Friday, June 30, 2023

The Gods

You might, by this point, be wanting to raise an objection to some of the conversation that we've had this week. That objection would be: the people of Jericho weren't the people of the Lord. (We could say they weren't "Christians," but neither was Israel at that point, so let's just be honest about where we are.) So all this stuff about them believing for forty's a little weird, isn't it?

Remember that the touchpoint for this whole conversation was the fact that God acted on behalf of His people and the whole world heard about it. The non-God people heard about it. The non-God people not only heard about it, but they believed it. 

Then, we get to "they believed it for forty years." 

That's the point that I don't want to get lost in the rest of this discussion. I want us to remember that when God acts on behalf of His people, the whole world - even the world that doesn't believe in Him - hears about it, and they tremble. Point blank. That's it. Don't forget that. 

But I think it's also worth talking about the way that Jericho believed because this is really important for us in a culture that doesn't believe much in our God. 

The people of Jericho, just like all of the peoples we encounter in Scripture, were not godless, even though they were God-less. They had their gods. They had all kinds of gods. All of the non-God peoples in the Bible had all kinds of gods that they worshiped. The Bible tells us about some of them, especially in the places where Israel got sucked into worshiping them, too. 

That means that believing in one more god (in this case, God) wasn't really a foreign idea to them. It didn't strike them as odd. It wasn't a betrayal of who they were or the other gods they worshiped. It just...was. The Lord was the God of Israel the way that their gods were the gods of them, and it wasn't a stretch for them to believe that their God was acting on their behalf and to become worried about Him. 

It's the same way that Paul stood in the Areopagus and talked to the people of the Roman Empire about their "unknown god." He wasn't introducing an entirely new idea to them; he was just adding to the knowledge of gods that they already had. 

This is important because everyone has a god. A lot of persons have a lot of gods. We are created to worship, and worship, we will, even if what we're worshiping is not the Lord. And as much as the culture around us wants to be antagonistic to our God and pretend that they are godless, they aren't. Our world has their gods just like everyone else across all time has had their gods. 

They may not make graven images, but they don't have to; most of our world carries their gods around in their pockets. They may not put them on the mantle and proudly display them, but again, they don't have to; in fact, it's hard to engage with your god if he's on the mantle. They may not go to worship services, but they worship all the time. There may be no formal religious ritual around it, but it doesn't take much looking to see that, actually, that's there, too. Our culture worships all kinds of things; even the most devout "atheist" among us has his gods. 

This is both good news and bad news. It's bad news because it reminds us that we are strangers in a foreign land. But it's good news because it means that the concept of our God isn't as foreign to the world as the world claims it is. They have a structural, foundational knowledge for believing in our God. They have a framework for what it means to be a worshiper, even if they can't really articulate that. They have the capacity to believe when they hear rumors. 

And that's very good news. 

Because they will hear rumors. 

As we said at the very beginning of all of this, when God acts on behalf of His people, the world just can't help but hear about it.  

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