history. Where are the once-popular Baals today? Where is Astarte and a host of other false gods? They are buried in the dust. People lavished their devotion on them in vain.
Likewise, our modern and postmodern false gods are coming down to the dust and ashes. Hopefully we will cast these fallen gods away from us and worship the True and Living God. Just recently there was a story on television of a woman whose home had burned to the ground in the awful California wildfires. Although she had lost everything, she testified that through it all she had found the one thing that really mattered. She had found Jesus.
The events of 9/11 brought down many of our gods of invincibility and power. After that our proud corporations began to “bite the dust” with report after report of gross corruption and mismanagement by CEO’s. Many of our greed and security gods came crashing down in rapid succession. The things we long trusted in dissolved before our eyes; our job security, retirement plans, health benefits, etc.
Next, God began to judge our human idols. Our sports idols proved themselves unworthy of our devotion as many of them became involved in alcohol, drug and sex scandals. Our Hollywood and music idols have not only kept the tabloids in business, but have become an almost constant focus of the national news as their excesses are aired daily. We find it hard to admit that our gods are false; they are failing us; they are dying. Idolaters through the ages have had a difficult time giving up their false deities. Idolaters tend to “prop up” their fallen gods.
In the days of Eli the priest, the Ark of God was captured and taken by the Philistines to Ashdod. There it was placed in the temple beside their god Dagon. How surprised they must have been the next morning to find Dagon on his face before the Ark. They quickly set Dagon up again, but the next night Dagon fared much worse. When the people awoke, Dagon had fallen on the ground once more before the Ark, and now both his head and arms were broken off (1 Sam. 5:1-5). After that, the hand of God was heavy against the Philistines. He brought much devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors.
How much devastation must we experience in our nation until we will stop “propping up” our false gods and calling on their names? When will we ever learn?
CHOOSING THE TRUE GOD
It is time to stop making gods in our own image. It is time to stop making gods that we can prop up, carry around; gods that we can control and manipulate. It is time to turn again to the True and Living God, the God of Israel, the God of the Bible. He is the God who once blessed our nation; who once went out with our armies. We must remember that it is impossible to serve the True God and idols at the same time.
In Joshua 24:14-15, the great leader challenged the idolaters of Israel with these words that are so appropriate for us today: “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
– Jim Gerrish
Publication date, January, 2004.