September 20 – COVID19 and idolatry

September 21, 2020 Randy Bushey

~ by Randy Bushey
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23,24).

It was the 2nd of the 10 Commandments.

Right after the introductory principle, You shall have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3), the Lord prohibited the worship of idols.

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…(v.4,5).

And ever after, the Lord repeatedly reaffirmed His hatred of – and the toxic consequences to His people of – idolatry.

Idolatry is irrational: All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame (Isaiah 44:9).

And it is clearly one of greatest sins in the Bible.

However, for many 21st century observers – including us? – to worship creations of our own hands, although understandably deeply offensive and demeaning to God, appears to be archaic and otherworldly, the sin of another era.

But is such thinking self-delusional?

Jesus said, And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).

Admittedly a very, very high standard. Unattainable?

Almost as if to ensure we don’t wrongly assess, Jesus gives a more ordinary comparator for self-analysis: Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:37).

And so I have to ask, what have I loved in place of God? What in my heart have I substituted in 1st place, His place? Is it a person – a spouse, child, than dear friends who enrich my life?

A tough comparison for some of us: do I love God more than my grand-kiddies? More than my wife of 40+ years? More than my adult kids who bring so much satisfaction and pride?

Or has 1st place in my affections gone to having experiences: the joy of accomplishing through work? My passion for my favourite sports team? The adventure of travel?

Jesus offered this self-diagnostic observation in the Sermon on the Mount: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21).

None of these interests is inherently wrong.

But here’s the soul-crushing principle: if I love something in the primary place God has reserved for Himself, I’ve created an idol.

And in so doing, I’ve exchanged the treasure of God for something of far, far less value.

That’s never a good trade. Why do we do that?

C.S. Lewis, reflecting on the human propensity to express deeper passion for other things, says, “we are far too easily pleased.”

And then we wonder why our lives are crowded with dissatisfaction, lack of peace and joy, and minimal progress in the task of growing to be more like the Lord Jesus.

At it’s very root, sin is not simply a list of rules broken; but a Being of infinite, incalculable, immeasurable, unlimited value that I have chosen to scorn and to ignore.

My sin shows contempt towards God.

And that brings me to the normal-shattering effects of COVID19.

None of us saw this coming when we ushered in the new year.

But 2020 has taken away many things – at least for a time – that we’ve idolized:
– business activity and economic prosperity and financial security;
– being with those we love most at social gatherings and at sports stadiums, concert halls and movie theatres;
– travel and freedom of movement;
– the simple pleasure of showing our unmasked face and seeing the full faces of others.

So, why does God arouse us by such losses? Is it for the purpose of refocus? Self-examination or self-analysis in our relationship with Him?

Is that one of His purposes for His people in this time of upheaval?

I’m reminded of the lyrics to a song written years ago by Steven Curtis Chapman wondering why he/we “are far to easily pleased” with the cheap replica, the substandard substitute, the shoddy imitation. Chapman reminds us to look beyond to See the Glory :

Every star in the sky tells His story, oh
And every breeze is singing His song
All of creation is imploring
Hey, come see this grand phenomenon
The wonder of His grace
Should take my breath away
I miss so many things when I’m content with…
I’m playing Game Boy standing in the middle of the Grand Canyon
I’m eating candy sittin’ at a gourmet feast
I’m wading in a puddle when I could be swimming in the ocean
Tell me what’s the deal with me
(I know the time has come for me to)
Wake up and see the glory!

Takeaway: may our understanding of this current contagion and the resulting global confusion be influenced primarily not by politics or the media.

But may we be those who analyze and discern from – and are consequently shaped by – a biblical worldview, understanding that our sovereign God will achieve His purposes, bringing about the best for His people.