From Praying the Names of God Week Eighteen, Day Four
Ish is the Hebrew word for “husband” in Hosea 2:16. The word baal in the Hebrew Scriptures can also be translated “husband” (as well as “lord,” “owner,” or “master”), though it usually refers to the Canaanite fertility god Baal (baal does occur in Hosea 2:16, “master”).
Remarkably, in Isaiah and Jeremiah, this is also used to describe God as the husband of his people Israel. Though we never pray to baal, we do pray to the God who is the ideal husband, the one who provides for and protects his people and who refuses to divorce us no matter how unfaithful we may be. In the New Testament Jesus is presented as the bridegroom and the church as his bride.
“In that day,” declares the LORD,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.’. . .
I will betroth you to me forever;
I will betroth you in righteousness and justice,
in love and compassion.
I will betroth you in faithfulness,
and you will acknowledge the LORD.” (Hosea 2:16, 19-20)
PRAYING THE NAME
You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:4-5)
Reflect On: Exodus 20:4-5
Praise God: Because he alone can satisfy us.
Offer Thanks: That God has not left you in the dark but has revealed himself to you.
Confess: Any attachment to things or people that gets in the way of your relationship with God.
Ask God: To free you so that you can worship him in spirit and in truth.
My daughter Katie was horrified when she first heard about idol worship. She was only sixwhen she rushed into the house with the startling news: “Mom, do you know that some people worship cats!” She was incredulous, assuring me that she would never worship our cat. Of course I was relieved, aware as I am that she has Pipi on a pedestal, sure that she is the best cat in the world. Still, I couldn’t help wonder what friends and family members might think had she started building little cat altars around the house, heaped with offerings of kitty litter and catnip, and saucers full of goldfish.
I’m not sure where Katie got her information about cat worship, but I am pretty sure she didn’t have a clue about the variety of shapes, sizes, and colors that today’s new and improved idols come in. Had she read the Scripture passage above, she might simply have considered idol worship an archaic problem with little relevance today.
But the truth is idolatry is still a big problem, even in America, even in the twenty-first century. Think about those svelte bodies that parade themselves in front of you on television or at the theater. Or the dream house beckoning from the magazine on your coffee table. Or the exotic vacation or the corner office or the fat paycheck or the perfect retirement home. Whatever it is—even good things, even blessings—can seduce us so that we end up spending ourselves on them rather than on God.
The poet William Cowper penned a verse in the eighteenth century that would make a fitting prayer for us today:
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be,
Help me to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
To gauge your own susceptibility to idols, take this week—all seven days of it—and scrutinize how you spend three precious resources: your time, your talents, and your money. If you are brave, you might even try drawing a pie chart to gauge what portion of each day’s waking hours you spend thinking about God and the things he cares about. If you find that you’re spending precious little on God and that you’ve formed any idolatrous attachments, take time to seek him, begging his forgiveness and asking him to free you. As you rededicate your life to God, remember that you will be calling down his blessing, not just on yourself and your children, but on a thousand generations yet to come.
Meet your spiritual ancestors as they really were: Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them.