Psalm 115

When your God is a lie.

People have lots of ideas about God. But this Psalm is laying down one test for true religion, God can’t be something you’ve made yourself.

The demarcation is quite subtle in our minds. Our idea of the holy spirit is that God has entered into us and given us thoughts, ideas and ways of seeing opportunities, that we would not have had by our own. It’s a way of attributing what is good in us, an acknowledgement of what comes from God.

This Psalm starts that way saying “not to us, but to God be glory” and notices other nations wondering how Israel’s God can be seemingly absent, invisible.

It makes the point, thoroughly, how much more ridiculous is an idol, which has eyes that can’t see, a mouth that can’t speak, legs that can’t walk etc.

This is one of those many places in the old testament that talks about the special relationship Israel has with God, but also recognises him as God of all… the earth is given to all mankind. Which is how I can come into the picture.

So I don’t think it’s just about Israel praising God. Maybe even those people with lesser revelations than Christians or Jews can praise the true God, the creator outside of themselves, what they know of him; or choose to worship one they know they have just made up.

God put eternity in every person’s heart, so if you choose to worship a block of wood, that you know someone carved into a shape one day, perhaps you aren’t listening to your heart.

We love to build special beautiful buildings for worship. So often inside, all the people face a special bit with special statues or art, and pray.

My own local church conforms to the architecture of idolatry, it partly represents the idolatrous urge, even though in no way do I think the carved images of Christ or whatever it is in the’sanctuary’ are actually God. Some Christian churches do get to a place… statues that weep or perform miracles, where the object itself has become worshipped.

Hypocrisy can make your God a lie. Pete Buttigieg, a gay presidential aspirant in the us has bought down condemnation, and is denied religious legitimacy, by the same conservative Christians who refuse to condemn Donald Trump for all sorts of lies and immorality because they like his policies. There is a striking inconsistency. Surely there is a point down the path of hypocrisy where your God becomes a lie, in service of your policy goals, which have become your God.

And that is from fundamentalist believers who consciously define themselves as subordinate to the Word, let alone liberal Christians who start from an attitude of cherry picking the sweet bits. Though I suppose it’s better to be fuelled by honest skepticism than hypocricy. But either way, can end up just making up a God.

I do think we can bring our creativity to bear when thinking and talking about God. I think we can engage our imagination to imagine how he wants things to be, to imagine a better world. Or just create art about him. And that runs the risk of inventing God. We all do it sometimes I’m sure.

Praise is probably an antidote to making stuff up about God, because by its nature it is appreciating god’s character. Responding enthusiastically about what has been revealed of him only works from an attitude of being open to the truth about him.

Can’t quite tell if I’m being profound or laboriously banal today. I’ve tended to think careful study was a path to theological truth. Genuine, sincere, praise is quicker, and probably more dependable.

Praise God who is mighty, who has done wonderful things, who is steadfast, quick to forgive, yet loves justice.

You know, it just really turns the spotlight off you and onto God. I can’t quite tell if there is a point to all this, but I think there is?

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