Who is Your God?

  • Steve Hatter
Old courthouse building

I am sure we have all watched to varying degrees the immensely acrimonious debate that took place in the Anchorage Assembly chambers in the past weeks regarding the proposed COVID-19 mask mandate. Regardless of where someone may stand on the specifics of the topic of debate, there is an important observable reality about the times we find ourselves in that was manifest in the three painful weeks of fighting. That observable reality is a principle of humanity, and it is this: when people are threatened, they run to their gods.

The Coronavirus has brought a perceived threat level into our modern lives that is serious, ongoing, and shows no sign of resolution or retreat. The nature of the threat is physical, political, financial, and relational, making it malevolent on a scale that has virtually everyone reeling. It is, if nothing else, utterly dividing in its effects. In short, it seems a deadly “sword of Damocles” has come to hang over us individually and corporately. Its troubling presence is forcing people to think and choose in ways they had not anticipated.

The famed “sword of Damocles” dates back to an ancient moral parable popularized by the Roman philosopher Cicero in his 45 B.C. book “Tusculan Disputations.” Cicero’s version of the tale centers on Dionysius II, a tyrannical king who once ruled over the Sicilian city of Syracuse during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. Though rich and powerful, Dionysius was supremely unhappy. His iron-fisted rule had made him many enemies, and he was tormented by fears of assassination—so much so that he slept in a bedchamber surrounded by a moat and only trusted his daughters to shave his beard with a razor.

As Cicero tells it, the king’s dissatisfaction came to a head one day after a court flatterer named Damocles showered him with compliments and remarked how blissful his life must be. “Since this life delights you,” an annoyed Dionysius replied, “do you wish to taste it yourself and make a trial of my good fortune?” When Damocles agreed, Dionysius seated him on a golden couch and ordered a host of servants to wait on him. He was treated to succulent cuts of meat and lavished with scented perfumes and ointments. Damocles could not believe his luck, but just as he was starting to enjoy the life of a king, he noticed that Dionysius had also hung a razor-sharp sword from the ceiling. It was positioned over Damocles’ head, suspended only by a single strand of horsehair. From then on, the courtier’s fear for his life made it impossible for him to savor the opulence of the feast or enjoy the servants. After casting several nervous glances at the blade dangling above him, he asked to be excused, saying he no longer wished to be so fortunate. (https://www.history.com/news/what-was-the-sword-of-damocles)

Americans have lived well for much of the last century and for most of the current one. We, like Damocles, have tasted of good fortune. Then a global pandemic came upon us. Amid our comfort and complacency, we looked up and saw the razor-sharp sword. We now live under the specter of anxiety and death, and as Cicero would say: “there can be no happiness for one who is under constant apprehensions.”

Scripture tells Christian repeatedly that we are to pursue God and trust Him in all things, especially trials. As a Christian, I have run to my God when threatened and He is the God of the Bible. Those of you who have been so kind as to read my blogs over the last year and a half know that I have written much about the important choice of running to the living God of the universe. The Gospel is how I live under the sword.

But what about most people out there who do not have saving faith? Where do they turn when “there can be no happiness for one who is under constant apprehensions?” Considering the Children of Israel is the right place to go for an answer.

Exodus 32: 1–6 narrates a tragic, but an incredibly relevant event in the history of Israel. Yahweh, The LORD God, had brought the Hebrew nation out of Israel with miraculous power. Yet, it took little for God’s chosen to bail on Him under duress and to pursue some imagined better god:

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”  So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.”  So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.  And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”  When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.”  And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

Idols. That is what man runs to under duress, and you can bet that people everywhere are running to idols now. Government is an idol for many these days. Think about it. How easy is it for people to believe empty promises of personal peace and safety from smiling, sincere politicians? We want so much for the sword to go away, so people turn to those who promise to take it away. However, the sad and enduring truth is these elected frauds will never get it done. And then they will blame you and me for not supporting them, which enables them to next point to that lack of support as the reason they failed.

The government cannot be a viable god, nor can science or anything man-made. There is only one God, and He is in Heaven ruling His created universe. In His perfect wisdom, He has chosen to leave the sword over us for a time it seems. But even so, we have no need to fear. Whether my death comes by the Covid sword or by slipping in the bathtub, God has my days counted. He has also promised glory for me through the saving faith he has graciously granted me. And because that is true, I can have joy and peace—which is not the same as happiness—”under constant apprehensions.”

God is ever ready to reap a harvest of believers in Christ and Covid is bringing clarity to that truth. If you are not yet a Christian, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ today and be saved! The temporal sword may indeed stay, but you will have answered rightly the number one question of human existence. You will be safe, and free, and blessed forever in eternity. That is what the true God promises. In my calculus, that promise beats any government promise any day.