Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
A story in the book of Isaiah tells about a man who chops down a tree. He uses the wood for two projects. First, he makes a fire over which he cooks a meal and warms himself. Then he uses he rest of the wood to make a god, his idol. He bows and worships it, saying “Save me! You are my god!” (Isaiah 44:16-17).
Isaiah says this person feeds on ashes, that a deluded heart misleads him, because he cannot see that is idol is a lie, it is not god (v. 20). I want to ask the idol builder, “How do you know which part of the tree is the god? If you get it wrong, are praying to firewood and roasting your meat over your god?”
In Isaiah’s time, an idol was a statue that represented a god. Today, we are more sophisticated. We don’t cut down trees and carve idols. We build idols in our minds. We imagine that modern philosophy and technology and culture are the key to controlling and managing our lives.
Here are some modern idols, and the prayers we pray to them.
- Money is an idol when we pray, “Keep us from want, keep us from poverty, help us live comfortably, bless our lottery tickets and help them to hit.”
- Guns are an idol when we pray, “Protect us from enemies, keep us safe and secure, don’t let the government take our guns.”
- Entertainment is an idol when we pray, “Keep us from boredom. Make us forget our anxiety. Help us escape the smallness of our lives and live vicariously in a story that is large and exciting and fun.”
- Right doctrine is an idol when we pray, “I have learned the right way to interpret the Bible. I have the system that defines truth. I have the doctrines that make me right, and show me how wrong most others are.”
- I am my own god when I pray, “I’m on a journey to find myself. I’m on a journey to live a full life. I can become whatever I choose. ‘I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul’” (William Henley, Invictus, stanza 4).
In each of these prayers we ask the idol to give us something only God can give.
- Money can not keep me from need. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.
- Guns can not keep me safe. The Lord is my refuge and strength.
- Entertainment can not provide fulfillment. Jesus came to give us life to the full.
- Right doctrine does not make us right. Jesus said, “You search the scriptures because you think they will give you eternal life, but you will not come to me. I am the one who gives life.”
- I can not be my own god. My life is a one-way ticket to death, and I do not control the journey. As the psalmist says to God, “My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:5).
Our father, we live in a world of management and control. Our jobs require competence, our vehicles maintenance, our bodies exercise and food, and our mental health requires positive thinking. We want to manage you too. A few prayers, a bit of devotion, church occasionally — surely you should respond by blessing our lives and work. But you are a God we cannot control. Help us place our lives and talents at your disposal, and say with Job, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.
Footnote. Eugene Peterson’s description of idols: “An idol is god with all the God taken out. . . . “ (Christ plays in Ten Thousand Places, p. 254)
– The idol is a [god] that requires no personal relationship.
– The idol is a [god] that I can manipulate and control.
– The idol reverses the God/creature relationship: now I am the [creator] and the idol is the creature.”