My wife and I visited Nashville, Tennessee this summer. At the end of our week there we visited one of the local attractions. In Nashville there is a full size replica of the Parthenon – the classical Greek temple of Athena in Athens. Apparently this replica was built to celebrate a Tennessee centennial celebration in the late 1890’s. This replica Parthenon was truly imposing and impressive. It was beautiful. Inside the Parthenon was a forty foot statue of the goddess Athena arrayed in her armor with sword and shield beside her and the goddess Nike ready to crown her with victory. Athena’s bright blue eyes stared out into her temple. As I walked around this temple and gazed at Athena, I asked her some questions. I asked her if she saw me. I asked her if she had anything to say to me. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t look at me. She just kept staring outward. There was no life in her eyes. She was, after all, just a statue.
This experience in the replica Parthenon was even more striking because of what we had experienced during the prior week. You see, we were in Nashville for a conference hosted by Global Awakening. It was a week of inspiring worship, challenging teachings and encouraging prayer times. But more than that, throughout the week I heard God speak to me. He spoke intimately, personally and deeply. He touched wounded places and brought healing. He affirmed who I was. He knew me by name and He saw me. I experienced the LIVING God!
And that is the difference between a beautiful, plaster-cast goddess and The Lord Almighty. So maybe folks today aren’t worshiping Athena, but many, many people turn to the idols of this world – the shiny things, the causes, the power or fame, the possessions – for comfort, meaning or comfort. “Does anyone SEE ME?” they cry out. “Does anyone know ME?” That is what we want, to count. And yet just like that lifeless statue of Athena in Nashville, these idols are just as dead, lifeless and impotent.
The living God knows us. He said to Israel and He says to us today, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine (Isa 43:1). He also says,” Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you (Jer 1:5).
So instead of pursuing the Athena’s of this world – the unmoving, unresponsive, unseeing idols – remember that there is a real, living God poised to respond to your deepest cry. One who can speak into the secret places of your life to bring comfort and wholeness. One who knows you by name.
So as beautiful the replica Parthenon is, I would much rather spend time in the temple of the Living God and have a conversation with Him.