I really dislike most contemporary Christian music … for the same reason I dislike Joel Osteen sermons: there’s no content. Andrew Peterson is an exception. From the time I heard his “Holy Is the Lord” on The Gathering several years ago, I felt like I was listening to another Rich Mullins, Keith Green or Derek Webb. His latest album, Resurrection Letters II is worth a download on iTunes, and my favorite track is “Invisible God.” It explores the irony that we worship a God who is inaccessible to human senses, but whose works are unavoidable.
As a kid I can remember being warned by preachers to not have idols—you know, stuff like remote-control cars, Walkmen, girlfriends, etc.–basically anything I liked more than God. But is this what the Bible means when it talks about idolatry? It may be that, of all the Ten Commandments, the admonition against idolatry is one is the most difficult to contextualize to our pomo world.
What is the first major lapse into idolatry that we see of God’s people?
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ ” (Exodus 32:1)
Strangely, Moses wasn’t even the one going before them. God was, in the form of a cloud by day and a fiery pillar at night. Moses was following these dramatic manifestations just as the Israelites were. But divine epiphanies weren’t enough. They needed a metal cow to get them to the Promised Land.
So, idolatry is not so much about loving something more than God as it is putting trust in something in the place of God–an insurance policy to protect me from ruin, good works to earn me a place in Heaven, a preacher to tell me how to live.
What set Yahweh apart from the gods of the pagans wasn’t so much what He was, but what He wasn’t. The pagans had gods that they could see, touch, smell. The Jews had an invisible God who didn’t let them draw a picture of Him and whose name they wouldn’t even speak out loud. They worshiped a God who depended entirely on His works and His words to communicate His identity.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. – Romans 1:16
Interestingly, God broke the rules several thousand years after the Exodus—and became visible for 33 short years, wrapping Himself in a very unlikely package that was overlooked by most who saw it. Nowadays, we celebrate that event by buying stuff they don’t need for people we don’t like with money we don’t have.
But that’s a post for another day …