Idolatry and Oppression (Exod. 20:2–6; Ps. 115:1–8)
In His Word, God has given specific commands about how He wants us to worship Him. These commands show that the form and style with which we choose to worship God must match His standards, not ours.
In Exodus 20:2–6, God starts by reminding us of His position as the sovereign Creator and Ruler of all the things created, both seen and unseen. As such, the worship, glory, and honor that He deserves should not go to other things. If we stop worshiping God according to His standards, we lose spiritual direction and begin to entertain selfish ambitions. This eventually leads us to frustration, physical pain, and death.
If we stop worshiping God according to His standards, we lose spiritual direction and begin to entertain selfish ambitions.
The psalmist also reminds us that the idols that people worship do not have the qualities of the Creator. God gave the first four commandments to define the type of relationship that should exist between Him and His children. In that regard, we are called to worship the Creator, who is the Author of our lives. When that happens, we can develop the right relationship with Him. Moreover, if our values and practices spring from Him, we shall know how to relate with our fellow humans in a manner that brings glory and honor to God’s name. Idolatry, as the psalmist says, simply takes us back to the bondage of sin and the interests of the world.
A Reason to Worship (Ps. 146:5–10)
In Psalm 146, the psalmist underscores the point that God is the sovereign Creator of the universe; and if we trust in Him, He can bless us abundantly. Even in our physical weaknesses, we still have a reason to worship the Creator. When we are weak and trust in Him, He can bless us because He sustains the needy who trust in Him.
As opposed to idols that cannot render any form of help (Ps. 115:1–8), we can rely on the Creator for help because He is forever a faithful God. As the writer of Hebrew observes, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Heb. 10:23, NKJV).
Another lesson that the psalmist points out here is that God can bless us because He delights in sustaining the weak and the needy. Many times, we see the needy and the suffering as neglected. Sometimes we think they did something wrong to deserve their misfortune.
However, the Bible explains that the weak and the oppressed have a place in God’s heart, especially when they trust in Him. The psalmist agrees that the Lord “executes justice for the oppressed” (NKJV). This shows that any act of oppression upon the less fortunate members of society will be judged, and no oppressor will escape the wrath of God.
Religious Oppressors (Isa. 1:17)
God requires us to do good deeds at all times and not to stand idle. The prophet Isaiah emphasizes that the oppressed need protection and support. In our societies, the oppressed are more vulnerable and exposed to wrongs, especially under poor or weak administration of justice. In such situations, it’s the duty of people with influence in the community to protect the weak and the oppressed.
In the lenses of God, we are all His children regardless of our situation under the sun. The first line of protection, therefore, comes from God. All the same, as children of God, we also have a duty to relieve the oppressed by offering support where necessary. God will pronounce judgment on those who overlook this duty and inflict wrong on the weak and suffering. In acts of benevolence, justice, and support for widows and orphans, we emulate the example of God, who is the Source of our values.
By learning to do good deeds, we adopt the practice of living righteously by upholding God’s character. And when we judge the fatherless, we demonstrate true worship to the Creator by defending, delivering, and practicing justice to the needy in our society. To God’s faithful who may be weak and suffering, there is good news that God Himself is fighting for you. “ ‘The Lord will be our avenger. Though men disregard us, he takes care of us. He will aid the destitute, and will defend their cause.’ ”1
Mercy and Faithfulness (Mark 12:38–40)
During His ministry, Christ witnessed situations in which religious leaders used their positions to fleece innocent and weak members of the society. Using the example of the scribes, who were the official teachers of the law, Jesus taught that these people were more interested in what they could get than what they could give. In their long robes, which were unsuitable for manual labor, the scribes used their religious positions to obtain wealth from the unsuspecting public and the oppressed.
Are we any different? We prefer red-carpet treatment and fine-linen garments. We cherish titles. We command respect. However, these could have a poisonous effect on our relationship with the Creator. Christ taught that if anyone wants to be the first, then he must be a servant first (Mark 9:35). As Christians in this age, we must remember that the responsibility of stewardship is not only for the ordained church ministers but also for every member.
1. In what ways do we behave as the scribes in our era?
2. What are some of the sources of modern-day idolatry?
3. What can we do as young adults to help others see Christ in us?