Trusting in a God that we cannot see is the most difficult in times of change, when it becomes easier to rely on the old familiar idols that bring us comfort. Our idols may not be golden calves or bulls, but they do exist just as they did in the ancient world. They just come with different faces. Sometimes it is that comfort food that we turn to when we are stressed, other times it is shopping or acquiring things we don’t need, perhaps it is an over reliance on social media, or using our work as a substitute for turning to God. Those idols are often addictive and create habits that do us more harm than good.
When Bill and I first moved in together in 2008 and I first started employment at the preschool, I came down with bronchitis for the first and only time in my life. I was sick and uncomfortable and living far from home. My mother-in-law went to the drug store and picked up my prescriptions and dropped them off at my house along with homemade matzo ball soup and a large pound cake. Cake is the last thing I would ever want when I am sick. I thanked her kindly for her thoughtfulness and when Bill came home that evening from work, I said “Bill your mom gave me pound cake to help me through my illness. Why? That’s a bit strange”.
Bill laughed and said that “whenever something was wrong, whether illness or stress, his family ate cake. Doesn’t your family do that?” We all have those things we turn to. My family didn’t turn to cake. But I often turn to the comfort of my bed hunkering down trying to avoid the realities of life. That is my vice. But what might happen if in our times of stress or need, we turned to God in prayer and not to avoidance tactics or cakes? What would happen if we trusted in God in those high stress moments? What would it look like to rid ourselves of those idols that teach harmful habits and replace them with worship, prayer, and God?
In the history of Israel, which we read about in 1 Kings, we see a kingdom that went from God centeredness to following those old comforting idols that brought more harm than good. Instead focusing on the goodness of God in the past and the promises and hope of God for the future, when changes abounded and things got hard and stress mounted, they turned to that which was familiar, old, and habit forming: the worship of idols. The physical things that they could see, hold, and potentially control but those idols did not bring a well of faith and spiritual strength to handle all that threatens the well being of humanity.
Jeroboam is an interesting character in the annals of Northern Israel. He is the first king of Northern Israel. He is not of the line of David yet through a prophet he was promised 10 tribes of Israel by God. And God delivered on those promises. Yet Jeroboam did not turn to God when stress and worries mounted. He did not take that experience as evidence of God’s presence and faithfulness. He did not place his trust in the Lord that raised him to that position of power.
So what were his stressors? He ruled a new kingdom of individuals that previously belonged to the kingdom of Judah. He worried about the longevity of devotion from these new subjects and whether the temple to God in Jerusalem would eventually turn the devotion of his people to the king of Judah instead. Our scriptures say, “And Jerobo′am said in his heart, ‘Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David; if this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehobo′am king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehobo′am king of Judah’”. So instead looking towards God in prayer, instead of seeking the advice of the prophet, he turned to what his people had done historically, the worship of bulls and later Ba’al. It allowed for him to take on the role of high priest, kept the money in the country, and the attention of the people upon him. But this was not what was best of the people or himself in the end.
The worship of Ba’al, or bulls, did not offer life; did not offer comfort; did not offer hope for tomorrow. We are called to place our trust in God’s capable hands. We are called to seek advice from above through prayer, through study of the scriptures, through community with our church members before we make those important decisions of life. We are called to break the bonds of those vices that hold us back, that get us into trouble, that only bring us temporary comfort in life and to seek the one and only God who can offer us strength, courage, and a helping hand when we are in need.
God asks that we remain faithful to him and he will remain faithful to us. To do that is not as hard as one might think. It just means when we want to turn to vices, or today’s idols, that we take a moment for prayer first, that we take a moment to think things through, that we look to our scriptures for guidance, and that we place God first when life gets tempting and hard. What Jeroboam lost sight of was that if he had placed his well-being, the future of his new kingdom, into God’s hands, seeking God to lead him and his people then he would have been much more successful and the wellbeing and happiness of the people of the northern kingdom of Israel could have had a completely different future than what they had.
We are reminded each and every day of the goodness of God in this world and in our lives. Those reminders should be our evidence, the proof that we need to place our confidence, our trust, and our futures into the hands of the ever present, loving God. This week as you go forth into work, responsibilities, appointments, and whatever challenges you might face, when you feel yourself not knowing what to do or where to go next stop and pray and look to God to guide your feet before you move forward. When you find yourself reaching for those vices take a moment to ask whether you need those vices or whether you could be seeking out God in the pages of the scriptures or through the comfort of connecting with fellow people of faith? Lynn Austin wrote in Candle in the Darkness, “Faith don’t come in a bushel basket, Missy. It come one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He’s so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands”. Start small placing your trust in God and seeking God for the small worries and soon you’ll be placing God in his rightful place in your life. Trusting him with all that is most precious to you.
 1 Kings 12: 26-27, RSV.
 Lynn Austin, Candle in the Darkness, 21st century American Christian Author.