Do You Know Him?
“Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior.” —Martin Luther
In the 6th century BC, a plague afflicted the people of Athens. The elders of the city were at a loss for what to do. Certain they had offended a deity, they ordered sacrifices made before each of the many altars of the Athenian gods.
The plague worsened.
They sent to Crete for a seer named Epimenides, said to be “in touch with the gods.” Epimenides surveyed the scene and concluded they had, indeed, offended a god—the question was which one.
He proposed an experiment. They would release a flock of sheep on the side of a fertile hill. Those that did the natural thing—graze—they’d allow to eat. Any animals that did not graze, but rather lied down in the grass, those animals would be sacrificed, right where they lay, to the unknown, offended god.
On the day of the experiment, not one animal grazed. Every single animal lied down in the grass. The people sacrificed them. The hill ran red with blood—and the plague relented. An altar was erected to the unknown god.
Some 600 years later, the apostle Paul visited Athens: “While Paul was waiting in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16).
When Paul was given an opportunity to speak before the Areopagus—an assembly of the town’s elders and thinkers—he began: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you” (Acts 17:22-23).
The way the Athenians lived, they made regular rounds to the altars of many gods—leaving gifts, hoping to keep them all appeased. The god of the harvest, the god of the hunt, the goddess of grain, the goddess of wine—dozens more—all got attention from the people hoping for favor.
It’s easy to get caught in such a race—running from altar to altar to appease lesser deities. The god of career advancement, the god of accumulating wealth, the god of recreation, the god of envy—insert your gods here—Monday through Saturday, rushing to bow to them all. Then, to drop in on Sunday morning, to worship Almighty God as if He’s an unknown.
Paul said, “This god you worship as if He’s unknown—let me introduce Him to you.”
“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being’” (Acts 17:26-28).
That last sentence … is a quote from Epimenides.
My prayer this week—Almighty God, you are not a god with a small ‘g’ or an idol fashioned by the hands of men. Forgive me for the times when I’ve treated you as though you were. Refresh my faith and my routine—that you’d be glorified!