The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 43


The lessons we have learnt from Moses’ intercessory prayer for the people of Israel are as follows:

  • The prayer – the one who prays must be humble.
  • God – the One whom we direct our prayers is holy and righteous.
  • God acts in righteous judgement and gracious salvation.

In response to Moses’ intercession, the LORD asked Moses to make a bronze serpent, and all who looked on it would be saved. What happened to the bronze serpent after this event? It became an idol. We read in the reign of King Hezekiah that “he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that David his father did. He removed the high paces, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brazen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:3-4).

From the time of the Exodus in the 15th reign around 700 B.C. was about 800 years. This is a long time – longer than from the Reformation till now. The people carried about the brazen serpent for 800 years and lost sight of what it was for. It was given by God for deliverance from death. This indicates God’s grace. However, they abused it and it became their idol when they tore it out of context and misused it beyond its intended purpose.

We can potentially abuse any of God’s answers to our prayers and make it an idol. Any of God’s blessings can be turned into idols if we forget God and why He gave them. We can make idols of things that God has given to us for our good.

Church-going can become an idol if we do it merely out of habit, going through the motions without any spiritual significance in our lives. Or we go to church without humble repentance or a desire to draw near to Him. Or we see church-going as a one-day in a week activity with no desire to draw closer to God in the other six days of the week.

The Jews were guilty of this. The LORD said to them, “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; And I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of the goats. When ye come to appear before me, Who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; The new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: They are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them” (Isa 1:11-14)

Daily personal devotion can be an idol if it is done without heart mediation. Sadly some regard it like a “magic spell” working to bless oneself, acting as if it works it charms once it is done, but neither thinking of God through the day nor have one’s thoughts and behaviours should be shaped by His word.

Prayers can be an idol if our prayers are nothing but words rolling of our tongues without thought or by rote. Unless our thoughts are on the truths of God and our heart is centred on the Lord Jesus Christ and His work, we can even make idols of our prayers. That is why the Lord Jesus spoke out against vain repetitions (Matt 6:7) and chanting. The Christin faith is not mindless but must be thoughtfully centred on God and His word.

Doctrines can be an idol because there are some who worship doctrine. Doctrine as revealed in the Bible teaches us about God. Yet some have taken it too far. Some have taken the doctrine of the preservation of Scripture to the extent they claim that salvation is in believing that one version of the Bible is perfect. The Sacraments – water baptism and the Lord’s Supper – are commanded by God, but they can be abused if the one undergoing the baptism or participating in the Lord’s Supper does so in manner it was not intended. That is why Pastor continually reminds us of the reason and context for the Lord’s Supper being instituted. Abuse of it and believing it saves make the sacraments idols too.

Sunday School / Fellowship / Bible Study Groups can be idols if the role and purpose of the ministries run counter to the direction of the church. The role of the Sunday school is to make disciples to serve and participate in the ministries of the Church. In the course of ministry, if a department chooses to implement its own programme at the higher aim of the church, it could be making an idol of one’s own ministry/program. The aim of the church is to glorify God, edify the saints and evangelise the lost in that order, and the ministries of the church help fulfil the role of the church.

We guard against this by being humble. Turn to God’s word. Draw out godly principles. Listen to godly advice of the leaders God had given. Be humble to consider the counsel of others who are not novices in ministry themselves. This is how the community of believers discovers God’s will together. By obeying God’s word, listening to the Holy spirit’s promptings, checking our convictions, praying together and seeking godly counsel of fellow believers especially the more mature. Thus, the church discovers God’s will and grows closer, and the ministries go forth. Augustine said the key to interpreting the Bible is mirror our approach to prayer. The way we come alive in the Spirit – in a humble cry to God – must shape the way we continue to pray and live for God. In fact, we must become more and more humble, to be what God would like us to be (John 3:30). It is inconceivable that God requires us to come to Him in humble faith as we begin our spiritual life, and then go on to live by wilful self-reliance and sight, ignoring His ordained means. The spiritual truths of the Bible are true to us because God is true and we are spiritual beings made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Loving in Christ,
Rev Issac Ong
Calvary B-P Church, Weekly 20 Oct 2019

Leave a Reply