Friday, November 02, 2007

On Idols

I was doing some work last night in Genesis 31 on the flight of Jacob from Laban, where Rachel steals the family gods.

Victor Hamilton, in his comments on the passage had a couple of what I consider to be poignant and somewhat humorous comments.
“From a Hebrew perspective, of course, one might ask: ‘Can one steal gods?’ ‘Is the destiny of a god at the beck and whim of a mortal?’ The ancient reader would not miss the sarcasm of this story, for here is a new crime—‘godnapping’!” (Hamilton, p. 292).

“One can steal gods, hide gods, and sit on gods, ideas at which orthodox Yahwism would shudder” (Hamilton, p. 303).
To top it off, remember Rachel's excuse was that it was her menstrual cycle and therefore she could not arise to greet her father, thereby opening up the camel saddle to inspection. And that in and of itself brings a whole host of images of a god who cannot defend himself but must hide in a camel saddle under a woman who is experiencing what some women have called "nature's curse on motherhood."

All of which reminds me of a couple of OT passages:
Psalm 115:1-8
Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth.

Why should the nations say, "Where, now, is their God?"

But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man's hands.

They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see;

They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell;

They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat.

Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them.

Isaiah 46:5-7
To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike?

"Those who lavish gold from the purse And weigh silver on the scale Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; They bow down, indeed they worship it.

"They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; They set it in its place and it stands there. It does not move from its place. Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer; It cannot deliver him from his distress.
In a day and culture where most of us are have no teraphim on the mantle, we have plenty of our own gods, some of whom are too big to fit on our shoulders to carry, and others of whom are so small they fit neatly in the far, dark recesses of our human hearts.

All are equally helpless to answer us in our distress. All are equally unable to do anything for themselves.

Yet we too often make a tragic exchange of the glory of the incorruptible, immutable, living, loving God for the machinations of the human mind.

We have a domesticated God who fits in our pockets, in our minds, or wherever it is we like to put him. And we have a functional god who runs our lives.

We enjoy the life that God has given us by creating us in his image, and then think we can turn around a create a God in our own image. But God will have none of it.

May God challenge the idolatry of our hearts and lives. Not only because it is funny to see what we are actually trusting in that cannot actually help itself, but because it is deadly to trust in something that cannot help.

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