Empty Promises

Haftarah Reading: Vayikra (Isaiah 43:21-44:23)
Gospel Reading: Acts 3:1-4:14
Commentary by: Matthew Day

Our haftarah this week presents a clear and concise argument against idolatry. Cognitive dissonance. How is that one can believe that the same piece of wood can be both a god and firewood? On the one hand we look to it for salvation. On the other, we burn it as fuel. We do this all the time, believing one thing with one half of our mind and believing something completely different with the other half. We judge the actions of another while justifying those very same tendencies in ourselves.

Beneath the cognitive dissonance, however, there is something deeper going on—a connection between the firewood and the idol. Both are symbols of our appetite. We burn the wood for comfort and for food, to fulfill our physical cravings. So too when we bow to the idol. You see that piece of wood we used to put up and bow down to was never anything more than a scapegoat for our own selfish desires. It was a way of making our own passions our gods. But, in those passions we find not life. Only death. They consume us as their promise of fulfillment becomes ever more elusive.

Acts 3 tells us of a lame man on the road asking for the only thing he knew to ask for. He sustained himself with temporary fixes—he knew nothing else. People would give him money so he could fill his stomach, but where could he find life? Then one day these two men, Peter and John, walk by. They offer something this man could never have hoped for—the ability to walk. "In the name of Yeshua HaMashiach of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And the man was healed.

The religious leadership were not impressed. Their power was threatened. This is the truth about idols—when you turn to attack a man's sacred cattle, you are attacking the man himself. Because the idol was never really in that block of wood or that casting of metal. It was always within the man's heart, a part of his very nature. To purge the idols out of our lives is to crucify ourselves daily.

"How can I live if I die?" you may object. Perhaps that's what the religious leadership felt. "What will we have left if you take everything away?"

The answer is faith. The Author of Life comes to us offering to fill us to the brim with living water. But, before we can accept what He has to offer, we have to empty ourselves of what we already have. We have to allow Him to transform our identity, allowing who we are to die. Nothing else will ever satisfy. for "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12 ESV).