Sometimes when I’m reading my Bible, a particular word will stand out. A verse I recently studied made me want to dig in and get a better understanding of the word “strange.”
As I looked at the definition, one synonym that came up was “foreign.” Last week on our Western Caribbean cruise, my family and I were in the foreign countries of Honduras and Mexico.
Almost everyone we encountered spoke English, but I was reminded of how intimidating it must be to enter a country where you can’t easily communicate with people. That would have to be frustrating and even scary!
Psalm 81:9 is the verse where the word “strange” caught my attention. God is talking to Israel, and He says,
“There shall no strange god be in thee: neither shalt thou worship any strange god.”
Sounds like a repeat of one of the ten commandments, doesn’t it?
In this case, strange means alien or false. God is referring to those gods who were worshiped by foreign nations.
God is telling the Israelites to display absolute fidelity to Jehovah. And while we may not directly be part of that group, I believe God still calls us to worship and serve Himself only.
While we likely don’t bow before a carved statue, I think we’d all agree that there are other gods that can take precedence in our lives. The typical ones we think of might be money, material possessions, fame, and power.
And while I’m certainly prone to worshiping those, I came up with a list of other gods that I think I’m more tempted by on a regular basis. See if any of these might be present in your life.
1. The god of what other people think
I started off with one that can be so easily become part of my thought process! How we or our families are perceived by others can sometimes move us in a direction we shouldn’t go.
On the other hand, we can even choose to do “good” things with a wrong motive. Maybe we serve in a particular ministry at church so that people will see us and think we’re a good Christian.
God knows our hearts, and our calling is to do what He leads us to do in a way that brings honor and glory to Him. We can fall into worshiping another “god” when we look to people for our approval and fulfillment rather than to God.
“The greatest prison people live in is the fear of what other people think.” ~David Icke
2. The god of trusting in myself
This can happen in good times or in difficult ones. We can think that we’re capable of handling whatever comes. And when we’re successful, we decide to just rely on ourselves to keep getting the job done.
But looking to God and seeking His strength and wisdom is the only way to accomplish anything.
“I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” ~John 15:5
3. The god of my own desires
If you read a few verses further in Psalm 89, you’ll see that verse 12 says, “So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked in their own counsels.”
God goes on to detail the blessings He would have given the Israelites if they had just listened to Him and followed His commands. When we seek to align our desires with His, rather than plunge ahead on our own, we will be open to receiving those blessings He has in store for us.
This is also a good reminder to always seek God’s desires rather than insist on our own way. Psalm 106:15, also referring to the Israelites, says that God “…gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” We don’t want to pay that cost to get our own way.
4. The god of apathy
When I’m not interested in growing in my spiritual walk or unconcerned about the needs of others, this god might be present in my life.
You probably know the passage in Revelation 3 where God tells the church of Laodicea that because they are lukewarm in their works for Him, He will spit them out of His mouth. I know none of us want to be classified that way!
I love Paul’s encouragement in 1 Corinthians 9:24. “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.” Stay connected to God through His Word and prayer, and be enthusiastic about serving Him.
5. The god of self-righteousness
I suppose this could be called good ol’ fashioned pride. I find myself worshiping this god way too often. The Bible has plenty of verses condemning pride, but James 4:6 is one I try to remember.
“…Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.“
I don’t want God to resist me, so I have to continually remove the god of self-righteousness from my life, and see myself as one who’s been saved by grace and needs more of His grace every single day.
Do you worship any of these gods? I’m sure there are other gods in our lives that can draw us away from a full-focused worship of our Savior. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and insight to help us keep strange gods out of our lives.
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