"I Don't Want a god I Have to Clothe!" | by Chassidy Rogers

I was 18 years old, an ocean away from home, and I’d never seen anything like it before. The small Texas town where I grew up had a church on every corner. Now, I was surrounded by temples and shrines. Seeing the ritual hand cleansing and burning of incense and clapping was all disquieting, but nothing unsettled my soul like seeing people literally bow down to and worship a statue. A nearby sign spoke of the closed eyes of the statue, how he was peacefully at rest. Nearby stood another statue to pray to on which someone had recently placed a jacket and scarf- just in case the god got cold.

In my mind I was shouting, “What kind of god is asleep or has to sleep?! I don’t want a god that I have to clothe!” Thinking back on it now, I’m reminded of Elijah when he confronted the prophets of Baal. As they are cutting themselves, limping around their sacrifice, and crying aloud to no avail, Elijah mocks them saying, “Talk louder! Maybe he’s going to the bathroom or maybe he’s asleep and needs to be wakened!” 

I came home from that first international mission trip a changed person. For the first time I’d seen with my eyes people bowing down to idols- statues of wood, silver and gold, made by human hands. What I hadn’t expected to see, however, was a similar idolatry and foolishness in my very own homeland. 

It’s good and right and necessary for us to go and to help others go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the good news of the gospel. Jesus himself says in Matthew 24:14 that this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world and then the end will come. The proclamation of the gospel to unreached people groups, to every nation, language, tribe, and tongue, is surely our call and command as believers; this ushers in the second coming of Jesus.

And yet, let’s not be fooled by our enemy into thinking other countries and other religions are the only ones who bow down to false gods and hand-made idols. I returned from that trip aware, for the first time, that although we may not bow down to literal statues of false gods, we frequently bow down to the idols of money, control, status, success, health, comfort, a husband or wife, even our children.

John Piper defines an idol as “the thing loved or the person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God. It starts in the heart: craving, wanting, enjoying, being satisfied by anything that you treasure more than God. That is an idol. Paul says idolatry is covetousness — a disordered love or desire, loving more than God what ought to be loved less than God.”

We see in Psalm 115 a contrast between the gods of the nations and the Creator God of Israel.

The LORD is in the heavens. He has always been. By him, through him, and for him everything was created. The gods of the nations are made by human hands and are earth bound. The LORD does what he pleases, but he is also the help and shield and salvation of those who fear and seek him. The gods of the nations are powerless. They have mouths but cannot speak; ears but cannot hear; eyes but cannot see; noses but cannot smell; hands but cannot feel; feet but cannot walk.

Other places in Scripture like Isaiah 44, Jeremiah 10, and Psalm 135 talk about how craftsmen take a piece of wood and cut it. They use part of it to make a fire to warm themselves and cook food over. And the other portion they use to fashion a statue, a false god, an idol, to bow down to and worship. They have to carry this god from place to place because it can’t walk on its own. It’s a visceral, disquieting picture of worshipping the created thing over the Creator. 

And then we have our God, The LORD. The one who spoke with his mouth, and made the heavens and the earth and everything in them. The one who still speaks to us today. The God whose ears hear our pleas for mercy, cries for deliverance, and praises of thanksgiving. The God whose eyes roam to and fro over the earth, keeping watch on those who are his. The God who takes in the aroma and fragrant offering of our worship. The God whose hands are those of power and deliverance, hands that pick us up and set us upon the solid rock. The God who will not let us escape him but who comes seeking and saving that which is lost. This God is far from inept or inadequate or helpless. 

Psalm 115 goes on to say that those who make these idols will become like them. Those who trust these idols will become like them. Helpless. Purposeless. Ineffective. Useless.

And yet the God who made us, our Creator, made us to be like him. Instead of making our god in our image and how we want him to be, our Creator God has made us in his image. To know him, love him, and glorify him. And so, when we bow down and worship that which is created over our Creator, whether it be a statue or status, the wrath of God is kindled against that idolatry. 

In reference to Exodus 20, Piper explains why idolatry rightly brings about the wrath of God. “The wrath of God comes on the idolater because God is jealous. There is a righteous and holy jealousy and an unrighteous, weak, and insecure jealousy. God’s jealousy is not only righteous — that is, he deserves our deepest and strongest affections and admiration — but it is loving. It is a loving jealousy, because we were made to find our greatest joy when he is our greatest treasure. He is jealous that he be honored by being treasured, and he is jealous that we be satisfied by treasuring him. So, he is jealous in a loving way and he is jealous in a righteous way. And if we find God to be so boring or so negligible that we must put other things in his place, then we not only offend him, but we also destroy ourselves. Those two things make God angry. He doesn’t want to be offended and he doesn’t want us to destroy ourselves.”

It's been said that we become what we behold. When we continually behold, focus on, trust and put our hope in, when we literally or metaphorically bow down and worship created things, we become like them. Helpless. Purposeless. Ineffective. Useless. This offends God, and it destroys us.

But when we, led by the Holy Spirit, behold, focus on, trust and put our hope in, when we literally bow down and in our hearts bow down to and worship the God who made the world and everything in it, the God who is in the heavens and does what he pleases, the God who made us to know him and be like him, we become more and more like him. 

God, forgive us for our idolatry. Forgive us for our disordered loves. Forgive us for treasuring, wanting, and delighting in things that are not you. Things that are less than you. In doing so we have offended you, and we are destroying ourselves. Thanks be to you, God, who in Christ Jesus has forgiven us of the sin that condemned us, and has made a way for us to worship you, and has made our sanctification possible. Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory.

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