A while ago, at BSF Leaders’ class, you learned about idolatry and the extent of God’s intolerance towards it. It was in the context of the Israelites making a golden calf to replace God, or to have a mini god –made out of golden jewels, yes, but dead nonetheless. When Moses didn’t return after being away for seven days, they grew impatient, restless, and then doubtful. “Could something have happened to Moses?” “Was he consumed by this God?” “Does God care about us at all?”
You see, the Israelites needed something they could see, something they could touch, something that to them represents permanence and within the confines of human knowledge. A god that is invisible, albeit heard, did not suit their idea of a ‘living’ God. And so while Moses was receiving God’s stone tablets up in the mountains, down there the people were in revelry –the kind that screams outrage and disgust, the kind that did not suit God’s holiness.
You would think that Israel, of all people, would have understood this. After all, they were God’s chosen people —set apart for Himself, His beloved, the people He promised a covenant with. You wonder, as you were answering your notes, why Israel would do such a thing when a chapter earlier, God was instructing them about the tabernacle, the priestly duties they were to perform, and the significance of their being sprinkled blood to seal the covenant. You wonder how Israel could suddenly have turned their backs away from God, when they just declared, “Everything the Lord had commanded us, we will do.” What happened in between this public declaration of following God and Moses’ trip up the mountains to receive the Tablets that were hand-written by God himself? What could possibly be the reasons for their making that idol?
As you listened to the women answer that question, and being enlightened at the same time, you wondered about yourself and you wondered about idols.
You’re 24 now, as you write. While life hasn’t been perfect for these 24 years (if indeed life was perfect for anybody, he must be dead), life has been, in a word, ‘redemptive’ for you. But life has also played cruelly, and if you are honest with yourself, you would say that somewhere in that story you just read, you can see yourself. Somewhere in that waiting for Moses to come down, and for God to show a sign of himself, you see yourself also as desperate as Israel, waiting on God, waiting, waiting, waiting. If you are honest with yourself, you will say that like Israel, you’ve become restless, in search of something you want to hold on to now and you want to see happen, something tangible and within reach. Like Israel, you’ve become impatient, and while you haven’t so far as become doubtful of God, you’ve come to a point where you just grew tired of waiting, of expecting, of holding on to ideals that never materialized and just remained ideals. You’ve asked yourself time and again, where is love, truth, pursuit? Unknowingly, you have set up for yourself an idol…or god of sorts.
So why am I telling you this now, on your birthday of all days?
Learning about idols is nothing new to you. You’ve tackled that before in bible studies; you’ve grappled with the personal question of what idols you have in your life. You know they do not just pertain to graven images or stoned artifacts of deities. But you’ve never been honest, at least the way I see it, in how the older you seem to get, the more idols you seem to fill yourself with.
And maybe that’s got to do with growing up and desiring more or wanting more from this life. Maybe it’s because when you get older, your wants expand and you do not merely want ice creams and gummy bears and dark chocolates. You want the real, satisfying things like relationships, for instance. But should desiring them be that much of a bad thing so as to cause you to replace God in your heart?
You see, idolatry as you have learned, is something that takes the place of God in your life. You like what you heard today, a quote from Richard Keyes that says, “An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as God. All sorts of things are potential idols, depending only on our attitudes and actions toward them…Idolatry may not involve explicit denials of God’s existence or character. It may well come in the form of an over-attachment to something that is, in itself, perfectly good…An idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero – anything that can substitute for God.”
The word that struck you the most was over-attachment. You gulped hard, and while others didn’t notice, you know God did. Have you been over-attaching yourself to something or somebody lately? Be honest and don’t even sugarcoat it. You feel deprived of something and so the things you ‘enjoy’ at the moment, you cling on to them as though they are gods.
So now let me tell you that your being 24 does not mean you know any better, or that you can control yourself from having any more idols. Your being 24 does not mean you will not want more, because in fact, you will. Your being 24 reinforces that old-age truth that man is never satisfied. So is there a cure for it, if it is an old-age issue?
The problem with our hearts is that we make idols. We look for happiness in the wrong places and worship false gods. While you may not create a golden calf, your heart is prone to wander, to believe that God is not faithful and to believe that you need something else to be happy in life.
But what is it that would make anyone completely happy? Have you forgotten about God’s promises to you? Have you forgotten his covenant of love, how he saved you from dirt and grime and pit? Have you forgotten that it took the life of His One son, Jesus, to enable you to live in return? Have you been led to believe, like Israel has, that God “does not care for you at all?”
That is the lie you better not believe today or any other day. But especially today, on your birthday, that is the lie you should not believe.
So mark this day, your 24th birthday, as a reminder that you are just as prone to having idols as you were when you first heard about it as a kid. But while that is so, remember as well that your desires should not consume you, because no matter what you do, these desires will never completely satisfy. Only God satisfies; only God completes.
It’s about time you let go of these idols, KZ. They only mean to destroy your fellowship with God. Like what Moses did, throw them into the fire, ground them like powder til they are no more. Only then will your 24th be meaningful, when you come to understand that Life is so much more than your earthly desires.
Let go, KZ. You do not want to be dragged any longer. Christ gives freedom. Be free on your birthday.