God is Spirit

God is Spirit, and those who worship
Him must worship in spirit and truth.
John 4:24
The Oriental Institute Museum on the University of Chicago campus is one of Chicago’s best kept secrets. I always try to get there when I am in the Chicago area because It is an amazing collection of biblical artifacts. They have artifacts from archeological digs from all over the middle east. This collection will grow because it’s now illegal to remove artifacts from the country of their origin. So, it literally is a one of a kind museum. When you go in the museum, you begin to get a small taste of what life was like in Palestine and the surrounding areas.
 
If you are looking closely, you begin to realize there’s more collected here than just pots and jars. The cookware is telling you a story about the culture. On some of the handles of the jars are engraved images of the Hittite, Canaanite, Assyrian, and Nubian gods. Some of the engravings are not family-friendly, but they give you a picture of the nature of their system of worship. In the Megiddo gallery you can see images of the Canaanite fertility gods talked about in the Old Testament. All of these items are graven images that these cultures used to depict their gods.
 
But our God is Spirit, he is not seen, and he has no physical body. This is one reason why the incarnation of Jesus is such an amazing thing! One of the ten commandments given to the Israelites is ‘You should not make any graven image’, clearly meaning no idols. In our culture, creating literal idols to worship is not common, but that doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with idolatry. We have all kinds of idols we worship.
 
Since God is Spirit, we can’t make any idols that look like him. Certainly, some have tried. In the Old Testament, Aaron attempted to make a golden calf when Moses was away talking with God, and that didn’t go well for him (Exodus 32). But ultimately, why would we make an idol that represents our God, when we can’t see him because he is Spirit? God himself is made of a substance that is outside of our reality, yet it is so real that it still creates the reality we experience. Amazing!
 
He has also created part of us as spiritual beings. We have a material and immaterial nature to ourselves. Paul promises in 2 Corinthians that to ‘be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord’. Our body, this temporary dwelling, will deteriorate and eventually die, but we live on in a spiritual state. In that way we carry some of the image of God in ourselves, even if tainted by sin.
 
Questions for reflection:
  1.  While we don’t create physical idols to worship, how does idolatry find expression in our culture today? 
  2. What are some steps we can take to remove those idols in our lives? 
David Flug | Community Life Pastor

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