Aloha Friday Message – August 2, 2019 – The National Idol

1931AFC080219 – The National Idol

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     Ecclesiastes 1:2Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).

Luke 12:15 15 And he said to them, “Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.”

Aloha nui loa, ʻŌmea! I will be using some blunt statements in this post, more candid than usual, so I ask you to consider them from the vantage-point of an old man who is astonished and appalled by circumstances developing around the World. I’d like to start off with three questions:

  1. What is an idol?
  2. How can I get one?
  3. What does it do?
  • What is an idol? In the most basic sense, an idol is an image, or something set up as an image. It could be a carved piece of wood, or cast metal, or sculpted stone. The idea is that it is an image to which are attributed divine powers. It is not a representation of a deity per se, it is a deity, a worship cult image with physical form. The image itself is endowed with supernatural traits and sovereignty which requires reverential worship from human persons. In the Old Testament, it is a false god, and in modern times it is someone or something that has a higher degree of respect and oblation than is given to Almighty God – Jehovah.
  • How can I get one? Just start out with any inanimate material and transform it in some way into an image. In some cases – pantheism for example – the only transformation required is ascribing supernatural powers to an object like a rock or a stick or an animal or even a natural phenomenon such as wind or lightning or sunlight. Literally anything will do as long as you believe it has divine power which you can manipulate through ingratiation to the deity you have created. It can even be a mythological, nonexistent, irrational creation by a shaman – someone who has traits that make them accessible to a deity’s influence – and is then promulgated among a given population.
  • What does it do? Absolutely nothing. Nonetheless earthlings have for eons created epoch civilizations and attending religions out of nothing but fantasies as an attempt to explain what cannot be explained with common experience. For example, an earthling might believe that the rays of the sun reach into the works of a clock and move the gears and hands to indicate the time. Idols can be used to “unite” a community, or to terrify an enemy, or even to indulge the most sinister of human manipulations, but they cannot cause these sorts of changes.

Believing that an object can be manipulated by ceremonies, incantations, or offerings is called idolatry. The word idolatry comes from the Greek word εἰδωλολατρία (eidololatria) {i-do-lol-at-ri’-ah} which itself is a compound of two words: εἴδωλον (eidolon) {i’-do-lon} “image”) and λατρεία latreia  (“worship”, related to λάτρις (latris) {la-trees’}. It refers to the worship of false gods, biblically of the ceremonial gift-offerings and sacrifices made in honor of false gods. It also carries the connotation of avarice, as a worship of Mammon – wealth – and in the plural, the sinfulness springing from idolatry and particular to it. Idols or sets of idols have formed the basis of countless “civilized cultures,” groups of people that have a common language, a common homeland, and a common government that can be considered “theocentric” in that the importance and significance of all human action are functions associated with service to a deity or favor from a deity. Baʻal, for example, as Melqart, was worshipped as “King of the City” whom Elijah called out in 1 Kings 18:20-40. He asked all 450 of them to pick out 2 bulls, choose one and slaughter it then lay the pieces on their altar for Baʻal, but not to light the altar. Elijah would take the other one and sacrifice it to Jehovah as his God required. Whichever God answered by fire would be acknowledges as the True God. At one point, after hours of “praying,” he told them (v. 27) “Cry aloud! Surely he is a god; either he is meditating, or he has wandered away, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” NOTHING HAPPENED. Then Elijah rebuilt the altar the people had destroyed, dug a trench around it, prepared the sacrifice, had the whole thing drenched three times, and then he prayed. God answered in fire, burning up Elijah’s sacrifice, the sacrifice for Baʻal and “Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and even licked up the water that was in the trench.” (v. 38). Idols are impotent and idle, but God is diligently powerful.

In our first Key Verse Qoheleth (the word means teacher or preacher and the writings are ascribed to Solomon) says that everything is vanity. The Hebrew word is הֲבֵ֤ל (hebel) {heh’bel} literally meaning a vapor or a breath – something that is worthless, futile, fruitless, ineffectual, utterly meaningless, something so insubstantial that it is blown off by a slight breeze, a puff of air. This is an apt description of the least productive human activity, the creating of an idol. Qoheleth describes all human endeavors as an absurdity (vanity). After exploring every sort of human endeavor, successful or disastrous, he concludes in Ecclesiastes 12:13 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. It is God who is to be reverenced. We cannot prosper through the work of our hands but only of HIS hands. The idols we make cannot preserve us from Death – but El Shaddai-Olam CAN!!

You doubtless know the worldwide television franchise phenomenon IDOL as one of the most successful entertainment formats, customized in nearly 50 regions worldwide, and broadcast to some 150 countries. The idea that a human being has such incredible performance skills the s/he will be “idolized” – made famous and desirable across many cultures and societies – is a tremendously successful endeavor netting billions of dollars and even more billions of viewers. Are these people worshiped as deities? Not exactly, but some people will sacrifice just about anything to watch them perform. More likely candidates for human idols are found in the worlds of professional sports. Every weekend tens of millions of televisions – the new Family Altar for our idols – are tuned to sports broadcasts as viewers abstain from anything that might be remotely be similar to worshipping God. In America, for example, for a large part of the year, football and football players are given more attention than the one hour usually reserved for a church service – and that’s even with the option of making a digital recording of the event to watch later! In this case, football is the god, the players are its “clergy,” and it’s altar for worship is “the tube.” This is most definitely “vanity of vanities.” It is a form of greed – self-gratification to the point of avarice – that takes over one’s inclinations to pursue the divine. Perhaps most fans would not say that they expect a petition to a football player to result in a cure for disease, but it’s pretty darn close to that sometimes. The point is – whether or not these humans are credited with divine powers – they effectively replace the time, intentionality, and purpose of going to church to worship the real God. They have become more important aspects of the fans’ lives than The Creator. That leads us back to the title for this week: The National Idol.

We are in such a tailspin about deciding what and who is right – not just in America, either. Around the world, there is an egocentrism about what gets done, who does it, and who benefits from it. What I am trying to get at is that the name of the National Idol is “ME.” We see so many instances in the day-to-day unfolding of events where what really matters to billions of individuals is WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? “ME” is bored with church because “THEY” always same the same hymns – Joy To The World and Christ the Lord is Ris’n Today. “ME” is bored at school because “THEY” don’t cover anything that’s really relevant to “ME.” “ME” is offended by “YOU” because “YOU” are not identifying “ME” the way I self-identify. “ME” must get what “ME” wants or else “ME” will cry, or lash out in violence, or even take steps to end the miserable existence of “ME.” “ME” posts hundreds of pictures of “ME” eating, “ME” pouting, “ME” looking cool, “ME” declaring “ME” powerful. “ME” is more important than anyone, anything, any place, or any time, and if you try to go against “ME,” “ME” will hate you because haters hate. Sometimes “ME” finds ways to deliberately push “YOUR” buttons so “ME” can mock “YOU” or “THEM” because “THEY” are oppressing “US!”

When we think of idols, we might think of The Golden Calf, or Moloch, or Athena. We might think that such idols are “out of style” today; not so! There is a bitter controversy here in Hawaiʻi about building a gigantic telescope on Mauna Kea, and the purported basis of that conflict is that it desecrates the sacred place where Hawaiʻian gods are worshipped (by a very, very small number of “native Hawaiʻian persons.”) Here is one of them. (PLEASE USE THESE TWO LINKS TO SEE THE IMAGE.) He is a god of forest and rain, of the raising of animals and crops, fishing in abundance, war, and sorcery. The spokesperson for the organizers of the confrontation – the Hawaiʻi Unity and Liberation Institute (HULI and that just happens to be the Hawaiʻian word for turn, change, reverse) – is sometimes seen wearing a T-shirt within large letters on the front. The “religion” they claim they should be allowed to practice on that mountain is pagan, pantheistic, animistic, with dozens of “named” gods – each with their own image/idol – and hundreds of personal deities which includes ancestor worship of guardian spirits called ʻaumakua. The “protectors of Mauna Kea” make the claim that the telescopes and astronomers there desecrate “their holy mountain.” The source of the desecration is not science, but idolatry. Remember, an idol is not just a representation of a deific (and demonic) power; it is the vector and conduit of that power.

When we consider GREED – Avarice or Cupidity – as one of the 7 Deadly sins (See the 2016 Lenten Series, especially 1612AFC031816 for information on GREED as one of the 7 Deadly Sins) we usually think about the acquisition of many possessions, material things for material people in a material world. Avarice is characterized as pleasing oneself with material acquisitions and possessions instead of pleasing God. In my estimation, idolatry is another form of greed – spiritual greed – that makes me think something material (an idol) can get me whatever I want in the World because “ME” is in charge of it and it has to do what “ME” wants. As Jesus said, “… one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” especially not the possession of godlike powers attributed to a lump of word or stone or a slab of metal.

The National Idol called “ME” has claimed too much of what belongs to God. And which Nation worships “ME?” The Nation of “I,” the nation founded by Satan who said,  “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon;14 I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.” Satan constantly tempts us to worship “ME.” That is idolatry which is a stubbornness that refuses to make God the Lord of our lives: 1 Samuel 15:23a23 for rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). Psalm 135:15-18 15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 16 They have mouths, but they do not speak; they have eyes, but they do not see; 17 they have ears, but they do not hear, and there is no breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them and all who trust them shall become like them. Matthew 4:9 and [Satan] said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship ME.”

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture passages are from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Biblical languages inserts from Bible Hub (Bible Hub: Search, Read, Study the Bible in Many Languages) Visit at http://biblehub.com

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Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

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About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

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