Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, “Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain. Surely we will be stronger than they.”
1 Kings 20:23
There is a terrible danger in compartmentalizing God. The ancient polytheists did this regularly. They had a god of the sky and a god of the mountain and the hill and a god of the ocean and the lake and the pond and the river and stream and the creek. A god for everything and for everything a god. We still have this tendency today, though we no longer call these “gods.” Folks worship in the cult of Science and their god is Reason or Empirical Evidence. Some of us worship in the cult of Hedonism and our gods receive names like Food and Sleep and Sex. And the names get capitalized because people make gods of things that are good in their own right, but become terrible when worshiped. There is nothing wrong with any of these in their proper place, but worship is not their proper place.
Ben Hadad and his advisers tried to shove God into one of these boxes. They thought, “Ah ha! We fought on the mountain and lost. Their god must be a mountain god.” So they decided to fight on the plains. They, of course, lost there , too. So what? So, there are two tendencies at work and both are insidious and both are wrong.
The first is the general tendency to make gods of things that are not God. I do not do this intentionally, but I must guard against it intentionally. It is far too simple a thing to go from enjoying food or sleep to worshiping it. This is wrong. This removes God from His rightful throne. What’s worse is that He allows me the freedom to make that change. I can walk up to the throne of my life and say, “God, would You mind getting up? I want food to sit there.” and God, gracious as He is, will stand up and let food supplant Him. But He will not leave it that way. If once I have crowned God the King of my life, He does not relinquish the title, though He will allow a pretender on the throne for a time — usually just long enough for me to realize how miserable my existence is under the rule of anyone other than Him. I need to guard against my tendency to supplant Him. It is a tendency innate to everyone, so I don’t feel unique in that. I do, however, feel responsible for the throne of my own life and Who I place on it.
The second is the tendency to compartmentalize. Men love to do this. I can’t speak for women, having never been one. I love to categorize and file away everything — the OCD folder structure on my computer is testament to that. Again, there’s nothing inherently wrong with order. It is when I try to force God to fit into the structure that I’ve designed that’s wrong. God does not fit into my folder structure. I cannot place the God file in one folder and expect my relationship with Him to be as it should. God is not a file to be placed in a folder, but is more like an operating system which needs to be installed and overwrite the existing OS. The comparison will not hold up to close scrutiny, but it doesn’t need to. No comparison of God to anything will hold up to close scrutiny. Any comparison is only useful insofar as it helps me get my mind around a concept that God wants me to understand. And the concept is that He wants to pervade my life; to permeate every thought and moment. He doesn’t want a part. He wants the whole. He does not want to sit in one folder amid the many. He wants to be the OS within which all of those folders sit — and He wants the rights to delete files and folders that are incompatible with Him. The danger in limiting God is that He might allow me to do so and I end up with an emasculated excuse for the omnipotent God Who wanted to make my life a series of mountains tossed into seas by a word.
My two takeaways are (1) that I need to actively guard against the (very human) tendency to make gods of things which are not and (2) that I cannot stuff God in a box; cannot compartmentalize Him and keep Him out of some aspect of my life. He’s too big for that.