Do you have idols in your house? That might seems an absurd question. I recall almost 40 years ago going through a time of depression. I was a Christian and could not understand what was happening to me until one morning during devotions it dawned on me that I had some things that were idolatrous in my house. Many years before, I had joined a “secret society” … a lodge. The apron, collarets, medals (for degrees) and ring, amongst other things, belonged to what could literally be described as a pagan religion. The ring in particular was expensive as it was pure gold. Once I disposed of these items, the depression lifted. In themselves they are useless, but the association remains. In Exodus we read:
Ex 15:22 Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert without finding water. 23 When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter. (That is why the place is called Marah.) 24 So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are we to drink?” 25 Then Moses cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a piece of wood. He threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There the LORD made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them. 26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.” 27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
Israel have just left Egypt and after three days of desert traveling they have not found any water. They grumble against Moses … and Moses cries out to God. Then they arrive at Marah and find water … bitter water … undrinkable water … and a strange thing happens. God shows Moses a piece of wood (branch), which he throws into the water and the bitter water changes into sweet water. It’s not that the wood had miraculous powers. It was Moses’ act of obedience that God used to purify the water. The Bible does not inform us the type of tree the wood came from. Why? Because being the people we are, we would make an idol of that tree and use it for financial gain. Look at Exodus 15:26:
Ex 15:26 He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.”
It seems as though God uses this experience of the bitter water and Moses’ obedience to show the people that when they obey, God will be their protector, provider and healer. Look at what happens as God anticipates their obedience:
Ex 15:27 Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees, and they camped there near the water.
Verse 25 tells us that verses 26-27 was a test. The test is “if you” x 2 (v26), “I will” (v27). God presents the ‘test’ in the shape of a ‘decree’ and a ‘law’ (v25). Notice the injunctions … ‘listen carefully’; ‘do what is right’; ‘pay attention’ and ‘keep all His decrees’ (v26).
There is an International Church Grouping who have collected various relics over many years. They say these relate to things in the Bible, especially things associated with Jesus … such as the “Shroud of Turin” (the supposed shroud Jesus wore), pieces of the actual cross He died on, the nails that was pieced his hands and feet, The Crown of Thorns, Sections of the Umbilical Cord (from Mary) and what is called the “Holy Foreskin” of Jesus. Those who believe these items to be associated with Jesus claim they have miraculous powers. That is exactly the problem. They use the concept of veneration … and right there we have idolatry. This is why pictures resembling Jesus or Mary, statues and crucifixes are seen as objects inducing idolatry and are forbidden in many Protestant Churches. As many know, the Cross’ actual shape was not the way it is shown today but more a “T” shape. This might be a technicality, but if we are going to be correct with what idolatry is, then the shape of Jesus’ execution device also needs to be portrayed correctly.
The object of Exodus 15 is to call God’s people into obedience. Hence God setting up the “test”. In thinking about verse 26, many diseases and illnesses are caused by the flagrant disregard of God’s Laws by people today. Smoking tobacco (even marijuana) can lead to emphysema. Apart from many others, a family member and a dear church sister died of this dreaded disease. Excessive alcohol leads to cirrhosis of the liver. Jenny and I spent many hours with a lady who died of this disease. Praise the Lord she believed before she died. Immoral sex, including sex outside of marriage, could lead to STDs, not forgetting HIV/AIDS. Obesity and laziness causes illnesses. We can’t forget all the injuries, loss of limbs and deaths associated with reckless and wild behaviour and driving. What each child of God needs to get is that in Christ, obedience is required:
1 Cor 6:19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.
Ex 20:4 “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. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Dear God, I believe You are the True, Living God. Thank You for saving my soul through Jesus’ sacrifice. Help me to live in obedience to all Your Laws and Your Gospel to prevent any shape of idolatry. In Jesus’ name, amen.