Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Exo 20:3
"You shall have no other gods before me" (Exo 20:3).
An "idol" is something men "worship"... which "blinds" their
minds, "preventing" the gospel and the love of God from entering, or
controlling, their lives. If we get this point right, it seems to me, then we
may recognize that anything and everything, essentially, MAY BE an idol... but
that nothing, effectively, MUST BE an idol. Let me illustrate what I mean.
For example, it ought not to be considered "judgmental" or
"critical" for someone to point out that most anything (or anyone) MAY BE an
"idol" -- even the most innocuous of pastimes: gardening or long walks on the
beach MAY BE "idols" if pursued and enjoyed to the exclusion of the worship and
service of our Heavenly Father. But, of course, they are not necessarily
For that matter, the very most legitimate time-consumers --
such as family and work -- MAY BE "idols" IF our interests and concerns in these
directions, and our allotments of time and energy, threaten to crowd out God
from our lives. After all, Jesus said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate
his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes,
even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple" (Luk 14:26). Harsh language
indeed, since elsewhere we are plainly told to love our spouses and families, to
provide for them, to honor our parents, etc, etc. Surely Jesus is saying, 'Don't
let EVEN your family... those closest to you... who have the most legitimate
claims upon you... don't even let them turn you aside from serving God!'
Likewise, work -- earning one's daily bread, and providing for one's family --
is the most legitimate of pursuits (supported by various Bible passages), but if
through greed (the love of money) or competitiveness (pride) our jobs become the
be-all and end-all of our lives, and threaten to consume all our time and all
our concern, and to squeeze God out of our lives, then the Bible tells us they
On the other hand, and looking at what might be called the
other end of the continuum, we consider the graven images which depicted or
represented false gods. Surely, we say, such images were and are ALWAYS "idols".
No question there. Aren't they, invariably, "idols"?
I am not so sure. Remember the brazen serpent of Moses (Num
21), which Hezekiah later threw on the scrap heap, calling it -- contemptuously,
I think -- "Nehushtan", a mere piece of brass! Was it an idol, or was it merely
a piece of metal? I think the answer depended on how any individual viewed it.
To Moses and those who were saved by looking to it, it was surely not an idol --
but a reminder of God's love and even a prophetic indicator of the Messiah who
was to come -- who would be lifted up on behalf of all men (John 3:13-16). But
to the superstitiously-inclined of generations after Moses, it began to be
thought of in an idolatrous manner: its veneration threatened to crowd out God
Himself, and for that reason it ought to be destroyed.
Similar points might be made about the symbol of the cross: an
object whose meaning changed for people (at least, some people) over time.
Likewise, Paul in Rom and 1Co deals with the question of meat
offered to idols, real idols of wood or stone or metal, by pointing out --
essentially -- that every person's conscience might be different in regard to
the "realness" of such "idols". He says (paraphrasing) that we know (or should
know) that such objects are not gods at all; in other words, such a "god" is,
really, "no god" -- it's just a lifeless material thing, with no mystical
powers, and no evil connotations... unless we endow it with such powers! But for
those who cannot help themselves, but view such an image as truly an idol, or
have felt or seen its "power" in their lives or the lives of others, then...
yes, it's a "god" or an "idol"... and such scruples ought to be respected by
other, "stronger" brethren.
So, it seems that even what we might at first glance agree is,
very definitely, an "idol"... may NOT be an "idol" either -- unless we make it
I subscribe to BAR magazine (Biblical Archaeology Review). A
few years ago, BAR ran advertisements for replicas of certain "gods" and
"goddesses" -- little images of various statues and figures that had been
unearthed by archaeologists in and around the Holy Land, accompanied by
descriptions and explanations of their Biblical significance. It was quite
interesting to see the sorts of reactions these ads produced: some folks were
vehemently angry because BAR was promoting "idolatry"; there were cancellations
of subscriptions, and charges of idolatry and blasphemy if even a picture of
such images were printed in the magazine, whilst to many others it was plainly a
matter of no consequence.
Were such little images truly "idols"? Or not?
Reading 2 - Psa 73:25
"Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire
besides you" (Psa 73:25).
"Have an intimate relationship with God. You will not then
need anyone else. Other relationships and companionships -- based on, and in
harmony with, that primary one -- are desirable and helpful and enjoyable, but
not essential. This one relationship is vital and indispensable. All others are
secondary, and, if necessary, dispensable" (GVG).
Reading 3 - Mark 6
Contrast the two "feasts" of Mark 6: Herod's birthday party
(vv 14-29) and Christ's miraculous feeding of the five thousand (vv 30-44).
Herod's feast was sumptuous; Christ's was frugal.
Herod's guests were captains and rulers; Christ's were the
At Herod's feast the "strange woman" -- the "goddess of
pleasure" -- flaunted herself; at Christ's meal the "bride" partook with her
Herod served a feast of death; Christ, the bread of life.
At Herod's feast a righteous man was slain on a whim; while
Christ's feast typified the death of the perfect man -- ordained from the
foundation of the world to lay down his life for his friends.