(Our little boy watering sunflowers at a nearby arboretum.)
It’s one thing to repent of idolatry.
It’s another thing to repent of worshiping God as if He were an idol.
Lately, this has caught my attention.
When God delivered the Israelites from Egypt and led them to the Promise Land, He told them that they must not worship Him the way other people worship their gods.
“Be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.” You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things that the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” – from Deut. 12
Biblical history shows that the Israelites struggled with this, including Jephthah – the Judge who offered his daughter as a burnt sacrifice as a means of worshiping God. Though Jepthah was serving God and praying to God, he was thinking like a Canannite.
His mistake had devastating consequences.
It’s easy to see the error of Jephthah’s ways, but I’m discovering that I do the same thing.
I find that my worship of God is often inspired and informed by the way the world worships its gods. Perhaps we all do this from time to time. Perhaps we think, “If the world is sacrificing holiness, covenantal relationships, and familial responsibility to serve Achievement, Fame, and Money, I’ll offer the same thing to God. He’ll love it.” That sounds a bit extreme, but after some soul-searching, we may discover that it is how we think more often than not.
It’s possible that when we think we’re worshiping God, we’re really just giving Him something that he hates.
I have been worshiping God this way for far too long and I am humbled by the realization.
For me, it sometimes looks like this: instead of offering my love for writing and teaching to God in the context of His character and His laws, I strive to offer them to Him the way the world offers them to its gods. I sacrifice my prayer time, my Bible study, my marriage, and my children to offer God something “Bigger! Better!”
All the while, the Holy Spirit convicts and warns me, “Imagine what could die if you offered that unnecessary sacrifice!”
Jephthah’s tragic worship is a mirror to my soul.
I need to constantly renew my mind, to remember what God truly wants from His worshipers.
This one aspect – worshiping God in the way He wants – affects every single thing in our lives. For me, it determines how I interact with my husband, how I mother my children, how I invest in our local church, how I spend time with my friends, what I read, what I write, how I work, what I play, and how I live.
These 2 questions bring me back to worshiping God as God. Their answers are our soul’s food and drink day after day; our understanding of them will never reach a limit.
- What is God’s character?
- What are God’s laws?
So, we open up our Bibles with prayerful hearts… and worship God as God.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:1-2