Traditions Die Hard
I was reading through the Bible the other day and noticed a passage of scripture in II Kings 18:4. In the story, Hezekiah assumes the throne of Judah. There had been a series of bad kings leading up to Hezekiah. In the story there is a determination by the king to turn the people’s hearts back toward God. He begins by tearing down idols, which had been done in the past, but he went further to tear down the ‘high places’ which had been symbolic for pagan worship within the nation of Judah and Israel.
What caught my eye was that he destroyed the bronze snake that had been lifted up in the wilderness when the people were being led by Moses. The story is from Numbers 21:4-9. In essence the people had been disobedient to God and thus he sent poisonous snakes into the camp. The only way that one would be saved from the snake’s venom was to look up at a bronze snake that Moses had made. This is an early symbol of how the way we find salvation which is to look up at the cross.
The people of God had carried that bronze snake the rest of the time in the wilderness and into the promised land. They had even taken it into the temple that Solomon built. The last straw was that they began to worship it. They literally turned their hearts from God and turned it toward worshiping an inanimate object with no power. They had enshrined a tradition and made it their god.
We are not unlike many of the people in Judah. We can take a moment in which God moved in our midst or saved us from ourselves and we begin to think that we have to try and return to that date. In other words, we heard a certain preacher or a certain song when we were saved and then begin to think that we can only worship when we hear that song or that no other person can deliver the word like that preacher. We turn what God did in our lives into a god to worship.
I have seen a couple of different churches battle through some of the worship wars. I’ve seen it from both sides. There are those who believe that traditional music is the only type of music that is acceptable to worship. When you sit down and talk with these folks, they usually refer back to when they were younger and that is the type of music they grew up on. They worshiped under traditional music so it is the only type of music worthy to be played in church. I have also seen younger people who thrive under contemporary music say that contemporary music is the only type of music that truly brings out worship. They mainly say this because it was at a youth camp or retreat where they first heard that song and God moved in their heart,so now they believe that is the only way to worship.
I have seen individuals act like the Wicked With of the West anytime the “other” type of music was played. They literally scream “I’m melting” every time they hear that ‘non-worshipful’ music. They cross their arms and pout like three year olds.
We have to admit that these are traditions that we have formed out of some meaningful time in our life where God did something extraordinary. Music is just one example. There are many more such as a certain type of Bible to read out of, a certain place to go to camp, or a certain preacher that preaches. I see it often when someone will say “we are looking for a church like what we used to have.”
I am sure there were people who were “freaking out” when Hezekiah destroyed what they perceived as a meaningful object. We have to remember that anytime we place anything above God as the object of our worship, it must be destroyed!