Sermon Sept 29

A Sermon Preached by Dr. Stan Henderson
Trinity Presbyterian Church
Oroville, California

September 29, 2013

“The Gospel and Idolatry”

Galatians 4:8-20

There was an article in the New York Times this past week entitled, “The Whale Who Would Not Be Freed.” It was taking another look at the story of Keiko, the real-life killer whale featured in the 1993 film, “Free Willey”. Keiko had been captured as a pup off the coast of Iceland in the 1970s and was languishing in an amusement park aquarium. Then a ground-swell movement began to free the whale from captivity. It resulted in an ambitious and very costly effort to help Keiko adapt to living in the wild again and then to set him free. This finally happened in the summer of 2002 in the waters near Iceland. However, within a month, Keiko returned to a fishing village in Norway and stayed there until he died a year later. He had decided that he preferred living in captivity and being looked after by humans than fending for himself out in the ocean.

We get a glimpse of something like this with the Israelites in the Exodus. God had miraculously brought them out of slavery in Egypt, and, under the leadership of Moses, they embarked on a long journey into the unknown. At the start they were fearful of the pursuing Egyptians and later of the Canaanites who inhabited the Promised Land. Often times, they were not sure where their next meal was coming from. The result was that they continually griped and complained to Moses. They said: “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt?” Like the whale returning to captivity, they said: “Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians.”

I think this picture of the wilderness wanderings and return to slavery, and a return to idols like the golden calf, are what lie behind what Paul is saying in these verses. The Galatian Christians had come out of a bondage to false gods and now it looks like they are ready to go back to another form of Idolatry. Paul said: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to beings that by nature are not gods.”

The Galatian Christians were Gentiles who lived in a culture that was full of idol worship; they believed in a whole host of gods. There was a god of the spring planting and a god of the harvest. There was a god who put fish in the fisherman’s nets and a god responsible for childbirth. With every aspiration of their hearts there was an idol to whom they could appeal for help.

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