Do we worship the Unknown God?
On his second missionary journey the apostle Paul found the altar to The Unknown God in Athens, and he branded the Athenians as “too superstitious.” But then Athens was an heathen nation and could stand a little missionary work and could profit from a sermon or two being preached on Mars’ hill. But here in Christian(?) America is it not even insulting to ask the question as to whether we are worshipping an “Unknown God”? And by all means in the Standard Bearer, which comes not to the unchurched but to men and women particularly—although not exclusively—of the Reformed Faith, to brethren and sisters in the Lord who confess that Jehovah is God alone, do we need to ask whether we are that superstitious? Do we not in the Reformed circles subscribe to Article 1 of the Netherlands Confession which declares, “We all believe with the heart, and confess with the mouth, that there is only one simple and spiritual Being, which we call God; and that He is eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, immutable, infinite, almighty, perfectly wise, just, good, and the overflowing fountain of all good?” Do we not likewise agree wholeheartedly with the Heidelberg Catechism when it asks “What is idolatry?” and then answers, “Idolatry is, instead of, or besides that one true God, Who has manifested Himself in His Word, to contrive, or have any other object, in which men place their trust?’ We know of no unknown god. We confess that Jehovah is God and that there is no god beside Him. We are not heathens, and we are not idolaters, are we?
Our trust in this one true God is not strong. That we will readily concede. We live so often in fear rather than in His fear. We can sing so seldom with conviction and enthusiasm with David, “The Lord (Jehovah) is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” We are ready to agree that so very often we put our trust in the very coins of our land which state “In God we Trust.” The moment sickness, calamity or serious trouble strikes, our thoughts are of doctors, insurance, policies, welfare agencies, Social Security and what have you? God is an afterthought. “In His fear,” and “In God we trust” are slogans that we revert to because we depart from them so often. But worship an unknown God? Surely in the church and in this day and age that is not a sin to be found with us!
But let us look again.
“50 gallons of gas given free every week.”
“Door prizes and valuable gifts for all.”
These are only a few of the evidences in this area at the moment of worshipping the unknown God. They will change with the times and will have variations in other areas; but they reveal that this sin is not so far away from us and outmoded in this day and age.
“Super Bingo” looks not to the living God. Looks not to Him and expects not all good from Him but from the unknown God of Luck. “50 gallons of gas free every week” from the god of Luck, if you will accept the “lucky” ticket and bow thus before the god of Luck. “Door prizes” are for those who worship the unknown God of Luck and will comply with his rules and regulations. A polished and refined gambling (but does not our Form for the celebration of the Lord’s Supper warn those who are defiled with the sin of being gamesters to refrain from eating and drinking damnation to themselves?) is practiced as though the Word of God did not say, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” That does not mean that we will not try to serve God and worship this unknown god. It does not mean that we will not try to expect all good from Jehovah and yet also look to that box—which is the altar of this unknown god of Luck—for a good that we covet in dissatisfaction with our lot as appointed and arranged by Jehovah, the God Who has made Himself known in the Son of His love.
Our god is that object or person whom we worship and serve because we trust in that object or person for our good. The unbeliever worships the creature rather than the Creator because he sees only the creature through which the Creator sustains him and supplies him with the necessities of life. Men realize the value of the sun and the rain clouds for our food and life. They also fear the burning heat of that sun and the floods which result when a superabundance of rain falls from those clouds, and they return again after the rain. And so the unbeliever worships sun and rain clouds. The fool says in his heart that there is no God. The unbeliever ignores and denies the one true God and worships the creature, seeks to appease its wrath and looks to that creature for its life and good.
And we try to serve God and mammon. We look to Jehovah for all good when it becomes plain to us that our idol is not able to do so. We look up in prayer to Jehovah when our bowing before the altar of the unknown god of Luck—to write our name on the half of the ticket in which we put our trust—fails to give us what we covet. We hold on to that ticket. We cherish it. This might be our key to happiness(?) and good. We will feel miserable, if we lose it. This is the thing that might make the difference in our life of having our desires filled or of remaining empty-handed of our heart’s treasure. O, we dare not as we stand before this altar of Luck offer a prayer to Jehovah and say, “Lord guide the hands of the man who will make me lucky.” We dare not after (shame on us for even having our pictures and names in the paper) having been “lucky” offer a prayer of thanksgiving to Jehovah, as though after all it was His providence and favor upon us rather than this unknown god of Luck. We did not seek this from Him; and therefore we had better not give Him the thanks for it. We did not seek it in the way of the work which He gave and gives to our hands. We ignored Him. We avoided Him. We did not pray for it, for we did not quite dare, being convinced in our hearts that as we would be offering such a prayer, He might answer us through His Spirit by recalling to our minds His commandment, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s. . . . . . .” You know, the Spirit might just convict us that wanting in jealousy what the neighbor has, that is, the same kind of treasure, is as evil as wanting his possessions. The Spirit, you know, might just sanctify us and purify us through the truth, so that we reject that word of the unknown god, because we have heard the Word of God Who made Himself. known to us in the Son of His love and through the blood of Calvary. No, we will have to try to serve God AND mammon. We will have to be disciples and children of Jeroboam—who made Israel to sin—by worshipping Jehovah through these golden calves of lucky number tickets, bingo, gambling and the like.
No different is it really. O, you may be sure that Jeroboam told Israel that this all was perfectly legitimate. No, NO, they were not worshipping an idol. These golden calves only represented Jehovah Who brought Israel out of Egypt. No, no you must not forget Him. This will help you—these golden calves—to remember Him. And so we soothe our consciences and say that after all we are not worshipping and serving mammon but God Himself. We do not bow before this altar of the unknown god of Luck as denying Jehovah. We look to Jehovah to guide the selection of the lucky number. We will acknowledge it all as His kind providence.
But where in Scripture do you ever come across that word luck? You can come pretty close to it, however, in the word lust! And lust will move us to seek another god than Jehovah. We know that we cannot come to Him to ask Him to satisfy our lusts. We know that He declares to us, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but of the world.” I John 2:15, 16. To the God Whom we know we cannot come for the satisfaction of our lust. We will have to seek that from this unknown god of Luck.
Therein is also our folly. We said, our folly. The Athenians who were too superstitious and wanted to be sure that they did not invoke the wrath of a god whom they inadvertently overlooked, built also an altar to him(?). We do the same when besides our prayers to Jehovah, besides looking to Him for our all and receiving all from Him as our covenant Father we resort to acts of “luck,” speak of being lucky or of having had bad luck. Webster tells us that luck is that which happens to us by chance. And we worship this unknown god when we take a chance and drop our ticket into the slotted altar to chance the satisfaction of our lust.
And he is an unknown god. Nothing can be known about him. For, as Paul states in I Corinthians 8:4, “we know that an idol is nothing.” And what can be known about that which is nothing. If it does not exist, all you can know about it is that it does not exist. It is unknown and unknowable. And then it is no god. And since there is only one God, Jehovah, there can be no unknown god beside Him. Jehovah Himself may not be known by the heathen and is not known by them. They know from the testimony of His works that there is a God and therefore are without excuse. But they do not know this God to be Jehovah. But He can be known and is known by the regenerated children of God through His self-revelation in Holy Writ.
In His fear the child of God bows before Him and worships Him, putting all His trust in Him. In the measure that we trust in luck and seek to obtain anything in the way of a “lucky” ticket, whether that be a door prize or possession obtained in the way of lottery, bingo or the like, one does not know Jehovah. In that measure he does not serve Him, does not warship Him and does not put his trust in Him. Such must not be surprised if He tells them in the day of days, “I never knew you.” Away then with all this superstition! For worshipping the unknown god of Luck is superstition. The word means literally to stand over or above. And because we cannot serve God and mammon, striving to obtain that after which we lust by means of luck is causing in our thinking (not in actual fact, of course) that unknown god of Luck to stand above God. Then in that act Jehovah is not God anymore in our life. If the unknown god stands above Him, then Jehovah is not God anymore but is subject to that one who stands over Him. Satan knows more than one way to get us to try to whittle God down to our level and below us so that we can think that we are like and above him. Recognize his evil tricks and walk not in his evil ways.
Unless we want to be idolaters, we had better put away all this luck business and put all our trust in the living God, Who is known among His people and has never put them to shame and never will. Only one can go away from the altar of the unknown god of Luck and not be disappointed. All others are not favored by him and may have squandered their good hard-earned money to seek his favor, and then find that he has turned against them to be the unknown god of Bad-Luck. Only one can “know” this unknown god at a time. But Jehovah blesses countless thousands and never puts them to shame.
Let us therefore heed the word of His apostle, and not that of Satan’s prophets, as He speaks through this apostle in Philippians 4:6, 7, “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” This is quite different from trusting to luck and seeking good from a “lucky” number.
In His fear stand in awe before Jehovah, the God of our salvation, and let it be the truth of your life: “In God we trust.” The world will then speak of being lucky, but you will speak of being blessed. The possessions the world gains by “luck” it will soon lose in God’s wrath. The blessings you receive from Jehovah will increase and be yours everlastingly.