And when you tell this people all these words, and they say to you,
“Why has the Lord pronounced all this great evil against us?
What is our iniquity?
What is the sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?
then you shall say to them:
It is because your ancestors have forsaken me, says the Lord,
and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them,
and have forsaken me and have not kept my law;
and because you have behaved worse than your ancestors,
for here you are, every one of you,
following your stubborn evil will, refusing to listen to me.
Throughout the prophetic writings, God’s condemnation of the people rests on two basic accusations. The first is the charge of rampant injustice and unrighteousness — that has been the focus of these Lent devotionals. The poor get trampled on, the rich prosper, and the dishonest make a killing.
But the second is not that much different — the Lord accuses the people of idolatry. It’s not so much that the Israelites have completely forsaken Yahweh, but that they have begun worshipping other gods in addition to him. They bring sacrifices to the Temple and fast on the appropriate days, but they also have built sacred poles on mountaintops and prayed to idols. They have begun to copy the religious practices of the nations around them.
Of course, this is completely inconsistent with Israelite doctrine. The fundamental truth of Jewish religion is that there is only one God, Yahweh, and he is God alone. And thus, the prophets let loose on the people. They have betrayed their God.
American Christians are just as susceptible to idolatry as the ancient Israelites. We’re not going to literally bow down in front of a golden calf, nor are we likely to pray to a different god.
But idolatry is much more than that. Idolatry is about putting ultimate trust and faith in things which are not God. Idolatry is about worshipping people, things, or ideas, instead of the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
Our idols are things like wealth, success, power, acceptance — even self! We may still practice our Christianity on a regular basis, attending church, giving a tithe, and doing occasional mission work. Yet we have scattered our affections among a wide range of idols. God sits on a shelf next to the other idols of our heart.
Worshipping other gods leads, of course, to injustice. That’s why these two accusations are related. They are two sides of the same coin. When we worship the wrong gods, we end up doing injustice. We lose sight of the one true God’s desire — to bring shalom to all creation.
Today’s Justice Challenge, then, is to search your own heart and ask yourself, “What other gods and idols am I secretly worshipping? What is keeping me from being the advocate for justice that I should be?”
Prayer: God, you are one, holy, and sovereign. You are the only one who deserves praise. In you alone do I put my trust; you are my true refuge. Amen.
Justice Challenge: One way to ascertain the hidden idols in your heart is to examine your spending habits. The things we spend money on are often a great indicator of what we treasure most. Besides the basic necessities, what do you spend money on? Where does most of your excess cash go? Is an idol being served in your spending? Try giving up one expense for the rest of Lent; take that money and give it to those in need through a non-profit organization or your church.