Let’s begin by admitting that some biblical texts are difficult to understand. The Israelites have been fashioning their own idols. But crafting golden calves for the sanctuary altar doesn’t happen in my neighborhood. It’s easy to think that this word is only for another time and place.
Then there’s the issue of God’s anger unleashed to even the fourth generation of those who did wrong. Now I know why I may have a bad day. My great-great-grandmother did something God forbade and I’m being punished for it. We hear these harsh verses and must decide how to interpret them.
The early church father Marcion decided that the God of the Old Testament was not the God of the New Testament and created his own Bible. Marcion said, “Let’s keep the gospel of Luke and some of the letters of Paul.” Think how easy it would be to read through Marcion’s Bible in a year! Yet Marcion and others who wanted a truncated Bible were declared heretics. The wider Christian community accepted both Testaments.
What does it mean for us to commit idolatry? In what ways do we worship the superficial, or something that is lesser than God? How often do we try to shape God into an image or idea we can more comfortably handle rather than worship the One who creates and shapes us?
Worshiping a God who makes little difference in what we do, how we care, or who we are is the most sinister form of idolatry, and one harder to recognize than bowing before a golden calf or a pile of money.
Who is God to you? What difference does God make in how we live?
God, help us move beyond simply believing that you exist. Help us know you as a living God who transforms us. Amen.