Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Why Idolatry Is Tempting

I am reading a version of the Bible about which I've read good things: The New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). It started as a desire to read the Apocrypha, which meant I had to get a new Bible, since The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't include the Apocrypha in its printing of the King James Version. Since I had to get a new Bible, I figured I'd get one that had good reviews from scholarly members of my church. Thus, the NRSV.

How's it going so far? Well, I've tried several times to read the Bible straight through, always with the KJV, and I've always given up in Numbers. This time, though, I am in 1 Samuel and doing fine.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I read Deuteronomy 4:15-19:

Since you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire, take care and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure--the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And when you look up to the heavens and see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, do not be led astray and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples everywhere under heaven.

I was intrigued by how Moses leads with the word "since;" because they do not see God, they are tempted to idolatry. It made me think about the Spencer W. Kimball talk from 1976, "The False Gods We Worship," when he said:

Few men have ever knowingly and deliberately chosen to reject God and his blessings. Rather, we learn from the scriptures that because the exercise of faith has always appeared to be more difficult than relying on things more immediately at hand, carnal man has tended to transfer his trust in God to material things. Therefore, in all ages when men have fallen under the power of Satan and lost the faith, they have put in its place a hope in the “arm of flesh” and in “gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know” (Dan. 5:23)--that is, in idols. This I find to be a dominant theme in the Old Testament. Whatever thing a man sets his heart and his trust in most is his god; and if his god doesn’t also happen to be the true and living God of Israel, that man is laboring in idolatry.

President Kimball points out two specific ways in which modern America has succumbed to idolatry: trusting in our riches and our martial prowess for protection from want and enemies, instead of trusting in God.

I'm more sure than ever that every "deep insight" I have is old news to everyone else, and this is probably no exception. But I was impressed by the inclusion of the word "since" by Moses. He's telling us, "The condition you're in makes this temptation more appealing." It would be worth our attention to make sure we "watch [our]selves closely."

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