Idolatry as Parody

Scripture Focus: Jeremiah 10.11-14
11 “Tell them this: ‘These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’ ” 
12 But God made the earth by his power; 
he founded the world by his wisdom 
and stretched out the heavens by his understanding. 
13 When he thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; 
he makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. 
He sends lightning with the rain 
and brings out the wind from his storehouses. 
14 Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; 
every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. 
The images he makes are a fraud; 
they have no breath in them. 

Reflection: Idolatry as Parody
By John Tillman

Jeremiah encouraged idolaters to look again at God compared to their idols.

God made the world:
God’s spirit hovered over chaotic nothingness and, by his words, the earth came to be. By his power the mountains were lifted. By his wisdom heavenly bodies took their places. By his understanding the hidden realities of DNA strands, quantum particles, and things science has yet to discover were created. God calls us to serve him, but it is actually he who serves us.

Humans make idols:
Our spirits, disconnected from God, sink in chaos and we are desperate to ground ourselves in something tangible. In our weakness we cast about for symbols of strength (that will yield to our whims). In foolishness we mold realities that center on our needs. In ignorance we claim perfect knowledge and understanding, cutting out of our lives anything that contradicts us. We make our idols to serve us, but we end up serving them. 

We become like our idols: fraudulent, shameful, unable to think, and unable to respond. Our hearts harden and our ears tune out and our eyes glaze over.

We think of idol-making as primitive and foolish. The Bible dumps scorn on the practice. It describes how foolish it is to make idols from worldly things when the world and everything in it was made by God. Idolaters worship the derivative rather than the original—the parody rather than the artist.

But are we that different from Jeremiah’s idolatrous audience?

Don’t we make idols of the things culture tells us are important? Careers? Sexual expression? Perfect spouses? Perfect bodies? Perfect families? Power? Influence? Politics? Don’t we pay and sacrifice, expecting these things to protect us, guide us, lead us, teach us?

Our idols make us senseless. God will give sight and hearing to the blind and the deaf.
Our idols make us ignorant. God will give wisdom to those who seek it.
Our idols shame us. God will lift up the humble.
Our idols defraud us. God will have mercy on us.

We need to, with regularity, search through the temples of our hearts for idols that slip in with our culture. No one is immune. No one has arrived. Bring out your idols and compare them to God. Then let him replace them with himself.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. — Psalm 89.3-4

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 10(Listen -3:51)
Galatians 1(Listen – 3:05)

Read more about Cherishing Chaff
What chaff do we cherish or poison do we prize? A building? A politician? A charismatic leader? An institution?

Readers’ Choice is Coming!
What post from the past 12 months helped you and how? Even if all you have to say is, “It blessed me,” share it with us and we’ll share it with others.

Cherishing Chaff

Scripture Focus: Matthew 24.1-2
1 Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2 “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

Jeremiah 10.19-21
19 Woe to me because of my injury!
    My wound is incurable!
Yet I said to myself,
    “This is my sickness, and I must endure it.”
20 My tent is destroyed;
    all its ropes are snapped.
My children are gone from me and are no more;
    no one is left now to pitch my tent
    or to set up my shelter.
21 The shepherds are senseless
    and do not inquire of the Lord;
so they do not prosper
    and all their flock is scattered.

Reflection: Cherishing Chaff
By John Tillman

Some buildings are great by age and grandeur and some by the gleam and glisten of modern glass and steel. However, no matter how impressive a building is when you walk, ride, or drive by it regularly, it becomes just a part of the scenery. 

How impressive does a building have to be for you to still comment on it as you pass by, years later? Why would the disciples call Jesus’ attention to the impressive buildings of the Temple that both he and they had been worshiping in their entire lives?

The Temple had been standing for 500 years and had been extensively renovated and repaired by Herod during the disciple’s lifetimes. Perhaps the disciples were happy to see some scaffolding come down on an area that had been newly restored. 

But the Temple’s shiny new sheen couldn’t distract Jesus’ eyes from the self-righteous deceit within and the suffering he saw over the horizon. The disciples saw the Temple as grand, renewed, and a symbol of strength and status. Jesus saw its present and future, sinful, destroyed, and humiliated.

Herod was a ruler of nominal faith at best. (Even that is being extraordinarily generous.) Herod was corrupt, a womanizer, boastful, and lived in a sinful relationship. He “liked to listen” to John the Baptist, but that didn’t stop him from cutting off the prophet’s head. 

Herod’s work on the Temple wasn’t faith-driven. It was a political tactic to boost his status and generate support among the people—and it worked. Even the disciples of Jesus were impressed.

The Temple, and Herod, are just two examples of things unworthy of the esteem and attention the disciples gave them. Many things the disciples prized, Jesus recognized as poison. Many things they cherished Jesus called chaff in the wind. 

What catches our eyes? What chaff do we cherish or poison do we prize? A building? A politician? A charismatic leader? An institution? Point out to Jesus what catches your eye. Seek his opinion on whether you should hold it up for honor or whether it is destined to be thrown down.

Physical idols, whether statues, buildings, institutions, or living humans, are the product of inward sin. We worship them instead of God because inwardly we refuse to trust God or we have denounced God. Allow the revelation of outward idols to lead you to discover inward attitudes that must be torn down.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Small Verse
My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God. — Psalm 84.1

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Jeremiah 10 (Listen – 3:51) 
Matthew 24 (Listen – 5:59)

Readers’ Choice is your time to share favorite Park Forum posts from the year.

What post helped you with loss?

Read more about Treasuring Our Temples
Judah treasured the Temple’s importance but not its inhabitant. They treasured the regalia, not the relationship.