Verse to memorise:
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16
In this first chapter, Elyse Fitzpatrick introduces us to Rachel. If you haven’t read her story, you’ll find it in Genesis 29 and onwards. We read about how Rachel and Leah are other married to Jacob and Leah is blessed with children. God gives Leah and Jacob six boys to be precise, which was a huge blessing in Old Testament times. Rachel was barren and she started to idolise wanting children so much that she cried out to Jacob “Give me children or I’ll die!”
This is more or less the wording we use when we put anything in our lives ahead of God. (Go back and have a look at the table from Tim Keller’s book in the previous post here) Rachel was firstly expecting Jacob to do what only God could do. Then when Jacob tells her that he isn’t God (Gen 30:1-2), God graciously gives a son, but that wasn’t enough. So she stole her dad’s carved images and started praying to them. She wanted more.
That’s what idols and covetousness does to our heart. We want something, we think that it will bring us happiness – the need is filled and then another hole opens up. We want more. We are a ‘perpetual factory of idols’ says John Calvin.
One paragraph that stood out to me in this chapter was “Idols aren’t just stone statues. No, idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God. Idols cause us to ignore the true God in search of what we think we need.” Wow. Even expectations! Even longings!
Later Fitzpatrick talks about how to discern whether you are worshipping a blessing or expectation that you desire or are you honouring God? Her answer is that “If you’re willing to sin to obtain your goal or if you sin when you don’t get what you want, then your desire has taken God’s place and you’re functioning as an idolater.”
So, as an example, if there is something that is REALLY important in your life, what are you willing to do to achieve that moment, feeling, desire? Lets just say that you desire that your house has to be immaculate at all times. Is your neat home only obtained if you yell and scream at your kids for them to clean their rooms, withhold (that is a strange word to type..) quality time with your children to get things done, or neglect your extended family and church community for the sake of your Better Homes and Garden House? It’s not such an extreme example if you actually think about it. We do this sort of thing all the time.
Rachel CHOSE to sin to get what she wanted. I CHOOSE to sin every time I am expecting more from my kids than what is age appropriate. Because my desire is for my kids to make me look like a stellar parent. I CHOOSE to use the silent treatment when I am having a disagreement with Rob. Because my desire is to be right! My desire is not for me to glorify God in these things, I am only serving sinful ol’ me.
Fitzpatrick reminds us of the truth from the Bible that when we are trusting in something other than God, or glorifying anything other than God we will be cursed, like living in a dry and barren desert. Jeremiah 17:5-6 The opposite of the River of Life, the Bread of Life and the Tree of Life!
The last little bit of the chapter talks about the hope we have when we fight and turn away from idolatry. Jacob buried Rachel’s idols under a tree, out of sight and we can do the same and bury our idols under the most glorious tree of all.. Golgotha’s. Only God is the Heart Changer she says, and we have to also remember that God knows EVERY idolatrous thought that crosses our mind and in his mercy, he SYMPATHISES with our weaknesses. But just like an earthly father he wants us to turn to him for all we need.
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:13-16
What do you put your hope and trust in? Is it God?
Do you have something that you want and are willing to sin to get it?
Is there anything that you could say, like Rachel. “Give me ________ or I’ll die” ?
Write down the things that might be an idol in your life. A longing, a desire, a moment, a relationship. Pray about these things and ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to the idols in your life.
If you are reading along, I’d love to know what you thought was the best bit of Chapter one. Let me know in the comments below!
See you next week