These thoughts have been in my mind for several days now. I’d like to share them with you. Stay with me for a few minutes as you read the following:
You may not know, but Japan is referred to as the country with “eight million gods” （八百万の神々） The expression in Japanese literally means “countless gods.”
The influence of Buddhism and Hinduism in the culture of Japan can be seen everywhere. The people blindly worship their idols and graven images of stone and wood, even though they may not believe in them, because the culture dictates it. Their deceased relatives have been given a posthumous name invoked by a Buddhist priest written on a very thin piece of wood. Family members believe the spirit of the deceased actually lives in the piece of wood, in what amounts to be a wood shaving.
In the summer months of July and August the spirits of deceased ancestors are welcomed back home by millions of Japanese for three days of celebrations. After the celebrations, the spirits are sent away to the place from where they came. All the deceased ancestors are worshiped as a god; countless families in Japan pray to their ancestors daily. These ancestors are included in the number of “countless gods.”
On the other hand, the indigenous religion of Japan is Shinto, which includes the worship of nature and all its representatives: the sun, big trees, water falls, mountains and even naturally formed rocks in the shape of the human genitalia. These, too, are all a part of the “countless gods” of Japan. In the days before World War II, the emperor was worshiped as God incarnate. He was the earthly representative of the sun goddess, Amaterasu. It was the “kamikaze” pilots who gave their lives for their god, the emperor, in the aerial battles of the war.
Here’s the exciting part. The part about which I’ve been thinking deeply all week . . . the part that makes Almighty God really, really, really real. God says in His Word:
“I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” Isaiah 42:8
“Thou shat not have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:3-6
“ . . . our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased. Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not. They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not. They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not, neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them. So is every one that trusteth in them.” Psalm 115:3-8
“What’s the use of an idol? It is only something that a man has made, and it tells you nothing but lies. What good does it do for its maker to trust it ⎯ a god that can’t even talk! You are doomed! You say to a piece of wood, ‘Wake up!’ or to a block of stone, ‘Get up!’ Can an idol reveal anything to you? It may be covered with silver and gold, but there is no life in it.” Habakkuk 2:18-19 Good News Bible
These scriptures make Almighty God VERY real. God is not hard to understand. He speaks very clearly, simple enough for even a child to understand. Below you’ll find a couple of pictures I took today in order to share this part of Japanese culture with you.
Rejoice this weekend as you worship the LORD, God Almighty!
IDOLS ⎯ Original Hebrew is pronounced el-eel. The word means “good for nothing, of no value, a thing of nought.” In the basket are two Yen. At the current value of the US Dollar, this offering amounts to $0.02 cents! “Two cents worth!”
GRAVEN IMAGES ⎯ Seen here are graven images used for worshipping the spirits of aborted fetuses. In Japanese, they are called “mizu ko,” or “amniotic fluid child” (literal translation). They are adorned with hand-knit hats and aprons, some even with skirts.
Abortion is considered one option of birth control in Japan. Unwed high school girls, university students, even some married women, choose to abort their babies, some without even revealing it to their spouse. Because of the guilt that comes upon them for such an act, they feel somewhat relieved and comforted by purchasing expensive idols, by having a posthumous name made for the child by the Buddhist priest, and by making regular offerings of toys, candy, coins, juice and baby clothes to the idols during the period that would have been the child’s lifetime.