Monday, November 21, 2011

Worshipping a God of our Own Making

A wild turkey in our own backyard
     As we approach Thanksgiving Day, we look forward to time with family and friends as we gather around a table filled with all manner of delicacies.  The key ingredient of this celebration, however, is not the food.  Our main course should be thankfulness for all the blessings which God has given to us, our family and our nation.  Reflecting on this, I wondered to myself just how many people will be worshipping the one true God and how many will worship a god of their own making.  I know this seems a curious reflection on the eve of this national time of thanks, but it is one we all need to consider before we pull up our chair to the table and utter a word of grace.
     Within the pages of Scripture, there was another nation which God had delivered out of the land of Egypt with mighty signs and wonders.  After four hundred years of slavery, the Children of Israel were set free and the Lord led them in the wilderness protecting them, providing for them, and guiding them.  God provided bread from heaven for them to eat, water out of rocks for them to drink, and victory over their enemies.  Nevertheless, even though they had witnessed amazing deliverance, they did not remain faithful to the one true God.
      In Exodus 32, we see the Israelites asking Aaron the high priest to make a god for them to worship.  After all, Moses had been gone up Mount Sinai for a long time to receive the commandments of God, but the people were not certain he would ever return.  Aaron called the people to bring all their gold ornaments and jewelry and with this, he fashioned a golden calf.  With this creation, the people proclaimed, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt" (vs. 4b)!  Aaron saw this and so fashioned an altar before the calf and announced to the people..."'Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.'  And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.  And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play" (Exodus 32:5b-6).
     When we read this story in the Bible, we often wonder how the people could have possibly missed the true worship of God and exchanged it for idol worship.  Having left behind pagan worship of false idols in Egypt and having seen the powerful deliverance by the true God, how could they have fallen into the same thing?  However, before we so quickly condemn them for missing the worship of the one true God, lets look at some of the false gods we set up to worship.
     First, there is the god of success.  This idol centers around how much money we have in the bank account, how successful we are in our job, and often, how many nice clothes and creature comforts we enjoy.  When these conditions prevail, we are filled with thanksgiving to "god" for the many blessings we have, but if things begin to implode, our faith often falls with the circumstances.  We reason that somehow we must have missed something we could do better because after all, God wants me to prosper right?  Wrong!  The Bible does not promise us a life of ease and prosperity.  Jesus told us plainly that the servant is not greater than the master and that if He was persecuted, we also would face persecution.    We need to remember that God is more concerned with conforming our character to that of His Son rather than whether we have all the creature comforts this world can afford.
A Florida Wild turkey near our pool.  A lot different
than a Butterball!
     A second "god" we often worship is self.  As my dear husband reminds me, this started in the Garden and he is correct.  We do not have to be a Nobel prize winner to see the self-absorption in our society.  Unfortunately, it creeps into the life of the believer as well.  When we start to plan everything in life around our needs, our wants and our expectations, we have begun to worship the idol of self.  We can tell how far we have bought into this type of worship when all our prayers are filled with "I", "my", "me".  At this point, it is not about God.  It is all about us and how wonderful we really are.  In his sermon this past Sunday, our pastor said this:  "We are not the message.  We are the messengers."  I could not agree more.  When we become the message, we steal God's glory which is His alone.
     Finally, we may worship the "god" of circumstances.  When life is rolling along smoothly, we are grateful, happy, and filled with joy.  However, when the bottom drops out, we may begin to blame God for letting us down.  How could God do this to me?  I go to church, I tithe, I pray, I witness, so He owes me.  Of course, we may not say it in such blatant terms, but we might as well.  If we worship at this altar, devastation is only around the corner.  What happens for example if all our perfect, neat little plans fall apart?  We could lose everything in an instant just like Job.  Can we take it in stride?  Can we still praise Him even if He allows suffering in our life?  And furthermore, who are we to dictate to God just how He is to work in our lives?  Job told his wife who had said he should curse God and die:  "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10b).  I am certain Job wondered why this all happened to him, and certainly, his friends raised that question too.  Yet, God is sovereign and Job came to realize that as he walked through the hard circumstances of life.  It is in the difficulties that we find growth, strength and the sweet presence of God.
     Israel raised up a golden calf to replace the almighty Creator God who had delivered them.  What a poor substitute!  In addition, they even held a feast in his honor.  They missed what true thanksgiving meant.  My prayer is that we avoid this trap.  We must sweep aside the gods of self, success, and circumstance.  We must defeat the notion that God is a glorified butler ready to serve us and stamp approval for our life.  He is the Creator and we are His creation.  He is the message and we are the messengers.  When our life reflects true thanksgiving to Him despite our circumstances or challenges, we can know that we are worshipping Him alone for He alone is worthy of our praise.  This Thanksgiving, let us make certain we are not worshipping a god of our own making.  Selah!

I pray that each one of you enjoy this Thanksgiving with your family and may God bless you.  Please feel free to leave a comment.  I love to hear from you.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Barbara! Thank you for the ver timely reminder. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

Christina said...

Passing through Barbara to wish you and you family a beautiful and blessed Thanksgiving! Much love!

Barbara Thayer said...

Thank you Barbara and Christina....Happy Thanksgiving and God's many blessings to you both! We enjoyed a great family meal last night and are relaxing today. To God be all the glory !