“Grandpa,” said Edward, peering out of the car window, “why does that sign say ‘God Bless America’?”
“They probably wanted God to help them,” said Alice.
“Yes, people want God’s blessing when they come to hard times,” Grandpa said. “But they won’t get it unless they do what He says. Let me tell you a story about
Lions in the Land
(Reference: 2 Kings 17:22-29.)
It was the Assyrians who hauled the Israelites into captivity and took over their land. Now many families from the countries around came to live in the empty villages. And so, with many others, little Shad’s family came from Babylon. They came with their cow and mule, Papa’s tools and Mama’s dishes, and Grandma’s silver idol in a special little chest. The life-god is very important, thought Shad, as they drove into their new town. It makes the rain come and gives the cow her milk. He watched Grandma set it up in the corner of the room on a special shelf.
It was only a few days after Papa had planted the barley that the lions came. The shepherd boy hadn’t come back with the sheep, so Papa and the neighbor went to the hills to see what happened. “It was a lion,” he told Shad. “You must not go out of the village. Just last week a silversmith was attacked on the road to Samaria.”
“The gods are not happy,” Grandma said. Shad knew that Mama was worried. She took a basket of honey cakes up to the grove and prayed to the power-god to keep them safe. But when the neighbor saw a lion at the well the next day, Mama was frightened.
“The town counsel is meeting tonight,” Papa said. “The God of this land must be angry, so we are asking the king of Assyria to send us one of his prophets. Then we can learn the ways of this God and how to please him.”
Shad was curious about the new God. Was he bigger than the life-god? Was he stronger than the power-god? At last the prophet came and everyone gathered to hear the new God’s ways. “The God of this land is Lord God of heaven and earth. He is pleased with those that do right, but He will punish the wicked. You must follow and obey Him, and not serve other gods. Then the Lord God will keep you safe.”
“We will bring him a calf,” said the neighbor. “We will learn his rules,” said Papa. But Shad wondered if the new God would be happy. Did He only want animals and rules to follow? Was He just another God to put on the shelf?
Grandpa looked over at Edward as he asked the question. “Well, what do you think? Is God pleased with being a god-on-a-shelf?”
“No,” Edward said, shaking his head.
Alice watched the buildings they passed. “Lots of people go to church and talk about praying,” she said slowly. “But I don’t think they please God much either.”
“No, God doesn’t want to be just talked about and prayed to when trouble comes. He wants to be first and important, with no other gods before Him,” Grandpa said. “Do you know what sort of gods people have on their shelves today?”
“Like statues?” asked Edward.
“Not quite,” said Grandpa. “What are people listening to and obeying?”
“Lots of people watch TV all the time. That’s like a god, I guess.”
“And fashions and sports and money,” added Grandpa. “There are many gods in this world. But I’m glad to know the only true God and obey Him.”
“I want to follow Him because He really can help us,” said Alice.