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Superstition

 

Hermeneutics

In all innocence, children have for centuries sung a nursery rhyme that is in truth anything but an innocent verse:

        Ring-a-ring o’roses,

        A pocket full of posies,

        A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

        We all fall down!

The rhyme arose about 1665 in the streets of London during a pague epidemic of the Black Death. Each phrase of the rhyme refers to an aspect of the plague.

“Ring o’roses” is a reference to the small, red rashlike areas that developed on people infected with the plague.

“Pocket full of posies” is a reference to the ancient belief that evil smells were the poisonous breath of demons who afflicted people with the disease. It was thought that sweet-smelling herbs and flowers would drive them off.

“A-tishoo! A-tishoo!” is a reference to the sneezing that was a symptom of the plague.

“We all fall down!” is a reference to death.

Thus, a common children’s rhyme is in fact a sinister parody of one of the most dreaded plagues ever to strike-the Black Death.

The same loss of context and therefore of meaning can affect those who study the Scriptures. And that is why when we seek to interpret the word of God, we do so in part by studying its historical, grammatical context. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

Hermeneutics

In 1728, potatoes were outlawed in Scotland because they were not mentioned in the Bible. ── Michael P. GreenIllustrations for Biblical Preaching

 

IDOLATRY

Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped.

Augustine.


Hideyoshi, a Japanese warlord who ruled over Japan in the late 1500s, commissioned a colossal statue of Buddha for a shrine in Kyoto. It took 50,000 men five years to build, but the work had scarcely been completed when the earthquake of 1596 brought the roof of the shrine crashing down and wrecked the statue. In a rage Hideyoshi shot an arrow at the fallen colossus. "I put you here at great expense," he shouted, "and you can't even look after your own temple."

Today in the Word, MBI, August, 1991, p. 23.


God often allows the ungodly to amass great wealth--to their destruction. But if you are one with whom God is dealing and if you put the pursuit of riches (or anything else) before service to Christ, God may take away those riches (and other things) until you turn to Him. Some years ago Donald Grey Barnhouse was counseling a young woman on the sidewalk in front of Tenth Presbyterian Church following an evening service. She said she was a Christian and that she wanted to follow Christ. But she wanted to be famous too. She wanted to pursue a stage career in New York. "After I have made it in the theater, I'll follow Christ completely," she said. Barnhouse took a key out of his pocket and scratched a mark on a postal box standing on the corner. "That is what God will let you do," he said. "God will let you scratch the surface of success. He will let you get close enough to the top to know what it is, but He will never let you have it, because He will never let one of His children have anything rather than Himself." 

Years later he met the girl again, and she confessed that this had indeed been her life story. She had dabbled in the stage. Once her picture had been in a national magazine. But she had never quite made it. She told Barnhouse, "I can't tell you how many times in my discouragement I have closed my eyes and seen you scratching on that postal box with your key. God let me scratch the edges, but He gave me nothing in place of Himself."

J.M. Boice, Christ's Call To Discipleship, Moody, 1986, p. 154.


In The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen retells a tale from ancient India: Four royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what they had learned.

"I have mastered a science," said the first, "by which I can take but a bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it."

"I," said the second, "know how to grow that creature's skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones."

The third said, "I am able to create its limbs if I have flesh, the skin, and the hair."

"And I," concluded the fourth, "know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete."

Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their specialities. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion's. One added flesh to the bone, the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching limbs, and the fourth gave the lion life. Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators. He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.

We too have the capacity to create what can devour us. Goals and dreams can consume us. Possessions and property can turn and destroy us--unless we first seek God's kingdom and righteousness, and allow Him to breathe into what we make of life.

Nathan Castens.


Commentary and Devotional

Though we do not face a pantheon of false gods like the Israelites did, we face pressures from a pantheon of false values--materialism, love of leisure, sensuality, worship of self, security, and many others. The second commandment deals with idols. This may be something that most of us can't relate to--unless we include life goals that revolve around something other than God Himself. What is the object of our affections, our efforts, and our attention? Where does the majority of our time go? On what do we spend the greatest amount of our resources?

Today in the Word, June 14, 1989.


What other gods could we have besides the Lord? Plenty. For Israel there were the Canaanite Baals, those jolly nature gods whose worship was a rampage of gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution. For us there are still the great gods Sex, Shekels, and Stomach (an unholy trinity constituting one god: self), and the other enslaving trio, Pleasure, Possessions, and Position, whose worship is described as "The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life" (1 John 2:16). Football, the Firm, and Family are also gods for some. Indeed the list of other gods is endless, for anything that anyone allows to run his life becomes his god and the claimants for this prerogative are legion. In the matter of life's basic loyalty, temptation is a many-headed monster.

James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986.


Today's idols are more in the self than on the shelf.

Goudzwaard's three basic Biblical rules:

1. Every person is serving god(s) in his life.
2. Every person is transformed into an image of his god.
3. Mankind creates and forms a structure of society in its own image.

That for which I would give anything and accept nothing in exchange is the most important thing in my life. Whatever that is is my god (cf. Isa. 44:6-20).

J. McMath.