Friday, February 10, 2012

If Only We Had a Bigger God

In Judges 17-18, we find the story of Micah and the Levite. In defiance of God’s law and ways, Micah had a bunch of silver made into carved images and set up a shrine in his home with household gods. Then he compelled a young Levite to be his own personal priest, and he felt pretty satisfied with his manmade religion. [What does this have to do with you, today? Hang with me...]

Meanwhile, the tribe of Dan was looking for an inheritance, so five spies set out, eventually meeting Micah with his priest and his household gods. After the Danite spies returned home with a good report about the wealth of the land, the tribe of Dan returned to conquer the country. And they made a special point of returning to Micah’s house and stealing “the carved image, the ephod, the household gods, and the metal image” (Judges 18:18).

When Micah discovered this, he was predictably upset, and gathered his neighbors to go overtake the people of Dan. Micah indignantly asked them, “You take my gods that I made and the priest, and go away, and what have I left?” (v. 24)

When our pastor preached through this story during his series on Judges last year, he spent some time focused on the line “You take my gods that I made...and what have I left?” He said:
It's hilarious!—and sad. That's the whole point of idolatry. [A false god is] something that I can control—but if it's something I can control, somebody else can control it. Somebody else can take it away from me. 
If my prosperity is my god, it can be taken away from me. If my theology is my god, it can be taken away from me. If my marriage is my god, it can be taken away from me. If my acceptance with people is my god, it can be taken away from me. And if it's taken away from us, what will we have left? 
But if you have God in Christ, He cannot be taken away from you! You can't steal our God away from the hearts of his people. We're supposed to look at this and say, “Poor, pathetic Micah—if only he had a bigger God, his joy would not be robbed so easily. His contentment would not be robbed so easily.” 
And that is true of you and of me. Why are our joy and our satisfaction so easily taken from us? Because our god is not big enough. 

Micah's gods were manmade and they were small. So it was no major feat for the Danites to make off with them—and Micah was left empty-handed, robbed of the source of his satisfaction and contentment, his peace and security, his joy.

Hear this, O my soul: all other gods can be taken away from us. Anything I set up as an idol, anything I look to for identity, happiness, worth, contentment, fullness, security, LIFE abundant—it can all be stripped away. My husband. My children. Health. Money, possessions. Food. Physical comfort. Others' approval and admiration. Friends.

Not long after that sermon, I read something related in Ann Voskamp's beautiful book:
“ is loss. Every day, the gnawing...What will I lose? Health? Comfort? Hope? Eventually I am guaranteed to lose every earthly thing I have ever possessed. When will I lose? Today? In a few weeks? How much time have I got before the next loss? Who will I lose? And that's definite: I will lose every single person I have ever loved. Either abruptly or eventually. All human relationships end in loss. Am I prepared for that? Every step I take forward in my life is a loss of something in my life and I live the waiting: How and of what will I be emptied today?” (p. 84-85)

There is a fine line, of course, between losses that can (even should) be legitimately grieved, and the despair we feel when robbed of idols. Jesus didn't reprimand Mary and Martha for making an idol of their brother; He wept with them.

Yet so much of the disappointment I experience each day, so much of “the gnawing,” so much ache and emptiness and frustration and bitter, resentful anger, points to my idolatry. My gods have been taken from me, and what have I left?

Stephen continued:

God is big. But when we settle for idolatry, it all can be taken away from us. Every disappointment that you feel, if it doesn't result in turning to God, worshiping God, loving God, being satisfied in Him, saying, “There is none in heaven or on earth that I desire besides You; You are my portion; You are my strength; though You slay me, yet I will serve You”—then we're just like Micah. 
When we're having a bad day, when we get a bad grade, when the bills aren't being paid, when a hundred other things happen, we say, “What do I have left?” Do any of you feel that despair? What do I have left?  
You have, in Christ, God. And if you have God, you have all.

My gods have been taken from me, and what have I left?


When all these idols have been stripped away, what do I have left? Jesus.

All other gods can be taken from me at any moment. But Christ can never be taken from me, nor I from Him.

If only I had a bigger God, my joy could not be robbed so easily!

“I say to the LORD, 'You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you.'” (Psalm 16:2)

Oh Jesus, be “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28) Don't let me run after idols today; don't let me set my heart on the things that can be taken away. Teach me to cling to you, to trust that You can and will satisfy my heart like nothing and no one else can. Open my eyes to see that you are more precious and beautiful than anything else I long for. And make me know and hate the reality of betraying You by running after lesser, smaller pleasures.

The Idolatry of Jealousy
Idolatry Part 3: Abundant Life
Modern Idolatry: Keller and Powlison

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