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by Philip Gulley
When I first stumbled upon Ecclesiastes, I did not know what it meant to cast away stones and why we should make a time for it. After hours of research, which consisted mostly of eating biscuits and gravy with my friend Jim at the Bob Evans Restaurant, I discovered that casting away stones had to do with tearing down altars erected to idols. In the Bible, idols were those objects that represented devotion to a false god. In those days the sure way to get zapped by God was to worship an idol.
Today we still have idols, and theyre more sophisticated than mere graven images. Modern idols are those things we love more than God, including the obvious temptations like cars, fancy houses, and grand-sounding job titles. But we also idolize certain other things weve been taught to count supreme good things like country and family and ones reputation. If we value anything more than God, it is idolatry, plain and simple. When I care more about the good opinion of others than I do about God, I am an idolater, guilty of honoring self above God.
Idolatry, it pains me to say is a sin. A whopper of a sin, according to the Old Testament. It kept Moses from setting foot in the Promised Land. Idolatry caused the prophets of Baal to be roasted in a fire. The warning against idolatry was number one in the Top Ten Rules: You shall have no other gods before me. In Exodus, God stipulated the punishment for idol worshipers: utter destruction. This was back when God was not the mellow, fair-minded deity weve come to know and love, before all that New Testament talk about grace and forgiveness.
To be accurate, despite our indifference to idolatry, God still gets his dander up about it. God is funny that way He wants to be first in our lives, not for the sake of his ego but for the sake of our joy. Thus, he commands his followers to worship God and God alone. Because all other gods, these little g gods, ultimately disappoint. They are straw gods who wither when life heats up. So it is for our joy that God commands our devotion. God alone is the one who is forever faithful, who never disappoints, whose love knows no end.
In all my years as a pastor I never met a worshiper of Baal, though I ran across idolatry most every day I saw it in others; I saw it in myself. I saw it when people yearned for money over holiness. I saw it when people chose prestige over humility I saw it when people picked religion over relationship. These are the stones we ought to cast aside, the altars we need to tear down. It is easier said than done, this loving God above all else, but it can be done.
I see it in pastors who shun rich pulpits to minister to the poor and broken. I see it in parents who teach their children to esteem the rejected and despised. I see it in persons who yearn not for the approval of their neighbors, but only for Gods Well done, thou good and faithful servant. We can love God above all else. It is possible. I have seen it done. It is simply a matter of knowing which stones to cast away and which altars to tear down.
Remember the grand ol apostle Johns last words in 1 John!
Children, you must stay away from idols. (1 John 5:21)
Author: Philip Gulley
Publication Date: September 27, 2001
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