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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Preemptive Strike

Yesterday my first issue came to me. I had let it run out a few years back and recently decided to subscribe once again. I was not disappointed with my choice, because just a few pages into the January/February 2012 Issue, was a short piece that stopped me dead in my tracks, and forced me to think and pray. It was a piece in the “Quodlibet” section, a segment that has short, thought provoking snippets by various authors related to Touchstone Magazine.

The portion that hauled me up short was by Peter J. Leithart, titled “The War on Idols.” As Leithart is rehearsing the well known story of the 10 plagues, he reminds us that the plagues were God’s assault on the Egyptian hierarchy of deities. Then he identifies how the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob poured out some of the earlier plagues not only on the pagan Egyptians, but also on the long-enslaved people of Israel. As Leithart reasons with the “why” of this, he concludes that the cause was because the Israelites were idolaters as well as were their Egyptians masters. Yahweh was toppling the idols of Egypt and Israel.

Then Leithart makes this troubling, insightful observation:

“Every exodus is a war against idols, and every deliverance begins when God breaks the gods we place before him. If you are hoping to be freed from some Egypt, from some slavery, from some power that you can’t overcome on your own, expect the Lord to begin by attacking the idols that you have embraced so closely that you don’t know where you end and they begin. To bring us out of Egypt, he first has to extract the Egypt out of us” (5).
I have run into this numerous times with Christians I have tried to help in overcoming some addiction or crushing sin or dilemma. I have sought to aid them in seeing their real problem is in breaking the 1st Commandment. To help them expose the idol of respectability, the god of prestige, the lord of pleasure, the sovereign rule of “me” that they have set up in the temple-shrine of their heart!

There is a fatherly, loving, preemptive warning in Leithart's point. Reading a piece like this should cause us to realize that, even though for the present we may not think we need an “exodus rescue,” nevertheless we need to stop and reflectively ask, in prayer: “What idols do I have set up? Where have I broken the 1st Commandment? Must I wait until I’m shackled and enslaved and in need of an "exodus rescue” moment before I realize that I have elevated a god before or beside the liberating God of Israel?”

Wouldn’t it be better to stop here, stop now, and clean out the inner sanctuary, before God has to declare a “war on idols” in your life?!”



Larry Long said...

First issue of what came to you?

Larry Long said...

What were you reading?

Mike Philliber said...

It's in the first paragraph. Touchstone Magazine (& thus the link to their web page after my name at the bottom).