I recently read The Serpent’s Shadow the third book of the Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan. These stories play around with Egyptian mythology overlaid on modern culture. In this installment, a key magical element are shabti, statues that can be used to capture a shadow and then control the being whose shadow is controlled.
Suddenly I had different understanding of idols. Up to this point, I only considered them as artistic renditions of gods people loved or feared. They only served as a focus of worship. But with grasping the concept of a shabti, I now get that to the ancient Egyptian culture, the culture that Moses and the Hebrews left, idols where not just foci but actual tools to control the gods.
When reading the Ten Commandments, I always struggled with the differentiation between the first two. 1 – Don’t have any other gods. 2 – don’t make graven images. It doesn’t’ take much digging to separate and understand the nuances of what is being prohibited in each. But the two of them seemed mildly redundant.
But shabti revealed a new layer.
We are commanded to not try to control God. He is beyond that. And to live in faith means that we are to trust him. Demanding, commanding, trying to force our will upon God aren’t ways to relationship.
Of course, trust is harder. Harder but better.