11 “And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. 13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.” (Acts 14:11–13)
John Calvin rightly said, “Our hearts become factories of idols in which we fashion and refashion God to fit our needs and desires.”
The people of Lystra were religious and worshipping people. Today’s text gives testimony to this fact. However, even though their worship was sincere, it was sincerely wrong. The objects of their honor and praise was not the LORD alone.
When the people saw what God did through the Apostle Paul in healing the crippled man, they did not attribute this miracle to the One, True God, but rather presumed the false Greek gods had appeared. They called Barnabas “Zeus” and they called Paul “Hermes” because Paul was the chief speaker. They said, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “The people of Lystra are thoroughly pagan, lacking the biblical understanding possessed by Jews and Gentile God-fearers, and they focus on the miracle. According to their worldview, the Greek gods Zeus (Barnabas) and Hermes (Paul) have come among them. A local legend held that this had happened before, with disastrous results for those who were inhospitable. Thus, the people are eager to give obedience to the missionaries and prepared to offer sacrifices to them.”
People continue to do this today. Whenever certain individuals rise within the culture, or even within the church, the masses are quick, ready, willing and able to give praise and honor to the few and famous instead of giving praise to the One, True God. The culture does so with entertainers, athletes, and politicians, while the church does so with popular Christian musicians, authors, and so-called rock star pastors. The adulation usually does not last long though, for all too soon people are looking forward to the next big thing or new thing. People’s attention spans are often brief.
The Bible says, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! 2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! 3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150)
The LORD commands everyone to praise and honor Him, and He alone. No one, or nothing, is to be worshiped and praised alongside God, above God, or instead of God. He and He alone is worthy of our praise.
Examine the people, places or things which you have a tendency to praise and honor. Resolve to praise the LORD who created those people, places or things. May all our praise be focused on the LORD.
Soli deo Gloria!