Tonight I started a Bible study and the first topic God laid on my heart was this... Idolatry. What? Yep.
"Hey God, what do you want to talk about tonight?" "Talk about idols." Umm.... Idols? (Only if you are a fan of The Office will you appreciate this, but when I asked God again I kept picturing Stanley saying "Did I stutter?!")
So, idols. You know what they are, I know what they are. Idolatry? Yep, we know what that is too. Let's look at a definition for it again though.
the worship of idols.
extreme admiration, love, or reverence for something or someone.
That second definition hit me differently. There are a lot of things, and sometimes people, I extremely admire, love, or have reverence for. There are a lot of things that I have made idols in my life. The first commandment... "You shall have no other God's before me". Why do you think that is first? Probably because He is a jealous God, He wants to occupy our hearts and He knows that if we idolize anything aside from Him, it will tear us apart.
It is so easy to believe we don't have idols when there aren't carved wooden cows in front of us. But the truth is not all idols are made of wood or gold. In fact, most of them aren't. What is it that consumes your heart and mind? Where does your mind constantly wander to? Who or what would you be lost without or are you striving for the approval of? Idols are sneaky little things that end up consuming our whole being, creating an identity we were never meant to bear.
While researching idolatry for the study tonight, I stumbled across these questions from a book called Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller. Here they are:
Ask yourself how you would complete this statement: “Life only has meaning/I only have worth if…
I have power and influence over others.” (Power Idolatry)
I am loved and respected by _____.” (Approval Idolatry)
I have this kind of pleasure experience, a particular quality of life.” (Comfort idolatry)
I am able to get mastery over my life in the area of _____.” (Control idolatry)
people are dependent on me and need me.” (Helping Idolatry)
someone is there to protect me and keep me safe.” (Dependence idolatry)
I am completely free from obligations or responsibilities to take care of someone.” (Independence idolatry)
I am highly productive and getting a lot done.” (Work idolatry)
I am being recognized for my accomplishments, and I am excelling in my work.” (Achievement idolatry)
I have a certain level of wealth, financial freedom, and very nice possessions.” (Materialism idolatry)
I am adhering to my religion’s moral codes and accomplished in its activities.” (Religion idolatry)
This one person is in my life and happy to be there, and/or happy with me.” (Individual person idolatry)
I feel I am totally independent of organized religion and am living by a self-made morality.” (Irreligion idolatry)
My race and culture is ascendant and recognized as superior.” (Racial/cultural idolatry)
A particular social grouping or professional grouping or other group lets me in.” (Inner ring idolatry)
My children and/or my parents are happy and happy with me.” (Family idolatry)
Mr. or Ms. “Right” is in love with me.” (Relationship Idolatry)
I am hurting, in a problem; only then do I feel worthy of love or able to deal with guilt.” (Suffering idolatry)
my political or social cause is making progress and ascending in influence or power.” (Ideology idolatry)
I have a particular kind of look or body image.” (Image idolatry) "
Dang. There are more than one of those categories I have fallen into. In fact, I am sure I have easily fallen into every single one of those categories at some point in my life.
We see this time and time again in the Bible as well as in our own lives. Someone will do something terrible, sin, fail, and, maybe this is a bold statement, but I believe that it all stems from idolatry... Whether it be idolizing desires, fear, earthly love and relationships, life and even death itself... We all fall into something we think is more powerful, we all have something at some point that we have more reverence for than God. And this usually leads us to some pretty heartbreaking places.
In Exodus, we see in Chapters 19-20 where God speaks to Moses and then Moses speaks to the Israelites, and in this conversation, God is basically saying I am your God and I brought you out of slavery. He says that He has chosen them and the people respond saying they will do everything He says, making Him their God. God goes on to list the commands, the first being "no other gods before me", which He states again at the end of Chapter 20. From here the Israelites start building the temple and seem to be going pretty deep in relationship with Him when something suddenly shifts in Chapter 32.
Moses goes up to talk to God in Chapter 32 of Exodus and while he is away talking with God, the Israelites make Aaron build them an idol. Just. Like. That.
Just like that, the Israelites traded the God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt, who made a covenant relationship with them, for a man-made gold god. A "god" who cannot save, redeem, or love. And how often is that us? So in love with God, giving our lives over to Him, embracing His love and promises... then just like that... we make an idol of something or someone. We are like leeches or parasites... looking for life and love in something/someone other than God and in the process of sucking the life out of this thing we've made a god to us, it has sucked the life out of us-- sucked out our very souls.
But there is redemption. Oh thank you, Jesus, for Your redeeming grace and mercy. Though we run to a hundred different people and things to fill a void that only God can, He still chooses to forgive us and love us just as wildly as He did before. His love doesn't change for us no matter how much our love for Him changes.
Aren't you tired though? I know I am. Tired of the lie that anything other than God is what my heart needs. It's time we stop this idolizing. God isn't your rebound boy. He is your Heavenly Father. Deserving of all honor and praise and glory and worship.
And at the end of the day, when time on earth comes to an end and all recognize Jesus as Lord, whether we choose to recognize it today or not, even our idols will bow to the One, true King.
The Lord, Not Idols
6 “This is what the Lord says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”
9 All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
11 People who do that will be put to shame;
such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and shame.
12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”
21 “Remember these things, Jacob,
for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
Israel, I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”
23 Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this;
shout aloud, you earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the Lord has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel.