“There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god. I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” Psalm 81:9-10
Reading this, I began thinking on how often the Israelites turned away to other gods. They began worshiping and sacrificing to the idols of nations around them. I wondered why they would turn away from a God so personal, so involved in their lives. But perhaps that was part of the appeal. Having a God who is personal, who is involved in our days and who watches us closely, means we can’t simply shove Him aside. But if we have a god who isn’t quite so committed to us individually, and one who only requires a certain number of sacrifices to show us favor, then we can do what we must to please him and then go about our lives with no real thought to consequences. Our lives are our own. Our god is one we can understand (because he’s like us). And we can work to obtain favor, so there is a measure of control there. Then when we leave the temple of worship, we don’t have to give him much thought. Because he’s probably not thinking much of us anyway, so long as we stay under his radar and don’t incur his wrath.
On the surface, it sounds better. Easier. But if we go into the depths of this personal God, the One who cared so much about the people of Israel that He delivered them from slavery and provided food for them each day, we see that there is no comparison between the Living God and these idols. Yes, He requires much of us. He calls us to more. He is involved in our details and we are accountable to Him. But He is so vastly worth it. He is holy. He is great in splendor. When we experience His nearness to us, particularly in times of difficulty, we realize that the joy, peace, and strength found in His presence surpass anything else we could seek after.
If you only look at the fact that He is thinking of us and watching us, a negative connotation can develop. God becomes more like Big Brother, a powerful being we can never escape who fiercely lords over our every move. But we have to factor in God’s character here. His perfect, pure, steadfast love. He isn’t watching us closely just to see when we fail. He’s watching us so that when we slip, He can catch us. So that when our strength fails, His holds us up. It is because our Lord is so faithful to us that He is intentionally aware of our details and our every movement.
It may be easier to choose a god to worship that doesn’t ask so much of you. But that god won’t care about you like our Lord will. It’s a marvelous reality that the God who is real is the One who gave His life to save you. He watches out for you and concerns Himself with your welfare. He pours out grace and strength for every need. “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9). Serving Him, we can cling to this promise: “But he would feed you with the finest of the wheat, and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you” (Psalm 81:16). Satisfied. Strengthened. Joyful. Restored. Filled to overflowing. This is our life with Christ.