Monday, July 03, 2006

"Idols Can't Answer Our Prayers!"

My dear four year old daughter (I do love saying that!) declared this truth to me last night during family prayers.

We've been working on learning about the ten commandments for the past couple of weeks. It just so happens, in a beautiful bit of unplanned (by us) synchronicity, our family Bible reading during our evening candle-lighting has been focused on the prophets. For several nights in a row we were reading stories about the prophet Elijah and how he told -- and showed! -- bad king Ahab and the prophets of Baal that there is only one true God. Their idols, the little gods they prayed to, couldn't hear them or answer their prayers.

The Boop has really soaked this in, and keeps connecting it to the first two commandments. I think we drew that connection for her originally, but she keeps coming back to it. "The people broke the first two commandments," she keeps saying.

But it was last night that I could tell she was really "getting it." Because when she suddenly crowed out "idols can't answer our prayers!" she actually said it with a chortle and added something giggly along the lines of "they can't hear us!" And I had to laugh along with her. I must add that the laughter felt very biblical. Elijah himself, along with the prophet Isaiah, sees the absurdity of attributing "real" attributes to unreal "gods" made by human hands. They don't have hands or eyes or ears. So when we try to get them to meet our needs, they simply can't. Maybe they went out for a stroll or are taking a nap, Elijah suggests sarcastically, and it's a bit of dark humour, but it's humour nonetheless. No wonder my daughter got the giggles!

Of course it's humour within the context of God's tremendous compassion for his people -- the people of Elijah's day as well as our own -- who persist in making idols, who keep thinking that they (we) can receive guidance, love, hope, fulfilmment, help, from things or people that shouldn't have God's place in our lives. The reason Elijah and Amos and Jeremiah and Isaiah and others kept bellowing, whispering, and singing God's reality into the ears of bad kings and confused false prophets and clueless sinners was because God longed for them to know Him -- know Him as the real and living God who alone made them and who made them for himself, not for some unreal substitute.

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