Last winter I discovered an amazing podcast called BEMA Discipleship. It's a chapter-by-chapter intentional walk and talk through the Bible with an eastern, instead of a western, perspective, and it has been bringing my faith to life in ways I never could have imagined. Cultural and historical context, plus geography, help put many of the complex pieces together, plus the show's cohosts add a lot of humor and authenticity to understanding the Bible.
The conversation starts in Genesis, of course, and that part of the series was so dang good that I stopped at the end of the Old Testament and went back to the very beginning to listen all over again from Episode 0. It all went too fast, too much goodness, and I could tell I wasn't absorbing as much as I wanted to remember and share. I'm still working at it!
During Round 2, one thing (of many things) that stood out to me is this - the primary difference between the Israelites, God's chosen people, and the rest of the world at that time, was their devotion to the one true living and active God, and not an assortment of manmade gods that had no eyes to see, no ears to hear, and no hands with which to act on the earth.
Their contemporaries, on the other hand, were polytheistic - creating their own gods for every natural phenomenon that defied their understanding. Named for the sun, the moon, the rain, the wind, the ocean, the harvest, love, life, and death...these were gods with personalities; gods who were often fickle, immature, selfish, ruthless and angry; gods who were powerful but not very wise; gods who always needed to be appeased or placated in some way. It must have been a lot of work, not to mention anxiety, keeping them all happy!
Of course we've all seen or heard about these images - some out of stone, some out of wood, and some out of pure gold. It's hard to imagine bowing down to, or being fearful of, an inanimate object - an object that we might have seen with our own eyes being crafted with clay and rudimentary tools by the neighbor next door, or nowadays in factory in the next city over. Seems so backward, unenlightened, and ignorant, doesn't it? How were these people so easily fooled? What prompted them to put so much emotion, energy, and faith into objects that were clearly powerless and dead?
Well, this got my mind to thinking about our modern day gods, and the predictability of human behavior, and how things really don't change much from one generation to the next - even when separated by thousands of years. We were all created to worship something, and if we decide it's not going to be God...well, then it will be the gods of our own making. What might those manmade gods look like? Here are some ideas.
Youth & Beauty - always a new lotion, potion, or injection to keep us from the inevitable.
Wealth - the endless quest for more and better.
Entertainment - boredom has become a dirty word, and FOMO is a thing.
Athletics - believing our human strength, agility, and conditioning is going to save us.
Knowledge - the more letters behind our names, the more power we wield in society.
Science & Technology - salvation through human ingenuity and invention.
Medicine - the fruitless search for that magic pill that will un-do all of our wrongdoings.
Sexuality - be free, explore, break boundaries, defy tradition, experiment!
Pleasure/Happiness - if it feels good, do it. If it doesn't feel good, get rid of that one and keep looking.
Self-Sufficiency - answer to no one; rely on no one; make your own rules.
The tricky thing is that none of these are necessarily bad things. In fact, there is so much potential for good in all of them! But when they become our sole focus, the source of our hope, the motivation behind our actions, and our reason for living, then they become our gods. And they can never deliver the peace, protection, security, or satisfaction that we are seeking. Maybe that's why so many people turn to food and other addictions to soften the disappointment. At least we can control how we manage pain?
How does this relate to health, wellness, and our Good Life? Well, I don't know exactly. I'm just the instrument here, and I trust you will glean from this music whatever it is you need to hear. I suppose what I am trying to communicate is that so many of us are so spiritually empty. Dried up, anxious, and left for dead. Definitely not living in abundance and freedom.
A pastor and friend used to say, "We all have a God-shaped hole in our hearts, and nothing but God will ever be able to fill it." We try lots of stuff. We are prone to hope in the next great thing, or person, or promise. But they all fail, because they are just little g gods, and they have no power to save.
Exodus 15:11-13 NIV - Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you - majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? You stretch out your right hand, and the earth swallows your enemies. In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.