“Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon, bow as they are lowered to the ground. They are being hauled away on ox carts. The poor beasts stagger under the weight. Both the idols and their owners are bowed down. The gods cannot protect the people, and the people cannot protect the gods. They go off into captivity together. Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime— until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you. To whom will you compare me? Who is my equal? Some people pour out their silver and gold and hire a craftsman to make a god from it. Then they bow down and worship it! They carry it around on their shoulders, and when they set it down, it stays there. It can’t even move! And when someone prays to it, there is no answer. It can’t rescue anyone from trouble. Do not forget this! Keep it in mind! Remember this, you guilty ones. Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me.” – Isaiah 46:1-9NLT
When I’ve taught about idolatry (the worship of things other than God) to people of all ages, a lot of times I get back blank looks. To be honest, I get it. When people think of worshipping idols, they think of human sacrifice to animal-headed statues supposedly representing some sort of god. They think of smoky-rituals and body-paint and strange songs in strange languages to appease angry, looming gods of ancient pantheons modern science has set aside as nothing more than mythology. In other words, people generally aren’t too worried about the command not to worship idols or false gods, as they don’t really think it’s something you can struggle with.
But what if it’s something every one of us struggles with every single day. What if you are struggling with it right now? What if your idol-worship is the reason you’re fighting with your wife? What if it’s the reason every success you have in your career leaves you feeling empty? What if it’s the reason you can’t get along with your parents or your friends or the people you love most? What if idolatry is what stands between you and all the things in your life you’ve always really wanted to do?
Because you see…idol worship doesn’t necessarily look like our movie-rendered mental images. Our idols can land much closer to home and look a lot more familiar than we realize:
- Your spouse
- Your kids
- Your girlfriend or boyfriend
The list doesn’t end there. Now don’t get me wrong, these things are good things…blessings, even…but they can also own our devotion above and beyond God.
When God is talking to the Israelites in Isaiah 46 about how the gods of Babylon are not worthy of worship, He says about Himself in verses 3-4NLT, “Listen to me, descendants of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime—until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” In other words, God reminds His people that despite their lack of loyalty to Him, He is the One who can be relied upon to provide hope, meaning, safety, and security to us. He is the only one who can carry us when we are broken. He is the only one who can guarantee the safety of our lives for eternity, even as our bodies fail. He is the only one who knows us inside-and-out, able to use our gifts for the greatest and most meaningful causes. He is the only one guaranteed to love us and stick with us in every circumstance.
Yet how often do we trust our safety, security, hope, self-assurance…identity… to the things of this world?
- Does the balance of your bank account determine how secure you feel?
- Does your job title tell you if what you do is valuable?
- Does the affection of your spouse tell you if you are worthwhile?
- Do your grades tell you if you are succeeding or not?
- Does the time you have to complete your task list take priority over giving time to your relationship with Jesus or the people He puts in your life?
You see, we all have idols. We all struggle to love and trust God more than anything else in our lives. That’s why the Apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23ESV, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But the passage doesn’t end there, for Paul continues in verses 24-25NLT, “Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.”
We all have our idols…but we also have a God who decided to set aside His power and authority to come and be like us, taking on a human body in the form of Jesus, because He knew how limited our devotion would be. He paid the price for our wandering hearts in Jesus’ death, and He set aside our sin forever when Jesus rose from the grave. You will stumble, you will fail to let God rule first in your heart. But with each new day there is forgiveness in Jesus, God sweeping away the unfaithful moments and reminding us He still reigns, and we have a true anchor in the storm in Him. An anchor that cannot fail.
- Before reading this post, how did you view idol worship?
- When you look at our culture, what sort of “idols” do you see in our society?
- How do you feel when someone you love is disloyal to you? With that in mind, why is it so powerful God remains loyal to us when we put idols before him
- Challenge for the week: Every time a circumstance causes a strong emotional reaction in you, write it down in a journal. At the end of the week, look back at your list to try and pinpoint what some idols might be in your life. Spend some time lifting that idol to God in prayer, asking Him to set you free from your devotion to that idol.