Saturday, April 19, 2008

No other gods!

I've been writing and reflecting some on the 10 Commandments over at Doug Watching. Here is a meditation I wrote trying to explore one aspect of the first word.

No other gods! The command shatters the illusion of our successes, revealing us as enslaved by the idols we worship and serve. Even as I hear the words, I know: I am an idolater.

In my pursuit of God, I’ve often looked to the places of provision as the person of provision. But God alone is the person of our provision. He alone will meet our needs.

I am a needy person. I need more than just food and clothes. I need to feel like I have value. I need to find pleasure. I need peace in my heart. I need answers the questions that plague my mind. I need friendships. I need to opportunity to grow and to explore and to learn and to laugh. Many of these needs are intangible and difficult to define, and yet if the need is not met, I may struggle to even make through the day.

Take peace of mind for instance. When I left college, I entered a dark night of the soul where the peace of God seemed to depart, and I felt alone. My circumstances had not changed. I still had food and clothes and income and family, and yet inwardly I felt like my whole world was crumbling apart.

I’ve come to think that we have far more needs that we can even name. Some needs seem selfish like the need to enjoy. And yet, the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. We are created for joy. And for much more. For every need we have, He is the one true provider.

He created us and formed us to trust Him to meet all our needs—even our needs to become like Him and to love completely. He is the person of provision for all our needs, and yet He is free to use different people and places as He sees fit.

We could mistake the people or the place as the one actually meeting the meet. Israel did this time and again. In Egypt, they eventually worshipped the gods of the land. Egypt was the place of provision but YHWH was the person of provision. As they prepared to enter the Promised Land, God told them that they would enjoy a fruitful, prosperous land much like Eden.

But they must never forget that YHWH is the one who provided their needs in that land, or else they would fall subject to enslavement and judgment. God raised them up to bless them and make them a blessing for the nations, but He warned them not worship any other gods.

No other gods! Violating this command means trusting something other then God and falling prey to the control of something other than god. It makes us less than human. We no longer have the power to bless because we are enslaved. Violating this command begins a cascade of violating other commands.

I know this pattern all to well because of my own tendency to worship other gods. In teaching me to trust, God has often invited me into a season of testing when one or more of my needs seem to be ignored. Instead of crying out to God, I’ve looked to the places or the people where God met my needs in the past. Instead of trusting Him as my Creator, I found myself trusting in His creation or creatures. And they will always fail me.

When I cannot trust God alone as my provider, I may look to the person beside me and wonder why they have what I don’t have. So I fall prey to coveting. Then I may grow bitter toward them and even speak words that are unkind about them: bearing false witness.

One by one I begin violating each command: thoughts of self pity, anger, lust, consume me. Created to be a king and priest in the land, I can no longer serve and bless a world in need. I am now corrupt in my thoughts, bitter in my heart, and violating the command to love God and love man. My only hope is to cry out in repentance and ask God to restore to me that simple trust in His provision.

In his goodness, He does restore. He is teaching and training us to be a people with no other Gods. In the end, this command becomes a great blessing. It is the blessing of being cared for by a Covenant God. It is the blessing of the lilies of the field. I can learn to trust. Simply. Like a child.

And as I child, I can be free. Free from inhibitions caused by fear of embarrassment or failure. I can be free to love, to risk, to play, to try new things. Free to bless the people all around me, sinner and saint alike, pointing them all to the ever-flowing provision of our Covenant God.

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