I wrote the following post on a blog I write for my church. It was provocative and challenging enough that I wanted to share it here as well. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Reading through the prophets, it is easy for our eyes (and minds) to glaze over as we relegate these words to a people and time gone by. They can be thought of as our having an authorized peek into the God’s private letters of rebuke to his wayward children that have little or nothing to do with our present circumstances or situations. I believe that would be a wrong assumption and approach to reading the prophets. Romans 15:4 says, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” It is important that as we read the scripture we remember that it is GOD’s WORD to us, not just the ramblings of some religious zealot. So what lessons can we learn from the prophets? While there are many, one stood out to me from Jeremiah 7 that I want to address today.
Jeremiah 7: 30, 31: “The people of Judah have sinned before my very eyes,” says the Lord. “They have set up their abominable idols right in the Temple that bears my name, defiling it. They have built pagan shrines at Topheth, the garbage dump in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, and there they burn their sons and daughters in the fire. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!
God is taking his people to task for their practice of sacrificing their children on the altars of their idols. What possible application does that have for us? We are far too sophisticated and enlightened to engage in such a barbaric ritual as this! Aren’t we? Before you go off on a self-righteous diatribe, I suggest that you slow down and give it some more thought.
First, let’s define “idol”. Quite simply, an idol is anything that is an object of worship other than God Himself. An idol is something that syphons away our resources of time, talent or treasure away from from being wholly lavished upon and committed to God. An idol is anything that detracts our attention away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. An idol is anything other than God to which we look for help or hope. An idol is anything that successfully competes with God for our loyalty and passion.
What, then, might be some of our idols?
How are our children being sacrificed on the altars of worship to these gods?
- When we exalt work and ministry over the emotional and relational well-being of our children, we are sacrificing our them on the altar of success.
- When we subscribe to the life philosophy, “He who has the most toys at the end, wins”; when we fail to teach our children the vanity of gaining the whole world but losing your soul; when we mortgage our future by accumulating stuff AND debt, we sacrifice our children on the altar of materialism.
- When we fail to live spirit-controlled lives that are marked by discipline and self-control; when we cultivate a culture that utilizes sex and sexuality to promote everything from toothpaste to television sets; when we value profits from pornography ($10 billion industry – more than the NFL, NBA and MLB combined) we sacrifice the moral purity of children the altar of sensuality.
- When we fail to model for our children an active prayer life; when we fail to do life together as a part of the community of faith; when we fail to acknowledge our deep need for others by ignoring the role that they have played in our success, we sacrifice our children on the altar of independence.
- When we value style over substance; when we spend more time playing than we do praying; when our weekend activities take precedence over worship; when our homes have more TV’s than Bibles; when we practice Consumer Christianity by church hopping to find the best programs to fit our needs, we are sacrificing our children on the altar of entertainment.
Have I overstated the case? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. The proof is in the pudding. The Psalmist Asaph encouraged the nation of Israel to faithfully teach it’s children the word, works and ways of God with this positive result:
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
not forgetting his glorious miracles
and obeying his commands.
Then they will not be like their ancestors—
stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful,
refusing to give their hearts to God. (Psalm 78:7,8)
The challenge of the Word of God is to tear down our idols and false gods that promise much, deliver little and cost so much more than we budgeted to pay. Our present actions have generational consequences, impact and repercussions.
What are you worshipping?