“Unprecedented” is a word we hear constantly these days as we struggle to describe the events unfolding around us. Between the Covid-19 pandemic, the racial unrest, the protests, violence and destruction we see in our cities, solutions are a dime a dozen. We all want to return to what we now see as “the good old days” and we have our own perspectives on how to accomplish it.
Let me begin by saying that, today, I am speaking primarily to believers in Jesus. If you are an unbeliever, this is not directed to you. As I survey the news, social media and other publications, I am saddened to see that we are responding to the events of our days just like those in old testament times, when faithful peoples chose to seek substitutes for the one true God, forsaking Him for what they considered better, more timely solutions.
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We may not be constructing asherah poles, molding golden calves or worshipping at the altar of other graven images, but, we have often gravitated toward other idols just as dangerous. Many believers are putting hope in protests, political reform, physical health and/or beauty, specific individuals or groups, economic sanctions and other worldly solutions to what are spiritual problems. If you don’t see yourself as guilty, I challenge you to review your social media accounts and what you’ve posted in the last thirty days. Are your posts pointing others to the God who can move mountains, redeem sinners and give new hearts or, to your political bent or cause? Who are you quoting? Who are you following? As you answer each of those questions, ask yourself if you might be placing an inordinate amount of hope there.
This morning, I read in the book of Jonah, his lament after being swallowed by a large fish. God had called him to go to Nineveh, a city every bit as wicked as any of our cities today, to confront their wrong living. Jonah, believing the Ninevites didn’t deserve the opportunity to repent, ran from God instead. (side note: It’s pointless to run from the One who knows where you are even before you get there.) The result was that he ended up in the belly of a fish with nothing but time to consider his lot. Here are his conclusions:
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered You, Lord,,
and my prayer rose to you,
to Your holy temple.
Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the Lord.”
-Jonah 2: 7-9
Two points I want to hone in on. First, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Note he didn’t say the government, an individual apart from God, a political ideology or any groups or movements present in our world today. He is our hope and our salvation. Period.
Secondly, if we are focused on any of those things as the “be all-end all,” we are guilty of idolizing them over worshipping our God. These are the kind of “worthless idols” Jonah referred to. We are commanded to have no other gods before Him. Our hope must always be, first and foremost, in Him. He may well choose to use individuals and movements to further His purposes, but it is He we are to look to for our salvation. This is true both for individuals and nations, and it is HE we should be pointing others to.
“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip– He who watches over you will not slumber…The Lord watches over you…the Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your life, the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
God is good. He wants us to trust wholely in Him, and when we do, He is gracious and kind, attending to our every need. Let’s not forfeit the grace that could be ours.