|Posted on September 7, 2017 at 7:35 AM|
My husband and I were in Sante Fe, New Mexico over Labor Day weekend for an aviation seminar. The downtown area is amazing! It is the oldest city in the United States, founded in 1610 as a Spanish colony. It is also considered quite an arts hotspot. In fact, while we were there, an arts festival was the focus of the weekend. As part of the arts, Will Schuster's Zozobra was the highlight. This 50 ft marionette drama began in 1924. Each year around Labor Day, Zozobra, aka. Mr. Doom & Gloom, is sentenced by the Mayor of the city to be burned. The structure traditionally contains divorce papers, violation tickets, and pretty much anything representing the woes of the residents. This ritual burning was based upon old Yaqi Indian culture and lore with the Zozobra being a representation of Judas during their Holy Week. The Spirit Fire Dancer is the enemy of Zozobra who seals his fate, Zozobra being the symbol of all that was bad for the past year. When we first heard of this festival, it made me wonder if it was one of the local Indian religion festivities. Although it is only based upon Indian folklore, how many people expect the burning of the Zozobra to take away all of their pain from the past year? Have some accepted him and the fire spirit dancer as gods? What other figures are being put on God's throne in people's lives?
Main passage: Acts 19:24-31
Secondary passage: Deuteronomy 4:15-31
Focus Verse: Leviticus 14:44
What's the Deal?
Gods are all around us, offering us the opportunity to worship them instead of God. In the gifts shops of New Mexico, there were plenty of images of folklore we could take home with us for the price on the tag. Whether it was one of the spirits from their ancient culture or ceramic decorated skulls commemorating the dead saints from the Catholic tradition, plenty of images representing the ancient Indian animistic religion abound. Buddah statues adorned the stores of mineral shops that sold crystals and salt lamps. There was no shortage of something religious you could buy and take home with you.
There are plenty of religious images around us now from the New Age movement. Consider all the paraphenalia for yoga, holistic health, and the mindfulness movement. These are even considered mainstream American culture. Consider the Sun Salutation and it's worship of the sun (not the Son). I remember a huge group of yoga practitioners gathering on the rooftop of the gym where I worked a few years ago. They practiced each pose, then worked through the Sun Salutation as a flow through sequence facing the sun. You probably know plenty of people who sell essential oils or are being "helped" by a naturopath. There can be some value to the effects of these oils and health practices, but much of it has been taken too far. There are a lot of $$$ attached to this ancient-gone-modern mainstream religious movement.
In Paul's day, there were a host of gods and goddesses being worshipped in ancient Palestine. Chapter 19 of the book of Acts, we get a glimpse of how influential the worship of Diana (Artemis) was. In fact, a whole industry built up around her temple and worship. The city of Ephesus was a very religiously diverse city, but the Roman rule made Roman pagan worship practices very prominent. As Paul went about preaching the Gospel of Jesus as the Messiah-- the Way, the Truth, and the Life-- it put a dent in the purses of the artisans who crafted statues of Diana. Demetrius, a silversmith, was worried about losing sales which meant he had nothing to take home to his family. He was also concerned that Diana was being disrespected. They started a big uproar in the city marketplace. Demetrius wanted to give a speech defending Diana, while protecting his livelihood, but no one wanted to listen to him because--- he was a Jew! Very interesting. A Jew, one of God's chosen, worshipping and crafting idols. No wonder no one really wanted to listen to him.
In summary of the Deuteronomy 4 passage, God tells Israel to not make images of anything created-- the heavens, the earth, or creatures. He warned them because the temptation coming up on the other side of the river would be strong. Obviously, if Israel was finally taken over by Rome, after several other conquests from other groups, they gave into worshipping the very crafts of their hands. God is a jealous God. He is also the ONLY God, Who created all things. His great love for us means He desires to protect us from the lies Satan throws in our path. In verse 29, God says, "But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul." He wants an exclusive, unpolluted relationship with us.
In Leviticus 11:44, we are called to set ourselves apart as His and His alone. Being holy doesn't make us gods, it makes us God's. "For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy." He goes on to tell us to not defile ourselves, that is to pollute ourselves with idolatry.
Please understand I am not saying people worship Zozobra, but the surrounding culture of the area could support it should someone choose to do so. Standing firm in our faith in Christ puts a dent in the coffers of the holistic movement. When we follow Jesus only, we don't buy Buddha statues, crystals to clear the air of negative energy (could some of them be radioactive? Just a thought), nor do we pay for and participate in yoga classes. Also, we share Jesus with others. When we do that, more people stop shelling out a boatload of cash into an idolatrous industry. When the pain is felt in their cash registers and wallets, a backlash will ensue. Be ready for it.
Recognize idolatry for what it is-- a lure away from God, NOT to Him. Remember, in the wilderness, Satan tried to tempt Jesus to bow down and worship Him then he would give the world to Jesus (Matthew 4:8-10).Test everything against the Truth in the Bible. If it doesn't match up, it doesn't belong in our lives. Certainly, there is plenty about which the Bible is silent. The Bible, God's Word, is NOT silent about idolatry. You will certainly not be popular by setting yourself apart as God's, and His alone. It puts a dent into a multi-million dollar industry devoted to a hodge-podge religious movement accepted hook, line, and sinker in our society.
Our God is a very real God. He has been active in the lives of people since the beginning of time. He doesn't need to sit on a shelf to be worshipped. He is all present, all knowing, and all powerful (omnipotent). You can't contain Him in anything. Having God, the Creator of All Things in your life means giving Him your undivided attention and affection.
Take time in prayer to set yourself apart for God alone. Ask Him to reveal any idolatry in your heart and to help you purge these pollutions from your life. Get rid of anything attached to New Age like crystals, Buddha statues, music that glorifies Zen life, and anything else He reveals to you that has to leave your life. It may even be some of your friends.This could take while, so be patient as you listen for the Holy Spirit's quiet voice telling you what needs to go. Do be careful to understand the character of God from the Bible. He would never ask you to do anything harmful to yourself or other people.
Questions for discussion: What religious paraphenalia do you see around you? Does it bring money into someone's pocket? Are you caught up in the idolatry you see around you? What needs to go in your life?
May God bless you!