Where is Your God?
Adrianne Haslet-Davis knows what it’s like to have her support knocked out from beneath her. Surviving the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing incident, the dance instructor woke up after surgery minus her left foot. The sensation of numbness was piercing; how does a dancer dance on one foot?
The besieged King Hezekiah of ancient Judah knows that feeling too. The mighty empire of Assyriah has surrounded his city. The threat is very real. The field commander’s words are designed to undermine the foundations of his confidence. The enemy’s voice drips with sarcasm as he addresses Hezekiah.
“…You say to me, ‘We are depending on the LORD our God’ – (but) isn’t he the one whose high places and altars (you) Hezekiah removed…?” In other words, your fanatic worldview has left you void of resources. You haven’t a leg to stand on. You have no access to God. In fact, you have no God.
Haven’t we sometimes heard that same challenge? Hasn’t strafe from cultural censure attempted to damage our faith? Karl Marx shoots his dart – “Religion is the opiate of the masses” – and Robert Heinlein aims his – “Religion is a crutch for weak-minded people”. Atheist Richard Dawkins and former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura have repeated fire using that latter quote. We may even rephrase those questions ourselves at times of difficulty, asking ourselves, ‘Does God even hear me? Where is He now?” The dominant culture (D.C.) around us sets its point of equilibrium excluding God. It communicates that the concept of God puts the teeter-totter of our lives out of balance – tips us too far one way or the other. It recites failures and excesses of those for whom religion has justified terrible acts upon humanity. We are tempted to believe them, to keep our faith hidden, silent, and ineffectual fearing their challenge might be true.
How does Hezekiah respond to the bombardment of Assyriah’s verbal assault on his foundation of faith? He runs. Not literally, but he sends a message to his spiritual guide and it sounds like he’s been hit in the foot by shrapnel. Listen.
“It may be that the LORD your God will hear all the words of the field commander, whom his master, the king of Assyria, has sent to ridicule the living God, and that he will rebuke him for the words the LORD your God has heard. Therefore, pray for the remnant that still survives” (II Kings 19:4).
Hezekiah understands he needs help. He needs support from someone of like faith who can help him deal with the challenge, ‘Where is your God?” He echoes the enemy’s question by asking his guide to appeal to “your God”. The challenger knows Hezekiah has torn down high places and altars; their charred remains litter the surrounding hills. He suggests Hezekiah has destroyed his own access to God. The Assyrian commander’s provoking interrogation leaves Hezekiah wondering.
The D.C. of today can cause us similar dismay. It is the first to point out the failures of organized religion, the weaknesses and hypocrisy. We extrapolate that to mean our own faith is an ineffectual prop, not worthy of broad universal application.
What Hezekiah needs help noticing is the error in his aggressor’s assertion: the fallen ‘high places and altars’ were never designated by God as His places of worship. In fact, he had forbidden their construction and usage. They were a form of god-manipulation without His endorsement. Hezekiah needs to see that rather than proving his God is absent, it illustrates God’s justice: no artificial worship succeeds for long.
Let’s take comfort from that thought. The trappings of idolatry, like the hypocrisies within religion will all fail. We are not religion loyalists – we are sons and daughters of Almighty God. Where is God? He is within us. He is behind, before, beside and beyond us. Never let the D.C. confuse us into thinking otherwise.