(NOTE: This sermon series and devotional series is based on a book by Tim Keller entitled, Counterfeit Gods.
You may choose to download or purchase the book as a supplement to your worship and devotional emails.)
“Nature abhors a vacuum.”
Any absence of a regular or expected person or thing will soon be filled by someone or something similar. Based on Aristotle’s observation that no true vacuums exist in nature (on Earth) because the difference in pressure results in an immediate force that acts to correct the equilibrium.*
This principle is true of our soul as well. Our inner being longs to have acceptance, love, value, and purpose. The question is where will we seek to fill these needs.
The counterfeit gods are those things in life that fill these needs and voids but are not the real thing. But there is another problem. Even when we recognize that a good thing has become an ultimate thing and get rid of it, it must not just be removed, but it must be intentionally replaced. Just removing a counterfeit god is only part of the solution. The void which the counterfeit god leaves MUST be filled by the true God.
One example of this is Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Jacob had a history of seeking acceptance and blessing. He was the second born of twins (his brother was Esau). He tricked Esau out of the birth right. He later deceived his father Isaac to give him the blessing that Isaac was going to give to Esau. Ironically his name means “heel grabber” or “deceiver.” He lived up to his name.
But what was he looking for?
The void he was filling was a need for acceptance and blessing. He sought it from his dad, and had to trick him to get it. He sought it from his brother, but deceived to get the birth rite. With his uncle Laban he sought it in his relationship with Rachael, but was deceived by Lot.
He was contending with mankind to find love, acceptance and blessing.
Until he was making his way, after 20 years, back to meet his brother Esau. After getting his family and flocks ready, Jacob went to sleep by himself. Here’s what happened:
22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
From this encounter, God gave him two things to remind him that he doesn’t have to contend for love, acceptance and blessing from mankind. First God changed his name from Jacob (heel grabbing deceiver) to Israel (One who wrestles with God). Every time his name was spoken would remind him of wrestling with God. And second, every time he took a step with a limp he was reminded of his wrestling match.
God did bless him that night because he wanted Jacob to fill every void with him.
God was molding Jacob, whose struggle continued, to walk with him and have every need filled by him.
Your name may not change and your hip remain in place, but as you identify counterfeit gods in your life, may you always fill them with the truth God gives!
Apply: What is one counterfeit god in your life. What truth or promise about God fills that void?
Prayer: Lord, open my heart to expose and remove all that is counterfeit and replace it with all that is real. AMEN.