Title Post: Rethinking Idolatry
I am summarizing and bringing our study to a close by making three points that seek to address the question, What does the feast of Pentecost—biblically understood—mean to you and me today? I suggest that we must rethink,
the whole paradigm of salvation
the significance of the Torah
the issue of idolatry in our lives
3. We must rethink the issue of idolatry in our lives
Many reflections upon and interpretations of the golden calf incident are offered in Jewish thought. These two are particularly pertinent to identifying the presence of idolatry in our lives.
First, Israel wanted to go back to Egypt because of the insecurity of freedom (to coin a phrase from A.J. Heschel). Slavery was what they knew. We could say it this way; it was far easier to get Israel out of Egypt than to get Egypt out of Israel. Is this not true of us as well?
In what ways have we reverted back to the world?
Second, what Aaron gave shape to and what Israel followed was not an outright rejection of Yahweh.
They created another symbol for Yahweh because Moses, their main symbol, was gone and seemingly lost. They made the golden calf as a kind of pedestal for God, an idea common in the surrounding pagan cultures. Interestingly, it is an idea even found in the Torah. Do you know what I am talking about? That's right, the place between the cherubim atop the ark of the covenant is called the mercy seat. It is, so to speak,the place where Yahweh sits.
Some believe that Aaron and the children of Israel created the calf as a pedestal upon which Yahweh could stand. I think this is profound because it tends to be the case with us. Typically, when we don't live fully up to our calling and take on the Word of God as we should, we do not reject God. We just recast him in a different mold. We take the world's system and images and marry them to God.
If you stop worshipping God, you begin worshipping gods. And make no mistake about it, we become conformed to what we worship.
That is, in large part, what has happened to the church in America today and what I believe will soon result in judgment. As a church, we have become politically correct, shaped by the very forces against whom we are supposed to stand. We are to be witnesses and judges; instead, we have become friends of the secular, secularizing world. We have fallen to the point of the church finding ways of theologically putting the stamp of approval on perverse expressions of sexuality.
We must purge ourselves of idolatry. We must stand as witnesses to the fact that the God of Israel is God alone and that he has saved us from Egypt to bring us to Sinai, where he teaches us how to live. Passover is his salvation from evil and death; Pentecost is his way of goodness and life.
We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus the Messiah. He is the true God and eternal life.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
- 1 John 5:18-21
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
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