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We Become What We Worship, Chapter 5

17 Apr

Chapter 6 bridges the gap between idolatry in the Old and New Testaments. But the odd thing about the gospels is that they don’t talk about idolatry! At least not overtly. This lack of “idol talk” might lead one to believe that idolatry was no longer a problem. Perhaps the Babylonian Exile cured Israel of her idolatry?!

Beale doesn’t buy that argument. Israel was not cured of her idolatry. She simply exchanged her old idols for some new ones.

“Though words for idol or false god appear in the Gospels, this does not mean that there is no concept of idolatry there. Rather, though Israel’s reliance on idols in Jesus’ day did not take the form of bowing down to images, nevertheless, they did put their trust in something else besides  God, bringing judgment  on themselves, as it had come on earlier generations of Israel. Consequently, they were still idol worshipers in essence, though the outward form of it was expressed differently.” (p. 162)

Re-Formed Idolatry

Even though you never hear Jesus rebuking the Pharisees for bowing before a golden calf or for offering their children to Molech, he does in fact rebuke them for their re-formed idolatry. And as should be expected Beale connects the dots, showing how Jesus appeals to the foundational OT idolatry text of Isaiah 6 in nearly all of his rebukes against the religious leaders.

“There is reason to believe that Israel in Jesus’ time was, indeed, guilty of idol worship….Israel of Jesus’ day was idolatrous because it had worshiped tradition in place of God and his living Word, and this is why Jesus applies the idol text of Isaiah 6:9-10 in Matthew 13 to the Jews of his generation. New forms of idolatry were developing in Jesus’ time. Though Israel said, “We will never commit idolatry like our forefathers or like the nations,” they committed a differen and perhaps new form of idol worship….Israel’s predominant problem was replacing trust  in Jesus with worship of human-made tradition.” (p. 166)

Traditional Idolatry

In the OT Israel was described as “far from God” when they were worshiping idols and not God (Isaiah 29:13; Jeremiah 2:5). Jesus says the same of the Israel of his day when he calls to task for their overvaluing of tradition and their undervaluing of God’s Word (Mark 7:6-13).

“Therefore, the words which Jesus is quoting from Isaiah 29 concern the sin of idol worship in their originial Isaianic context. Mark 7:8 affirms that to neglect the “commandment of God” and hold to “the tradition of men” is to revere tradition  over God’s Word and thus to commit idolatry.” (p. 168)

What was the result of their idolatry? Blindness. Spiritual blindness. Matthew 15:14 records Jesus’ pronouncement of God’s judgment on tradition-worshiping Pharisees: “Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” The blindness of the Pharisees was a continuation of Jesus’ application of Isaiah’s prophecy in 6:9-10 and 29:13–idolaters  will be blinded, incapable of seeing God’s truth as trustworthy because they are trusting in their idol instead.

Reflect True Glory

“Israel of Jesus day was becoming spiritually dead as the human-made, stale, empty tradition to which they had committed themselves” (p. 176). This is why Jesus urged the crowds and taught the disciples to build their lives on his word, on God’s Word instead of man-made, idolatrous tradition (Matthew 7:24-27). To do this is to reflect true glory, God’s glory.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works [and how they reflect your Father’s light], and glorify your Father who is in heaven [whose image you reflect].” (Matthew 5:16)

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