Bob Dylan’s Unknown God

For a five or six year period, Bob Dylan professed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he attended Bible studies led by Kenn Gullickson and John Wimber, the co-founders of the Vineyard churches, and looked to well-known Christian musician Keith Green as a spiritual mentor.

That season in his life was probably best reflected in his album Slow Train Coming. One song in particular expressed a deep longing in all of us: Gotta Serve Somebody. Here’s an excerpt of his lyrics:

You might be a rock ’n’ roll addict prancing on the stage
You might have drugs at your command, women in a cage
You may be a businessman or some high-degree thief
They may call you Doctor or they may call you Chief

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

The message behind Dylan’s song? All of us are wired to worship. Some of us worship a God we know. Others worship unknown gods.

Join me this weekend as we delve further into this subject.

TODAY’S READING

2 Kings 9:14-12:21
Acts 17:1-18:22
Psalm 144:1-145:21
Proverbs 17:27-18:1

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Kings 9:14-12:21. Notice the location where Jehu accosted King Joram: the field where Joram’s mother Jezebel had Naboth murdered, which was then stolen by her husband King Ahab. The irony in this passage is that Joram ran away from Jehu yelling “Treachery,” when that is how his father and mother treated Naboth.

Why did Jehu kill King Ahaziah of Judah? The New Bible Commentary explains:

His killing of Ahaziah of Judah was not commanded by the prophet in verses 7–10. Jehu presumably felt it was justified because Ahaziah was the son of Athaliah, granddaughter of Omri (2 Kings 8:26).

Jehu was an “all or nothing” kind of person. When he slaughtered Ahab’s family, he destroyed them completely. Then he slaughtered anyone close to the family and then ordered the killing of all the priests of Baal before turning their temple into a latrine.

Lest we assume all of his actions were pure, scholars speculate that Jehu’s “zeal” was a means of destroying any potential opposition to his throne. He also assumed the throne by striking fear in the hearts of anyone who questioned him. Lastly, we read in Hosea 1:4 that God brought an end to Jehu’s legacy because he was displeased about the massacre at Jezreel.

Interestingly enough, though, he failed to destroy the golden calves that the people worshipped (2 Kings 10:29). Apparently, vestiges of idol worship remained in his heart because we read in verse 31 that “He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

Yesterday we read about Athaliah. Today, we learn that when she heard that her son Ahaziah had been killed, she proceeded to wipe out the rest of her family (except for Joash). Athaliah was indeed an extremely evil, power-hungry woman. Had she succeeded, she would have ended David’s dynasty.

Note to self: no one can thwart God’s plans.

Acts 17:1-18:22. In this reading, we’re given some snapshots of Paul’s stops. The people in Thessalonica weren’t very receptive which forced Paul to depart very quickly. After leaving the city, Paul wrote a letter to the church in order to leave some important instructions. You can read that letter—it’s called 1 Thessalonians.

Proverbs 17:27-18:1. “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:27-28).

I’m slowly learning that I don’t need to tell people everything that’s on my mind. For extroverts like me, fewer words are better.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

While in Athens, Paul was invited to address a gathering of philosophers at the Aereopagus (also called Mars Hill). Addressing the men and women in this venue, which was filled with idols, must have given him quite a cultural jolt due to his strict, conservative Jewish upbringing.

But instead of criticizing his listeners or the idols they worshipped, Paul found common ground between them. In the hall where they met, he noticed an altar—a religious monument—dedicated to an unknown god.

Paul worshipped a God he knew; they worshipped a god they didn’t know.

Paul then explained that the unknown god they were worshipping was really the God of the Bible. He then quoted two poets with whom the listeners were already familiar. Epimenides and Aratus, the two poets, were like rock stars in their day. Most importantly, Paul used the idols and poems to point to their need for Jesus.

All of us are worshippers. Some of us know the God we worship. Others worship gods they don’t know.

But we’re all gonna have to serve somebody.

So how can we identify those unknown gods?

They can look like addictions, hobbies, wounds, vocations, avocations—anything that tends to control or dominate our lives. We can catch a glimpse of those gods through our restlessness, fear, lethargy. Whatever ways those unknown gods express themselves in our lives, they ultimately point us to our deeper need: Jesus.

If you’re going to serve somebody, you might as well serve someone you can know—and someone who deeply loves you in return.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. In your opinion, was Jehu a good king or an evil king? Is it hard to make a distinction? Why or why not?
  3. What gods do you gravitate toward?

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www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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