For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)
God is indeed a consuming fire. He consumes and bears all our wickedness, and then brings us forth and purges us with His righteousness. Now an idol is something made, a work, with human hands. It does not consume; we make it.
In the same way as the Lutheran church struggles against works-righteousness, ancient Israel struggled against these false gods. Men today do not generally say, “I worship Baal.” Instead, they say modern things like, “I give to charities as a law-abiding citizen.” It is nothing new. They are putting their confidence in certain works.
But the Lord critiques piety towards human gods, calling them (in verse 28), “gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.” Psalm 135:15–18 says, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them become like them, so do all who trust in them!”
Philosophical systems of ethics that revolve around an impersonal God or good can still resonate with the idea of gods that do not hear, nor eat, nor smell. We have a personal, smelling, hearing, seeing God — one before whom we are made righteous by grace.
Our God became flesh and has mouth, ears, and eyes, and He is not a work of human hands. Instead, He took on humanity itself and wants to make us His own in His body. After uniting Himself to us, He gives His flesh and blood to us and has given us his Spirit. Now even death, which destroys human bodies, has been consumed in victory.
Salvation unto us has come By God’s free grace and favor; Good works cannot avert our doom, They help and save us never. Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, Who did for all the world atone; He is our one Redeemer. (LSB 555:1)
Registration for the 2013 Higher Things Conferences, From Above, is now open! Register today at fromabove2013.org.
Questions or comments regarding the Reflections may be sent to the Rev. Mark Buetow, Reflections Editor, firstname.lastname@example.org.