What was the staple item of your childhood Easter basket? Was it jelly beans? Chocolate eggs? Marshmallow Peeps? Cadbury mini-eggs?
For many of us, it was, of course, the chocolate bunny. This timeless treat has topped-off baskets for decades, giving parents an endless variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes to choose from. Dark, milk, or white chocolate? Added peanut butter or caramel? Goofy or life-like? Life-size or dentist-friendly? And the biggest one: Solid or hollow?
Growing up in a family of three children with a limited budget (or maybe just a smart mom) meant that even though I hoped every year that my box would say “solid,” a “hollow” bunny was what I would find. From the outside, a hollow bunny looks like tons of chocolate. But when you bite into it, you realize you’ve been duped – it’s really not more than a few bites!
The words of Psalm 115 give us a clear picture of the difference between our “solid” God and the “hollow” idols we might be tempted to worship instead:
Our God is in heaven;
he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
feet, but cannot walk,
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.
From the earliest times, human beings have attempted to explain the mysteries of nature and the purpose of life by pointing to the spiritual. The notion that there could or maybe even has to be something beyond what our eyes can see lies within us all. Paul puts it this way in Romans 1: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (v. 20) This notion was meant to lead us to seek after and know the one true God.
However, by the time Psalm 115 was written, the people groups surrounding the nation of Israel had conceived hundreds of “gods”. These divine “beings” served to explain the mysteries as “everything that occurred, whether good or bad, was attributed to the gods”* More than that, they brought these answers down to earth. Gods conceived by human brains could only resemble earthly things, which gave them the ability to be visualized and then replicated into physical ‘idols’.
Most importantly, the attribution of specific powers to individual gods made them seem, even ever so slightly, under human control, as it was assumed they could be appeased through worship and sacrifices. Life in those times depended thoroughly on unpredictable, uncontrollable forces and these gods appeared to offer protection, satisfaction, and livelihood. So the people worshiped them. Even the Israelites, though they knew the one true God, also knew that He “is in heaven” and “he does whatever pleases him” (v. 3), so they constantly succumbed to the temptation to bow down to these more ‘manageable’ gods.
But the Psalmist declares that even though these “gods” looked like they had something to offer, their offers were empty. Conceived by human brains and made by human hands they held no power and could not bring the protection, satisfaction, and livelihood they promised.
In my 2019 suburban life, many of the big questions that at one time mystified people have been answered by modern science. Also, the majority of my daily life does not depend on the forces of nature – though I sometimes pray an event will not get rained out (or maybe that it will 😉), my success or failure does not depend on their ‘favor’. Medical knowledge has explained most illness and disease and I don’t live in fear of invasion or war.
The temptation to worship other gods isn’t a thing in my life.
Or is it?
I may not be bowing down to Ba’al, but if I had that new ______________, I’d be satisfied. I’m not asking anything of Asherah, but man, life would be so much better if ______________ finally happened. I’m not imagining myself in debt to Dagon, but if I could just accomplish ______________, I’d finally be ‘there’.
Every time I expect a physical item, social interaction, goal completion, or emotional sensation to bring me satisfaction, there’s a chance that I’m making an idol of it.
Every time I put my hope in something that’s created by human hands or conceived by human brains, there’s a chance I’m going to find it hollow and unable to produce what it appears to be promising.
And every time I bite in, it’s not long before I realize I’ve been duped.
The Psalmist says in verse 8, “Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them” and that’s exactly what happens. Trusting in something that’s hollow only leaves me hollow. I felt empty and I thought that that thing, person, experience, or feeling would be the thing that filled me up, so I took a ‘bite’. But after I chewed and swallowed, I was still empty. It looked like it had a “mouth,” but it turns out it couldn’t “speak”. It appeared to have “eyes,” but it couldn’t “see”. Its “ears” weren’t capable of “hear[ing],” its “nose” couldn’t “smell,” its “hands” couldn’t “feel,” and just because it had “feet” didn’t mean it could “walk”.
My prayer lately has been that my hollowness would cause me to long for the solid fulfillment only Jesus can give me – and that I would continue to experience disappointment when I put my trust in the things of this world. When I find myself frustrated with that thing I took a bite of, I thank God for the reminder that only He can satisfy!