Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Drought and Idolatry

I dream of rain. In this eighth month of the drought, the fifth month of 100 degree temperatures, my mind searches for relief wherever possible. It happened again last night - I dreamed I heard rain falling on the roof, tapping against the windows. Calm and serenity settled over me as I imagined the earth and her creatures enjoying a good, long drink. But then I awoke and saw the same parched grass and wilted gardens as before.

When Ahab was King of Israel he openly loved other things more than he loved God. He loved the power, the attention, the wealth, the status of being king. Scripture says that Ahab worshipped Baal, the Caananite god. In doing so he committed idolatry. Idolatry, the most common of all sins, does not have to involve Baal. We are idolatrous whenever we value, trust, and love something above God. Martin Luther, in his Large Catechism, says "Anything on which your heart relies and really your God." Any time we replace God with something lesser in our hearts and minds we commit idolatry.

Not only did Ahab commit idolatry by 'relying and depending' upon something other than God, he led his people astray by his actions. Many of the Israelite people followed their King's example and built altars to Baal. God, who had given himself to Israel in a loving, lasting relationship, was angered. As a response God sent a severe drought upon the land. For three years there was no rain, or even dew, in Israel. Streams and rivers dried up; crops failed; people and livestock alike grew desperate for water. Baal, to whom they had prayed, could not make it rain and God was unwilling to do so until the King and the people recognized their fault and changed course.

Why has it not rained in Texas for the past eight months? It could be El Nino or La Nina has brought this latest drought. Maybe our arid conditions come from global warming or shifting weather patterns throughout the country. In scripture, the prophet Elijah had to sweep the land clear of idolatry before God sent rain. Elijah rebuked the King and the people for their devotion to Baal; he reasserted God's sovereignty and slaughtered the Baal prophets. Finally Elijah bowed before God, sending his servant to check the horizon for a change in the weather. Six times the servant saw nothing, but the last time he saw a cloud rise up out of the sea. Soon rain was pummeling the ground, pouring down on all Israel like the grace of God.

Since the recession the median wealth of white households in America is 20 times greater than that of African-American households, 18 times higher than that of Hispanic households. In addressing our nation's deficit and raising the debt ceiling the United States government opted to cut spending and raise no taxes on the wealthy or close loop-holes for large corporations. In Texas, spending has been slashed in education and other public services while tax-payers foot the $10,000 a month bill for the governor's rental house. Could rampant idolatry be the reason we are in the midst of a severe drought? Are we following the course of Ahab, loving and serving the wrong things?

"No one can serve two masters," Jesus said, "(you) will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." (Matthew 6:24) We cannot worship money and worship God; one of them has to give.

I dream of rain -- water falling from the sky, justice rolling like a river throughout the land. How long must we wait for the drought to end? How long must God wait on us to turn from idolatry?

Pastor Kris

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