January 9, 2008 You shall not make for yourself an image Deuteronomy 5:8
The Idolatry of the Future
Image – It’s all connected. Let me show you how. Idolatry is the substitution of devotion to something other than God. Keep that in mind as we look at a story from the life of Moses. In Exodus 33:23, God fulfills Moses’ request to see His glory by passing before Moses and allowing Moses to see et-achorai*, usually translated “back part.” But when we examine the word, we find that it is derived from the same root (achor) that give rise to the word acharyith, the Hebrew word for the future (remember that man in the row boat?). It is a word about direction, not body parts. So, God does not show Moses His back. He actually shows Moses the direction where He has been. In other words, when God’s glory passes by, Moses is allowed to see where God has already been. From the human perspective, God’s glory is seen after the fact.
This is critically important, because we live in a Greek-oriented world where we are encouraged to look to the future for our security, meaning and significance. We live under the idolatry of evolution, thinking that the best is yet to come, that the world is headed toward advancement and that God has yet to finish His plan before His work is complete. We worship the future in every concern about tomorrow. The world pushes us to ask what we will become, what tomorrow will be like and where we are going. None of this is the direction that God wants us to incorporate into our being.
Moses sees God in the past. He sees where God has already been. In exactly the same way, God asks us to look at the past to see who we really are and who He is, and to worship Him on that basis. In the Hebrew world, God created everything good. It was not incomplete, waiting for some future date to be finished. It was done, finished and good at the beginning. If you want to see what being human is supposed to be like, you don’t have to peer into the next century. You have to look back to Adam and the original creation. We started out perfect. We are not moving toward perfection. We are moving toward redemption and restoration, toward recovering what we once were. Social evolution suggests that the past has nothing of value because it has been eclipsed by today and tomorrow. We have bought the lie. We think that our real meaning lies ahead of us in time. But God wants us to get re-directed and see that who we are has been established in Creation and in the resurrection of Jesus. God has already given us our identity. The problem is that we are looking the wrong way.
Please notice that if your true identity lies in the future, it will depend on you. However, if you are who you are because God has already done His work in the past, then there is nothing for you to earn in the future to make you complete. Imagine how important this is the next time you ask a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
You think that you are not an idol worshipper? Look again! Look at all those things in your life that point you toward a future fulfillment, a future significance, a future destiny. Ask yourself how many of your actions are dictated, dedicated and directed by future issues. Then read the history of Israel. Look where God has already been and recognize that who you are and what you are is settled in His past actions, not your future plans. Stop worshipping what the world tells you are going to be and start living according to the God Who has directed all that has come to be.
When we cut ourselves off from the history of God’s actions in the past, we are like men trying to walk with one leg. There is going to be a lot of falling and stumbling. Is that how you want to get through life?
(*Notes on pronunciation: Hebrew has a guttural sound like the German “ach”. This is usually spelled as a “k” or a “ch” or a “c“. However, there is a lot of variation in Hebrew phonetics, so some conventions need to be adopted. Just remember that no matter what the spelling, the phonetic is that “ach” guttural.)