Monday, August 29, 2011

Picking an Idol

Preachers love powerful metaphors. A popular one today, in some circles, is to call sin idolatry. It is as old as the New Testament where Paul calls covetousness idolatry (Colossians 3:5). But Paul was doing it in the context of literal idolatry. When all sin is analysed as idolatry, the concept of idolatry is undermined and the metaphor loses its power.

In the world, both ancient and modern, people use statues, artefacts and religious rituals to worship false gods. They also use false representations, made by the arts and crafts of human imagination, of the true and living God. So outside of Christianity there are charms, crystals and statues, offering of fruit at the shrine of the ancestors and burning candles, incense and joss sticks. And inside Christendom there are still people who approach God by means of all manner of statues and icons, rituals and techniques of worship, incense and candles.

The classic of Old Testament idolatry was the golden calf. By it the people represented the gods who brought them out of Egypt and had a feast to Yahweh (Exodus 32:4-5). It was just the very thing that God had forbidden in the commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4). To read more, click here.

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