Piety and Paganism

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. “The people got up early the next morning to sacrifice burnt offerings and peace offerings. After this, they celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” Exodus 32:6 NLT

As I once again was reading this account, the stark contrast in this verse that is easy to gloss over caught my attention. You have sacrifice and worship followed by “feasting, drinking and pagan revelry.”  Those activities should not be found in the same context.

This is the first record of the Children of Israel committing idolatry. The irony is that as Moses is on the mountain receiving the 10 commandments, commandment #1 “Thou shalt not commit idolatry” is being shattered to pieces in grand fashion. It seems that worshipping false gods leads to corrupt behavior.

Idolatry would be the Achilles heel that would trap God’s people throughout time. The God who cared for them, established commandments that were for their good, who won their battles and provided all that they needed was easily traded for gods of their own making.

When you have your own god, you can live by your own rules. That basically makes you a god. This becomes self-deception to the extreme and allows for what we read in Judges when it says, “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 2:10)

As Paul writes to the Corinthian church, he draws from this point of time in Israel’s history. To those who needed a moral compass in this church in a pagan culture Paul writes, These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave evil things as they did, or worship idols as some of them did.” (1 Corinthians 10:6,7 NLT)

It is just a few verses later that Paul writes,  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV)

Perhaps we can understand that the temptation to make our own gods, to live by our own rules, is as great as any other temptation that is faced. It doesn’t seem to be an enticing offer, but the call to follow Christ is just that. It is a call to surrender to His leadership. We commit to His ways. We say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to Christ. As a result, we live in His presence and blessing and provision.

The good news is that Jesus saves us….from ourselves.