Summary: Accept no substitutes for a real relationship with the real God. Instead, embrace His passion for you, so you can experience His protection and enjoy His promises fulfilled for a thousand generations to come.
David Hand, in his book The Improbability Principle, describes natives of the South West Pacific island, who had very little, if any, contact with the modern world and its many technological advances. During World War 2, they were mesmerized by Japanese and later Allied soldier's uniforms, their marching in perfect order, the construction of airstrips, and the hand gestures in directing the landing of incredible flying ships bringing all kinds of exotic goods. The Japanese and later the Allied soldiers shared some of their “cargo” with the natives – Coca Cola, canned food, clothes, basic medicine, and other assorted desirable yet unfamiliar common items.
When the war ended, the mysterious visitors left for good. The natives were disappointed, but they believed the planes would return if they would mimic the actions of their heavenly visitors. Then they could get more fascinating gifts and healing medicines.
So the South West Pacific island natives built a control tower out of rope and bamboo, a runway out of straw, and made “clothes” resembling the military uniforms they observed. They carved and wore simple wooden headsets and exactly mimicked the landing hand-gestures on their airstrip.
These patterns of beliefs and rituals have become known as “Cargo Cults.” The faithful believe if they simply follow the pattern and motions of their technologically superior visitors, they will get the same results. (David J. Hand, The Improbability Principle, Scientific American / Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2014, page 17; www.PreachingToday.com)
We laugh at that idea, but it’s really no different than when people go through the motions of religious activity, expecting God to show up with His gifts. All too often, people substitute religion for a real relationship with the real God. It’s so easy to do, and It is something the Second Commandment warns us about.
Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (ESV)
If you want to maintain a real relationship with the real God, then…
ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES.
Do not replace God for things you think look like God. Do not create images in your mind, or otherwise, that attempt to represent God.
The word “idol” in the Hebrew is literally a “carved image.” In Bible days, people didn’t take photographs, but they would often carve images of people and things in wood or stone. Well, God says, “Don’t carve any images of Me. Don’t make any pictures of Me.”
Why? Because no one has seen God at any time. No one knows what God looks like. No one has God all figured out.
Rob Bell once said, “The moment God is figured out with nice, neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis, Zondervan, 2005)
God is not like anything in ALL of his creation. He is not like anything in heaven. He is not like anything on earth, and He is not like anything in the sea. God is holy! That means He is wholly other, and there is nothing in all of creation to which we would even dare compare Him, so we shouldn’t even try.
If you want to keep our love for the Lord strong, then accept no substitutes for the real God Himself.
Dave Davila was part of a very close-knit family in East Moline, Illinois. Then at age 24, he left his family to take a job in Chicago. Family gatherings just weren't the same without Dave. So his mother took a digital photo of him, had it blown up to his actual height – 5 foot 8 inches – and mounted it on heavy cardboard.
They call this life-size picture “Flat Dave,” and there he causally stands, with hands in his pockets and a blue button-down shirt hanging untucked over his khaki shorts.
At first, Flat Dave just showed up and stood quietly by at family gatherings. Then word spread throughout the community, and he became something of a celebrity in East Moline. “Complete strangers want to pose with him,” says his brother Dan. He also says, “I think Flat Dave's actually better looking.”
Sometimes that makes things awkward for the real Dave – the one the family now calls “Thick Dave.” He describes being in Chicago talking to his mom on the phone when she says, “Hold on, I've got to load you into the van.” “It's a little weird,” he says. (Rex W. Huppke, “Meet Flat Dave. He's a Real Stand-Up Guy,” Chicago Tribune, July 2, 2006; www.PreachingToday.com)