The Psalmist tells us that we’re better off trusting in God (Ps 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. NIV), and the Disciple John tells us in one of his letters that Idols are a no –no (1 John 5:21 “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols”. NIV)
And even though we’re talking about a couple of different cultures and contexts, there are some definite connections.
In the Psalm, we’re talking about being in distress and looking for the way out. It’s amazing how instead of turning to God the Creator, we turn to created things to solve the problem. In this case people are turning to their chariots and their horses, but those things are merely symbols for our own resources. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of trying to do it on our own, that we forget that there’s an easy solution right there at our fingertips. Sometimes it seems that in times of stress an extra large dose of testosterone kicks in and we just know that we can do it ourselves; and that it would be a sign of weakness to ask for help for any quarter.
All too often we want to trust God when things are going well, but as soon as trouble hits, we start looking for another solution. Not quite what God had in mind when He created us in His image. And he certainly didn’t want us turning to ‘small-g gods’ either. If you spend much time in the Old Testament then you’ll find lots of examples of what God thought about them.
Come to think about it, there are also lots of examples of what those ‘small-g gods’ can do for you. "Zip! Nada! Nothing!" comes to mind as a clear picture of what help they can offer.
So when John warned his congregation to avoid idols, he was talking about those ‘small-g gods’ - created objects: created by human hands of gold or silver or stone, and totally unable to do anything on their own. I don’t think I know anybody who regularly prays to a clay object, but when we’re talking about idols we’re talking about anything that interferes with our worship of God. Anything that we would have trouble giving up even though God is telling us that we don’t need it and that it interferes with how He would like to work in our lives and draw us even closer to him. So whether we’re depending on our own resources, or believing in the power of created objects to solve our problems, we’re heading down a slippery path.
Asking God for help is not a sign of weakness, and He’s never too busy to listen to us; so there go two of the main excuses we have for trying to prove that we don’t need God's help. If you’re trusting in chariots and horses or depending on idols and find you’re going nowhere, it just may be time to call on God, and let Him answer you when you’re in distress.
Don’t fall into the trap of trusting in chariots or horses, keep away from idols, and above all, trust in the name of the Lord our God.