“37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, “God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your brothers.” 38 He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our ancestors were unwilling to obey him, but pushed him away, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron:
“Make us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we don’t know what’s happened to him.”
41 They even made a calf in those days, offered sacrifice to the idol, and were celebrating what their hands had made. 42 Then God turned away and gave them up to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
“House of Israel, did you bring Me offerings and sacrifices
40 years in the wilderness?
43 No, you took up the tent of Moloch
and the star of your god Rephan,
the images that you made to worship.
So I will deport you beyond Babylon!”
Stephen is really on fire here at this point in his sermon. He is opening old cultural wounds and identifying embarassing things feom their collective history. Some of the religious leaders were behaving as if they had never done anything wrong in their service to God, and they turned a blind eye to the faults and patterns of their ancestors that they themselves were engaged in currently.
Just like the Israelites rebelled and rejected God in the wilderness, they were now rebelling and rejecting Jesus in exchange for what they wanted to do and how they wanted to worship. They ignored the obvious signs and wonders and truths that He taught and performed and so they remained in their religion that they had crafted for themselves. It had become their idol, just like Molech & Rephan. They hadn’t been worshipping God, but their own system of belief. There may not have been a physical idol, but there doesn’t have to be one. It was simply a rejection of the truth for something homemade & ‘comfortable.’
As we walk with Jesus, we must be mindful to keep our worship focused on Him, on God, and not on a system or a religion that we craft for ourselves. It’s tempting to have a self-crafted religion, pulling bits and pieces from wherever we choose. But we must have our foundation in the truth, being held accountable by the Word of God, not by society or by some personal expectation or desire. Worship that is made for anything other than God Himself, as HE has revelaed Himself, is idolatry and we cannot pretend otherwise.
We all have patterns of behavior that we fall back into, old comfortable sins, foibles and lies that we hae either scultped on our own or adopted from somewhere else, and we cannot pretend that God is pleased when we slip back into those old ways and habits. We must abide in Him, living & dwelling in His truth & presence. Again, to do otherwise is a misrepresentation of Him to others, and He will not honor those efforts or the lives behinds them. And So, as we GoLove others, we must do so in spirit and in truth, wholly worshipping God, properly, reverently and not in any way that we have devised for ourselves, spiritually compromised and corrupted by sin.
I’m so thankful for the grace that God offers to us in Christ, because we are incapable of doing everything right all the time. So, even when we do slip up, even when we do begin to sculpt our own little idols, God is always there whispering in our ear, speaking to our hearts, communicating through His Word, ready to bring us back as we humbly repent. A daily dying to self and taking up of our cross is the best way to point our hearts in the right direction as we read His Word, seek Him out in prayer and follow in the rhythms of grace that Jesus taught us.