Idolatry Insults Human Dignity

The Golden Calf, as in Exodus 32:4, by James T...
Seriously, this is embarrassing.

Jer 10:1-15  Hear the word which the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel.  Thus says the LORD, “Do not learn the way of the nations, And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens Although the nations are terrified by them; For the customs of the peoples are delusion; Because it is wood cut from the forest, The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool.  They decorate it with silver and with gold; They fasten it with nails and with hammers So that it will not totter.  Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good.”

There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and great is Your name in might.  Who would not fear You, O King of the nations? Indeed it is Your due! For among all the wise men of the nations And in all their kingdoms, There is none like You.

But they are altogether stupid and foolish In their discipline of delusion–their idol is wood!   Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, And gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman and of the hands of a goldsmith; Violet and purple are their clothing; They are all the work of skilled men.

But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, And the nations cannot endure His indignation.  Thus you shall say to them, “The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”  It is He who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.  When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, And He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, And brings out the wind from His storehouses.

Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge; Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols; For his molten images are deceitful, And there is no breath in them.  They are worthless, a work of mockery; In the time of their punishment they will perish.

Yesterday, I showed that an eternal Hell actually elevates human dignity, because a Hell of finite duration whose only intent is to “rehabilitate” the sinner by torturing them into submission, strips away all human choice and reduces us to objects to be tortured into submission.  Today, let’s look at the question of Mankind’s divested dignity and majesty from a different angle, one that reveals why any sort of idolatry is the most grievous of sins.

When the Holy One created Adam, we are told, He created him in God’s own image and set him as a ruler over the whole earth (Gen. 1:27f).  The rabbis, in their midrashim, conceived of Adam as being as close to Divine himself as any created being could be,

possessed of a glory derived from God Himself.  There was an indescribable brightness in his face, the brightness of the sole of his foot darkened the sun, how much brighter was his face!  The light which he possessed enabled him to see throughout the world. . .  Moreover Adam was worthy of the worship of angels.  They had been the ‘best-men’ at his wedding and had served him at table.  Finally, the wisdom of Adam . . . exceeded that of the angels . . . (W.D. Davies,  Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology (SPCK, 1962), p. 46)

Interestingly, this rabbinic description of Adam is confirmed in a roundabout way by the New Testament.  There we are told that Yeshua the Messiah was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3), that though He was “in the form of God,” He for our sakes,

emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.   Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.   For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Php. 2:7-11)

It was much cooler than this. Also, where the heck is Yeshua's beard? Nazrite vow at the Last Supper, remember?

Some sixty years after the Resurrection, John the Apostle saw the risen Yeshua, and described Him,

Rev 1:13-15  . . . like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.  His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.   His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters.

Thus we are shown that the Word and Sh’khinah (Presence) of the Holy One, which existed as a part of His very nature from eternity, became incarnated into our world as Yeshua of Nazareth, taking on fully the form of Man in our degraded state.  In that form, sharing all of our weaknesses and being in all ways like His brother (Heb. 2:14ff, 4:15), He lived a sinless, unblemished life, submitting His inherent honor and dignity to the ultimate shame and revulsion of the Cross so that we might be released from the guilt and shame of our sins to live with a Holy God.  Having done so, this Son of Man was elevated back to the original glory that Adam possessed before the fall, becoming a new Adam of a new species in effect (1Co. 15:45).

There are hints in Scripture as well as in the traditions of Jews, Christians, and even Muslims, that the Adversary fell because he saw Adam as a threat to his position, or was even commanded to bow to him as a superior being.  Whether or not that is true, it is true that he engineered Adam’s fall in such a way as to impugn the wisdom of the Almighty in giving him dominion over the world.  There are hints in Scripture (e.g., Psa. 104:2, which literally reads, “Who covers with light as with a garment”) that the reason that Adam and Eve did not realize their nakedness is that they were clothed with the light of the Sh’khinah.  When they sinned, the glorious robe of light that Yeshua wears in the Revelation was stripped from them, along with most of the rest of the invested glory of Hashem.

Did the Adversary take control of the world at that time?  Yes (cf. Luke 4:6 and Rev. 13:2), but only indirectly.  He rules only by continuing to deceive Man into worshiping him through a variety of demon-infested idols (1Co. 10:20, Deu. 32:16-17) and in some cases, even directly.

I started off with a quote from Jeremiah that decries the absolutely shameful folly of bowing down and serving something that we ourselves have made.  Idolatry is an insult to the dignity of Man.  So are all forms of occultism, all of which are ultimately about relinquishing one’s own will, whether through self-emptying meditation, intoxicating drugs, or even just implicitly asking something to come along and move the pointer of a Ouija board through your fingertips.

There’s another, more insidious form of idolatry that also insults the dignity of Man, and that is worshiping a mental image of God which is made in our own image.  A god who always likes what we like and hates what we hate, who would vote the way we vote and who at least doesn’t really mind our sins.  A god who encourages us to stay in our degraded state, not to rise again to the majesty that He gave to both the first and the last Adam.  In Christianity–or Churchianity, at least–we could call this the idol of the Buddy Christ or the Boyfriend Jesus.

Seriously, when you can take 99% of all pop-Christian music and swap out “Jesus” for “boyfriend” and the song still works, there’s something seriously wrong with Evangelical culture.

The only Being worth worshiping and serving for such a being as Adam is the Eternal God, the Most High, the Creator of All.  And we need to serve only Him, not the pale images of him that we build in our heads as surely as the idolaters of ancient Israel built out of wood.

Shalom

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