When I was a kid, we went on a lot of road trips. We always packed a bag of stuff to do in the car. With the dull pencils, snacks, playing cards, and magazines I always tossed in my gold Pocket Game Boy. I can still imagine leaning against the rear side window of our minivan playing on that two-tone screen.
We all have certain things we consider essential for our journey. Interestingly, God’s people have always had a penchant for throwing little gold objects into their travel bags. Rachel couldn’t imagine a road trip without her father’s household gods, so she stuffed them into her purse. When they arrived back in Canaan, Jacob made them turn out their travel bags: “‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you’…So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had…Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem” (Genesis 35:2,4).
Four hundred years later, when the people of Israel finished their 40 year road trip from Egypt to the Promised Land, Joshua came to the same terebinth tree in Shechem. Not surprisingly, he found the same gold figurines among the luggage: “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel” (Joshua 24:23).
Household Gods? Really, Guys?
Why would anyone worship something they can hold in their hand? Little household gods that you keep on your nightstand, why would you entrust your destiny to a gold or silver manmade idol? It seems ridiculous to us–laughable even.
Zechariah points out the absurdity:
“For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.” (Zechariah 10:2)
It’s foolish to let something made of metal or glass (or both) to shepherd our souls. They promise to protect and save us along our journey through the wilderness, but they only leave us destitute, ill-fed, sick, and dying. False shepherds leave the sheep to wander into destruction.
But Zechariah isn’t telling us something new. We know this. Why would any of us be tempted to trust a little metal object, a cheap diviner, a fortune-teller to steer our future, to tell us how to live, and to interpret the world for us?
What’s that in your pocket?
But then we reach into our back pocket…and there we find household god Numero Uno. Way back in Genesis, Rachel sat on her household gods (31:34). Ironically, thousands of years later most of us do, too. A little rectangular handheld crafted from metal and glass–my first iPhone was, of all colors, gold.
Your iPhone is a false shepherd. If you are daily turning to your smartphone for the supreme interpretation of existence and human history instead of the Word of God, you are following a false shepherd. In the words of Zechariah, your iPhone screen “utters nonsense”, on it you “see lies”, it creates in you “false dreams” and “gives empty consolation.” Those of us who put ultimate trust in them wander like sheep; we are afflicted for lack of the True Shepherd.
Do you really think you are getting an accurate perception of reality through the memes, tweets, timelines, articles, and infographs that scroll as you pet the face of your household god?
Consider: You find it hard to sit in front of your Bible for 5 minutes, but you entrust 2 hours a day to social media. And you think that won’t effect your soul? Brothers and sisters, we have to abandon the false shepherds. Anything that we trust and turn to before God’s Word–anything that even comes close to rivaling his influence as our Supreme Shepherd–must be cast aside. We joke about fake news and alternative facts, and even still we find our fears and hopes steered by dubious content churned out by anonymous sources. Tell me that’s not absurd.
Just because you’re looking at light coming through a glass does not mean you are looking at a window into the real world.
You want to interpret your reality? You want to know how you should live? You need daily refreshment? Do you want a Shepherd who will give you true perspective in your life? Zechariah says,
“Ask rain from the LORD in the season of the spring rain, from the LORD who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.” (Zechariah 10:1)
Abandon your false shepherds and entrust your soul to Him. Seek his rain showers in his Word. Find comfort not in notifications and buzzes or in the words of your favorite news site or any other shepherd you may put your trust in.
Take up instead God’s Word. It fits in your hand, too. However, it will bring about your salvation not your destruction. Only sheep guided by the voice of their Good Shepherd will make it safely through their journey to their destination.