I would not claim to be an expert in Scatological studies, or any studies for that matter, but let’s face it with seven kids, one of which is still in diapers, and living on a small farm I deal with fecal matter more than the average person. Maybe our experience with poop is not the same, but I think we can probably agree that it’s pretty disgusting. Smell, sight, sound—all very unpleasant. Makes sense because poop is all the worthless parts of what we have ingested. We put food in our mouths and as it travels through our bodies, our bodies are intuitive enough to separate and utilize everything that is usable and needed for growth and sustainability. All the parts it deems non-beneficial is excreted from the body as waste. Dispersed as no value added. As disgusting as waste matter is, it is a necessary part of our life. If it were left inside our bodies crazy things would happen; we would become very ill and some extreme cases of non-elimination have led to death.
Hopefully you have stuck with me through that first paragraph and I didn’t lose too many of you with such potty talk, but the disgusting nature of poop needs to be addressed in order for us to understand the seriousness of what God is trying to drive home in 2 Kings. 2 Kings is an Old Testament book of the Bible that provides snippets of insight into the royal lives of those ruling over the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. One such king was Hoshea. He was the last King of Israel and he did evil in the sight of the Lord. Chapter 17 tells us that King Hoshea was being forced to pay a really oppressive tribute to the rival kingdom of Assyria. Tired of paying the tribute, Hoshea began to feel a bit bold and decided to partner with the king of Egypt to rebel against the controlling Assyrian king. When the Assyrian leader figured out the treachery that was occurring, it didn’t end well for Israel. He imprisoned Hoshea and exiled some of the people of Israel to his country. 2 Kings says, “this disaster came upon the people of Israel because they worshipped other gods.” Publicly and in their hearts the people of Israel had sinned greatly against the God of their people for years and, well, God was getting tired of it. Scripture goes on to say in verse 12, “Yes, they worshipped idols* despite the LORD’s specific and repeated warnings.” Anyone notice the *? I love to find asterisks when reading the Bible because it usually means that there is something at the bottom of the page that is about to shed some insight on the situation. In this case it sheds a lot of light. The word used for idol in this particular verse is “gillulim” which according to the footnotes in the NLT version of the Bible is a Hebrew term which literally means round things and is referencing dung. It was rarely used in the Old Testament, but when it was it was to evoke a response of repulsion. The word typically used for idol is the word “atsab” which simply means “image”. The profit Ezekiel liked to put the word “gillulim” down in his writing to prove a point and even though scholars are uncertain of the authorship of 2 Kings we can be assured that he, like Ezekiel, wasn’t afraid to be contemptuous. He used this particular word meaning “dung” or “ordure” to drive his point home and offend the hearers of his words. I’m going to drag this out a bit more and let you think about the true meaning of these words because dung doesn’t carry that much power in this day and age and it’s easy to gloss over. Let’s see if any of these synonyms conjure up a feeling of disgust for you: manure, muck, excrement, droppings, stools, dump, scat, cow patties, horse apples, ka-ka, sewage, dog logs, crap. “Gillulim” wasn’t cutesy like, “poopsie in your panties”, rather it grabbed attention like if your pastor stood up in front of the congregation on a Sunday morning and said, “Stop worshipping sh*t”. Offensive, right? This is what the Israelites were worshipping according to the author; disgusting worthless waste. Now ancient god worship was weird and they definitely did freaky stuff to satisfy the false gods of their time, even offering their sons and daughters to carved images, but they weren’t literally worshipping someone or something’s dung. The author of 2 Kings was laying it out for the people of Israel about how truly foolish and more importantly how sickening their worship of the false gods was to the one REAL God. The people of Israel knew of the great deeds of their God’s rescuing hand. They knew who could sustain them and who was beneficial to their lives, yet they chose to hold onto crap gods. 2 Kings 17:15b says, “They worshipped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves.”
Ouch. We take on the characteristics of what we worship!?!
This is what happens when our priorities are wrong. We forgo the good and elevate crap to god status. I am only sharing this because when I read it, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was reading the words on the thin pages of my duct tape covered Bible and I felt the unmistakable impression that God was saying to my heart, “Erica, you are worshipping some sh*t and despite my warnings you hold onto it like it is life giving.” I am not a person who cusses. They aren’t my go-to words when hurt or angry and they never pepper my everyday vocabulary. The only reason I can imagine that I felt God was saying that, was he wanted me to be affronted by my actions and priorities. God is good and mighty and jealous. You might be asking, “Jealous?” Yes, jealous. Right now, stuff away any images that might creep into your mind of crazy girlfriends keying trucks or ex-boyfriends threatening new handsome beaus. This is not human jealously. It is not sinful and self-seeking. God loves us so much he doesn’t want to see us waste our time on things that don’t bring growth. He knows of our potential and wants us to live up to it. And unlike immature humans reacting out of pain, he is jealous out of a selfless all-consuming love for us. A love so grand he doesn’t want to see us spend our time and affection on crap. Also and more importantly God is totally aware of who he is. He is the Creator, the Supreme, and he knows there is nothing that is in his league—he has no competition. When we elevate grossly inferior things to a place of honor in our lives it is an insult and his jealousy burns for that place in our hearts.
Modern day idolatry is all around. In some cases, we readily recognize its power and control in the lives of others, as in the case of drug or alcohol addiction or Beyonce fandom, but typically we can’t identify idol worship easily because it is such common place. Here’s what you need to know about idols, they exist if you don’t have God at the center of your worship and you WILL fill his place with something nearby. You will. You just will. We are made to worship and if it’s not God it’s something else. True story. The things on their own don’t have to be blatantly evil and maybe their prevalence makes them all the more insidious. Kyle Idleman wrote a fantastic book entitled, gods at War. In this book he speaks in depth to the idols of our society; food, sex, entertainment, success, money, achievement, romance, family, and self. Personally I struggle with elevating a few of those to a position above my Savior. I look to them for value, affirmation, escape, meaning, and answers. Sometimes they deliver, but in comparison to where I could be looking for answers, in comparison to God, they are steaming piles I have placed on pedestals.
The god of me is a huge struggle on my part. I battle insecurity every single time I put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and at times I am so preoccupied with thoughts of what others think of me and my writing that I am paralyzed from pursuing what I want to do or the belief that I am called to do this. Idleman says, “You can’t help but be self-conscious, because when you’re god, it’s all about you.” If God were in his rightful place above self in my life, then I would recognize that regardless of the opinion of others, despite the fact that people might complain and question my relationship with Christ because I used a four-letter word, would be irrelevant. I need to push back against my fear, place myself in a position of worship to God and not self and do what I am called to do, because we all know haters gonna hate.
Another crap god I worship is, embarrassingly, social media. I love Instagram. I use it as a personal photo album, it inspires me, I connect with long distance friends, and I use it as a creative and emotional outlet. However, there are times it consumes me, robbing me of precious time, feeding jealousy, filling my mind with negativity and discontent, and it disconnects me from what is happening in my own home--sometimes for hours a day. At that point it is taking supremacy over God, his truths and his ways.
There are certain things that we should never put into our mouths, and then there are things that are good and nutritious; things that benefit, grow, and sustain us. Even these wonderful things though are by God's design stripped by our bodies of the unusable and shed as waste. There are things in this life that when we consume them physically, mentally, and emotionally can enhance our relationship with Christ. We take the things that benefit and grow us, notice I didn’t say make us happy because there is a difference, and allow them to nourish our souls. However, when we try to hold onto every piece of whatever it is, we begin to make it into an idol. When it is so important that we can’t let anything from it pass through and leave, then it is time to check ourselves and see if what we are beginning to worship is a crap god. If it is, we need to let it pass and flush it away. Remember that 2 Kings said that our worthless idol worship leaves us worthless too. I do not know one person who wants their life to be worthless, we want meaning. We want meaningful things and we want to mean something to others. God’s intention of one-God worship is to give us that, he is the ultimate and he does not want us wallowing in our own excrement pretending it’s a party. We need to identify the gods in our lives, whether they are ideas, relationships, objects, or goals. Begin with prayer, asking God to reveal the priorities that are askew.
Analyze the answers to these questions:
- When I need escape, where do I go or turn to?
- Where does my fulfilment, joy, value, happiness come from?
- What are my fears?
- What do I hope for, what are my goals?
- What do I pray for?
These are meant as a first step. The answers don’t necessarily mean idolatry, but if something is rising into a place of lordship in our lives it will begin to surface within these questions. Our next move will be to take a break or at least a step back from said thing or activity and see if its place in our lives is appropriate and what kind of power it has on us. We need to have grace for ourselves as we begin this process of identifying where our devotion lies because it’s embarrassing to admit that we’ve been worshipping idols. Listen up though, God’s expansive love covers ALL. When we set our sights upon Him once again and realign ourselves with his Word we can rest assured that we are no longer worthless like the things we once worshipped and we begin to see the characteristics of the one we serve become evident in our lives.