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Fulton County Gospel News

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God on a Shelf

By Lee Moses

The great sin of the nations surrounding the Israelites, which became the demise of the Israelites themselves, was idolatry. How foolish a notion it is, that one would fashion an idol from his own imagination, believing that such a thing could function as God! Consider the words of God recorded by the prophet Isaiah: 

Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? . . . The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house. He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it. Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god….And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree? (44:10,13-19). 

God, though all-knowing, is portrayed almost as confounded as to why any would worship an idol that very obviously was not the one true God. People had made “gods” that they could worship when they desired, and when they were done, they could then place their god upon a shelf (possibly a shelf made from the same tree from which the god was made). Could they not see that there could never be efficacy in a manmade idol?

However, sometimes people blind themselves to the truth when the truth is not equal to what they personally desire. Contrariwise, those who follow the Lord make their own desires conform to His, having an appreciation for all of His magnificent qualities. David, glad for the constantly abiding presence of the Lord, offered the following words of praise to Him: “Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there” (Psalm 139:7-8, ASV). The apostle Paul wrote, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God” (Romans 11:22). Unfortunately, most people do not want a God that is constantly abiding with them. They do not want a God that will judge them, that has a severe side. People want a god that is there for them when they want it, yet unobtrusive when they do not. People like the idea of a god that they can simply put on a shelf when they are done with it. 

gods can be put on a shelf, but God cannot. Who made whom in Whose image? (Genesis 1:26-27). Who rules the universe? (Psalm 89:11; 103:19). Man’s will must conform to God’s. If you notice that the God you serve has been spending a lot of time on the shelf lately—if you disregard His word, speak irreverently at times, set an improper example for others, or miss services of the Lord’s church for convenience’s sake—maybe it isn’t God that you are serving at all, but merely your god that you have created.

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