For the week of September 30, 2006 / 8 Tishri 5767
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 32:1-52
Haftarah: Hosea 14:2-10 (English: 1-9); Micah 7:18-20; Joel 2:15-17
Turning from Idols
We will never again say "Our gods" to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion. (Hosea 14:4; English 14:3)
The book of the prophet Hosea concludes with a challenge to the people to return to God. Through Hosea God provides the people with the details of what returning involves. This includes a commitment to never again worship idols along with an acknowledgement that our deepest needs are only truly met in God.
The history of the nation of Israel in the Hebrew Scriptures is designed as an example of what any nation would be like when called into relationship with the God of the Universe. Through the centuries Israel was continually drawn to idol worship or , according to Hosea's terminology, the work of our hands. Idol worship was common in the days of ancient Israel as it continues to be in much of the world today. When God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt, he began to teach them his ways. As the rest of the world remained in spiritual darkness, God instructed his people in the way of truth and life.
But since the hearts of the people were not yet transformed, the work of their hands continued to draw them. On one hand it might sound strange to think that anyone could reckon something that we ourselves have made as a god. But think about it. God is the source of life, and as the source of life, he is also the source of meaning, of comfort, of healing, and of hope, but do we not often tend to look to material things (that which our hands have made) to be all this for us?
We may not literally bow down to money and what money buys in the same way that some bow down to idols, but do not our hearts bow down just as much? If we would examine what in our lives chiefly determines our decisions, would we not find that it is usually some human-made thing?
When we give our hearts to things, we become servants to them. It may be difficult to accept that inanimate objects have the power to make us do their bidding, but is this not what happens? And material things are ruthless taskmasters. They will hold us in their clutches and show no concern whatsoever for our well being. They will use us until death, all the while making us think that we were the ones in control.
Understanding this helps us to see why God contrasts idols with the acknowledgement that it is only in him that the fatherless find compassion. The reason for our being easily drawn into the worship of things, is that we long for something to satisfy the deep longings of our hearts. Being fatherless is one of the most profound negative foundational experiences people can have. So many of our problems have been traced back to our relationships to our fathers. But whatever our relationship might be with our earthly fathers, all people share some level of spiritual fatherlessness, due to our separation from God.
Our fatherlessness drives us to find satisfaction in the things of our own making. God's desire through the nation of Israel was to teach all nations that only he could satisfy the longings in our hearts.
Even when we accept Micah's admonishment, turning away from idols and acknowledging God as our only true Father, we still have a tendency to not always look to him to meets our deepest needs. It takes a lifetime to be fully free from idolatry. We shouldn't be surprised when we find ourselves still giving ourselves to the works of our own hands, whether they be material objects, our relationships, our traditions, our jobs, and so on.
Yet the verse that follows gives us hope:
When we turn away from idols and turn to God, he is involved. He will heal us of our waywardness and pour out his love upon us. God's involvement becomes our motivation to continue to put away our remaining idols and look to him more and more for everything.
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