In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 we read: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God will all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” In this scripture we are dealing with Israel’s famous shema. This passage is often recited by the people of Israel. It begins with the Hebrew word shema, or “hear.” To hear in the Hebrew understanding is to attend with ears, which includes both mind and body. In fact, it touches the whole life. Thus to love the true God requires a vigorous response from us.
Unfortunately, this is also true concerning the love and service of false gods. They require our time, our energy, our money, our lives and ultimately all that we have and are. Let us consider a few ways that people worship their gods in order that we might better understand how we might worship the True and Living God.
HOW DO PEOPLE WORSHIP THEIR GODS?
First of all, people worship with their minds. People think about their gods. They think about them a lot, even most of the time. Take greedy persons for instance. The Bible says that these folks meditate and devise wicked plans even while they are resting in their beds (Psa. 36:4). For one to become rich requires a great deal of mental concentration. This is also true if one’s goal is to become famous.
Those who are worshipping false gods must apply their heart and soul. These parts of our inner self are practically indivisible because they are so closely related. These inner parts of us greatly affect our outer person. For instance, the Lord tells us: “…For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34). People speak about the gods whom they cherish in their hearts. People not only speak about their gods but they praise them. They talk about them a lot – all the time. Sometimes it is possible to listen to a person only a short time and tell what that person is really worshipping.
Also, people must serve their gods with all their strength. It is interesting that “worship,” “serving,” and “work,” all use the very same word in the Hebrew language. The word a-vo-dah. People give their time and money to serve their gods. It also takes lots of sweat, exertion and energy. People justify all this because the worship of their gods is the one thing in life that truly excites them.
LET US LOOK AT A FEW MODERN GODS
First of all, let us consider the “stuff god.” At least in the western world people are buying “stuff” at an unbelievable rate, and they are stuffing their houses, garages and storage sheds full of it. Once while in the US, my wife and I were listening to the television news. It featured a report about the opening of a new shopping mall in the large city nearby. One woman being interviewed exclaimed with wild enthusiasm, “This is the most exciting day of my life!” My wife and I sat there appalled. How could this woman get so excited about the opening of some more stuff stores? Actually it was probably easy for her because this was likely her god and she was excited about the worship of her deity.
Then there is the “belly god.” According to CBS News, an astonishing sixty-one percent of the people in the US are now overweight. Other reports add that about a fourth of the people are seriously overweight – even fat. It has been interesting to watch the transition in food and drink over my lifetime of some 66 years. When I was a child, Pepsi Cola advertised “twelve full ounces, that’s a lot!” It was a lot. I remember that many drinks at that time were scarcely half that size. Today the drinks are monster-sized 24 ounce “thirst busters.” In times gone by, when one ordered a meal in a restaurant it came on a single plate, and sometimes that plate was rather small. Today the trend in restaurants is the “all you can eat” places. If one takes a look around in these places he will likely observe that many of the diners are quite fat. In the last year or so, even fat waiters and waitresses began making their debut. One can almost hear them exclaiming as their big bellies shake, “Ho, ho, ho, have another flapjack!” The Bible has some things to say about all these excesses. In Philippians 3:19, we read about a people who have actually become enemies of the cross: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”
We should not forget the “sports god” as we reminiscence on modern deities. What are we really teaching our children as we rush them out to play ball, even as tiny tots? Are we telling them “this is what is really important?” Do we rush around with such excitement and such punctuality for our family devotions? Many families in the US seem to revolve around the sports schedules of their children. Today people are spending billions on sports. Vast sport stadiums are the modern cathedrals in many of America’s great cities. Although these edifices are large and grossly expensive, chances are very good that the city involved is already planning an even bigger and more expensive one. If a visitor happened by from outer space he would no doubt conclude that these vast sports complexes are the primary places of worship for our metropolitan areas.
God has nothing against sports. He invented sports as a diversion for mankind, but not as the core of our being. Sadly as a minister, I remember many years ago that my wife and I got hooked on sports for a time. We got so excited about pro football that we stopped attending church and stayed home on Sundays to watch the games. This is tempting because in the US, there is the Saturday college football, Sunday professional ball and even Monday night football. It is possible to spend the whole weekend and part of the week just watching football on TV. The highly paid coaches are effectively the high priests of millions today. But the sports heroes, some of whom are drawing salaries in the millions, are turning out to be extremely poor models for our youth. Already a great number of the most famous ones have been prosecuted for various offences including murder. Even the sports fans themselves at soccer and other games often turn into destructive hooligans.
Psalm 115:8 has an alarming commentary on the worship of false gods. It says, “Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” In short, we are destined to become like what we worship. Paul also says in Romans 1:28 “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.”
Well, we have not talked about a number of other modern gods. There is the “sex god,” the “money god,” and we should not forget the all-important “job god.” Unfortunately, we do not have the space to address all these here.
NOW WHAT ABOUT TRUE WORSHIP?
What will we do as we are confronted with this array of modern junk gods? We must first of all make up our minds about who will really be God in our lives. Long ago the Israelite leader, Joshua, made a wonderful challenge and declaration in this regard. In Joshua 24:15 he said: “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve
How will we serve the Lord? Will we be able to serve him with the enthusiasm that the pagans have in serving their gods? Surely we can exceed the pagans. Surely we can spend more time, money and energy on the True God than they do on these false gods. If we cannot, shame on us!
When one of the leaders of the Jews asked Jesus what was the most important commandment of all, he focused in Mark 12:29-30, on the ancient Hebrew shema that we discussed earlier: “‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” This is true service and true worship. It is giving every thought, every ounce of strength, every dream, to the worship and service of our God. It is becoming really excited over God.
When we are able with God’s help to accomplish this, we may find ourselves even dancing wildly before the Lord like David did. The Church may then produce a shout of victory that far exceeds any ever heard at the football stadium. Fancy such a day as that!
– Jim Gerrish