I was catching some moments with the Lord yesterday while sitting on our back deck (as if all of our moments aren’t “with” the Lord…but you get my gist). The kids were running around, interjecting things here and there, playing games on the iPad, jumping on the trampoline, stretching from the deck to the black walnut tree to pick walnuts to throw on the trampoline…you get the picture. I am learning that sometimes the most worshipful moments with the Lord these days aren’t “quiet times” but times where I grab my Bible, pencil and sunglasses and am just sitting with my kids outside while they play and have fun. Little B-Lamb had crawled into my lap as I was gazing up at the beautiful sky with its white puffy clouds and out into the beautiful park behind our home where the old, tall trees were reaching up to the sky and waving peacefully in the breeze. At the same time, I was reading and meditating on Psalm 115. Let me share it with you below:
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory,
for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
You who fear the LORD, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield.
(Psalm 115:1-11 ESV)
And somewhere in the midst of reading and meditating on this beautiful passage about the LORD God doing as he pleases in the heavens for the sake of His steadfast love and faithfulness, something clicked. While I read of God helping and protecting His own on Earth, all the while contrasting this with false gods, while using my senses to enjoy my children and God’s creation in general (always wishing I could grasp His goodness around me more), my thoughts collided and the Holy Spirit brought to mind an interesting perspective.
We are all aware of what idols are. I am thinking of the Frontline Missions DVD we have watched multiple times about the all-out idol worship found in Asia. It is estimated that there are millions of gods in India alone that are worshipped, paraded through the streets, bringing millions of people into their temples each year. The video shows stomach-turning, heart-wrenching footage of the sadness and despair of the idol worshippers. And we, as American Christians, have no problem recognizing that it is absolutely meaningless to worship a piece of wood, stone, pile of straw, or whatever these little g gods are made of. And though most of them have multiple eyes and tongues, ears and arms, hands and feet, as Psalm 115 points out, these gods have no senses. They do not speak (or taste). They do not hear. They do not see. They do not smell. They do not feel because they are impotent. And then, we are told the frightening truth that those who make them and trust in them become like them.
Stop and think about this! People, made in the image of God, with five senses given by their Creator to “taste and see the goodness of our God” (see Psalm 34:8) have their senses stripped away when they become idolators. They become cold, numb, hard-hearted, unable to feel, unable to speak or walk or see the goodness around them. And I often wonder why I can’t see, taste and feel the glory of God’s goodness around me more. Why do I feel cold to the things of Christ? Why is His word not sweeter than honey? (see Psalm 119:103) Why can I not savor every goodness and blessing that comes along and immediately give praise back to Him? Why do I take glory for myself, as if I made anything?! We have to admit, idols definitely aren’t just found in India. Idolatry is hard-wired into the fabric of our flesh. The unregenerate flesh (albeit rendered powerless at the cross) that we still carry around is comfortable with worshipping anything other than the true God. Our cultural idols look much different than those in India, but we have them, nonetheless. They are hardwired into the fabric of humanity, no matter what country you call home. It is a human problem, not a cultural one. We are told in Exodus 16, that God allowed the Israelites to taste His goodness in a tangible, delicious way through a wafer that tasted like honey. This was His wonderful provision for them. But later on, they took up idol worship, straying from their God, and they loathed the manna and found it utterly disgusting. They found sweetness to be tasteless…following after their little g gods.
About seven years ago, I took a biblical counseling class and will always remember from my time there that an idol is anything you will sin to get or sin if you don’t get. I have thought often about this and have even taught my kids about idolatry and this definition as I have attempted to disciple them through their struggles. But never before had I connected idolatry with my senses being shut down, rendered useless. Anything that I find to be worth putting as a higher priority than fearing God is an idol and it destroys my ability to soak in His goodness, my ability to use the five beautiful senses that were meant to be used to enjoy His glory and goodness. So when I desire my ease and comfort over serving my family, it has become an idol – and I become cold and numb. When I desire all ducks to be lined up in my life and i’s dotted and t’s crossed and will run over those who get in the way of my seemingly perfect plans, my control of life has become an idol – and I become unable to see and savor the goodness of Christ’s arms of protection and love around me. The list goes on and on, right? Sometimes it isn’t even bad things that we want. It could just be as simple as wanting five more minutes of sleep but an early-rising child is standing with their face five inches from yours. And “Go back to bed!!!!” is said very loudly and hurtfully. Is five more minutes of sleep bad? No. But if I sin when I don’t get it or am willing to sin to get it, then it has become an idol and my ability to savor the goodness of the Lord is tainted. I get out of bed unable to even notice the beauty found at my fingertips in the form of sunshine, beautiful children, morning coffee…all because I wanted what I wanted more than I wanted to live out love by dying to myself.
I have to admit as I thought about all of this (while staring up at the beautiful sky, feeling my daughter’s smooth skin next to mine and listening to the happy sounds of my other children), I became a bit frightened. Asking the hard questions and praying for the Lord’s revealing of my idolatry is scary, right? I am pretty sure that there are times I’d rather feel, see, hear, touch and taste nothing just so that I can keep hiding and not have to acknowledge my utter weakness and sinfulness. But only when my sins are separated from the cross is there fear. I am beyond thankful that I can take a hard look at my life, see all kinds of crud and grossness and not bury it with more idolatry, but face it out in prayer before my Savior. The One who served, loved and gave all so that I can be forgiven of all. All my idolatry was known before I was ever born. All my idolatry to cover up my idolatry was known. And Christ Jesus came to earth, lived, went to the cross and rose again to forgive me. His life, death and resurrection cleanse me and allow me to be honest and real and acknowledge that I am an idolater. But I am one who has a perfect standing before God and on this side of eternity I am being sanctified through Christ’s sacrifice alone. In that raw realness, He brings repentance. A turning away, not ever perfectly, but a longing for Christ and His cleansing work. A longing for idolatry to be rooted out and brought to the light. And what gloriousness it is to be there, raw and real and broken. Remembering that I am but dust, held in my Saviour’s hands. Nothing to offer, but thankful for the One who offered all I ever need to be turned right again.
And Psalm 115 says, as we trust in the Lord, He will protect us and help us. He will protect our senses from becoming cold and hard. He will quicken us and make us alive to Himself. We will overflow with the acknowledgement of His goodness around us, because we will actually be able to see it, touch it, taste it, smell it and hear it! He will protect us from deceitful hearts that refuse to acknowledge and repent. He will be to us the exact opposite of the false, dead, and utterly useless gods that we cling to in our fallen humanity. He will be to us a Rock of refuge and a Shield of defense. He has been, is and will always be a God of steadfast love and faithfulness.