By Irvin Himmel
All kinds of religions have sprung up and new ones are making their appearance. If someone decides to go shopping for a “church,” as he might shots for an automobile or house, he will find a wide variety from which to make his selection. And this is exactly the approach that some people use! One person prefers a religion in which there is much emotional display. Another looks for a religion that offers social and recreational activities. Some are influenced by doctrinal emphasis, such as miraculous healing or millennialism. Others want a religion that is liberal enough that no restraints will be placed on their worldly practices. People proceed on the assumption that whatever pleases them should please God. One likes a lot of pomp and ritual, and he supposes that God likes pomp and ceremony. Another likes organ music in worship, so he is confident that God approves it. Still another likes shouting and hand-clapping, and he thinks God likes shouting and hand-clapping.
While every human being has God-given freedom of choice, no one has the right to expect God to be pleased with anything and everything that may suit the whims and fancies of frail humanity. The ancient Israelites liked it when they were lying on beds of ivory, stretching themselves upon their couches, eating mutton and beef, drinking wine, singing, and plying instruments of music (Amos 6:3-6). But God detested what they were doing! He said, “I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces” (Amos 6:8).
God found the religion of the Israelites to be repulsive. When they oppressed the poor, left off justice, and disobeyed divine law, He said, ‘Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them” (Isa. 1:13,14).
The people who urged Aaron to make the golden calf at Mt. Sinai liked it. They rose up early to offer burnt offerings, and they “sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play” (Ex. 32:5,6). But God was strongly displeased and threatened to consume them in wrath. Moses had the Levites to slay 3,000 men who were involved in this unauthorized religious festivity (Ex. 32:26-28).
Before I conclude that God should be pleased with whatever I like in religion, I must realize that God does not think as I do. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa. 55:8,9).
How can anyone really know what God likes? There is a sure way to know what God approves. He has revealed in the Scriptures the course that He wants us to follow. By careful and prayerful study of the eternal word we can learn the will of God. One who through faith conforms to the Bible will not need to shop around.
Truth Magazine XXI: 49, pp. 780-781
December 15, 1977