Here Are Your Gods
By Christopher J.H. Wright (IVP)
Christopher J.H. Wright astutely observes that the idols God warned his people against in the Old Testament were mere human constructs, but that did not keep them from having power over those who worshipped them. Furthermore, most of the idols condemned in Scripture were national gods—the false deities of the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Assyrians and the Babylonians. They were tempting because the nations that oppressed Israel cited those false gods as the source of their strength and security, and surely enough, those nations exercised enough power to make the lives of God’s people miserable. However, in due time, each of those nations fell, and those false gods never failed to fail. “That’s the only thing about a false god you can depend on,” Wright concludes. “It will let you down in the end.”
After that overview of idolatry in the Old Testament, Wright turns to the present. Human nature being what it is, people still look to false gods for security—and that particularly is true when it comes to national idolatry. Nationalism, deification of economic systems and veneration of military might are human constructs—just as surely as idols carved from wood or stone—and they have tremendous power over those who grant allegiance to them. Wright pointedly compares the idolization of sex and money in Western society with the worship of Baal in ancient Canaan, and he rightly identifies shameless narcissism as self-worship.
In this election season, Wright provides a much-needed word of warning against national idolatry, along with a corrective call to radically God-centered living. Ultimately, he reminds us we are to be people “shaped by the word of God, sharing in the mission of God, and living under the kingdom of God.” May it be so.
Ken Camp, managing editor