The people of Israel are famous for having left the one true God and following hard after idols that the cultures around them worshipped. Baal, Ashura, and Molech are some of those idols. They even sacrificed their children to Molech. In Jeremiah 32:35 God says, “They built high places for Baal…..to sacrifice their sons and daughters to Molech, though I never commanded, nor did it enter my mind, that they should do such a detestable thing and so make Judah sin.”
The Israelites aligned themselves with these idols. At times they worshipped both God and the idols. But this was detestable to God. God had shown himself to the Israelites as the one true God, the Creator who loved them, who parted the Red Sea, and gave them the promised land. Often the Israelites did not care about God, they punished the prophets and ignored those that God sent to tell them the truth. Because they ignored the truth, they would end up oppressed by their enemies. At times they were enslaved or held captive. Their enemies quite often had the upper hand when they chose not to listen to God’s commands and turn from their worship of idols.
Because of their lack of faith in God’s ways, they would end up in the hands of their enemies.
What does that have to do with us today?
We follow different idols than the Israelites. We have idols you cannot see with your hands but rather idols that often go undetected. Three thousand years ago the psalmist wrote “I will set before my eyes no vile thing” Psalm 101:3. This was true when it was written and it is still true today. We read any book or watch any movie that popular culture produces. Many times this is ok, but we are also told to guard our heart.
We complain that we don’t hear from God. We think God has forsaken us. Yet we are oppressed by the very idols we worship. What is it that I am following after? Am I following God?
There is grace and we accept it. We thank Jesus that there is no condemnation. The idols today can keep us from enjoying our “promised land” here on earth. Our idols oppress us, even though the effects are internal and not external like the Israelites. Idols keep us from enjoying our promised land, of living truly free. I can become enslaved to things that initially seem harmless, but then I become so easily entangled with them.
What are some idols I have had in my life?
The TV. Seems harmless right? At times it is, but I found that what I watch influences how I acted and think, even the very words that come out of my mouth. Do we just sit there and let this filter through our mind? A question for thought.
Books. I easily fall into this trap. If I start a book I have to finish it, right? I have found that there are actually books you should not read, even if it seems like everyone else is reading them. I could call out very specific books here, but may the Holy Spirit work in us to decide what is right for each of us. What is right for some may not be right for me.
My Phone. It’s addicting. Need I say more?
Relationships. This easily entangles me. Relationships are probably my number one idol. I care too much about what family or friends think of me if I talk about Jesus or make a stand in some way. I can often put a relationship on a pedestal, where I am serving that person, worrying about what that person thinks, instead of dwelling on what God thinks of me. This is an area that has definitely kept me from serving the Lord. I have done this with my husband, with my children, with friends as well as family members. These relationships are all good and important, but God is to be the one we are seeking after. There are times when we need to discern whether we are putting what someone thinks ahead of what God thinks on a matter.
Like Eve, I have bitten into the fruit so I can have the knowledge of good and evil. I have bitten into the lie that I know better than God.
Why care about serving God? Why does it matter? Isn’t this all about grace? Yes. I pray to God that I grow in his grace every single day. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Absolutely not!
When you are serving God you become alive in a way that is so amazing and so beautiful. The scales of sin start to fall off. The more I walk closer to God and live in the light, the more free I become, the less I care about this world. Instead I look towards that time I get to be with Jesus in heaven.
We become fully alive through Christ.
Our bones are raised from the dead as we choose Jesus over the world.
Although our idols are hard to give up, its worth it! These idols are truly strangling us, keeping us from our internal promised lands where God wants us to live. God is the giver of life. He doesn’t ask us to give our idols away to punish us. He wants us to be free from the bondage that they become. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. St. Irenaeus said, “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” God wants us to be fully alive, free from fear or any other entanglement that keeps us from living out our life. The closer I become to the Lord, the more I become more awake to the adventure of this life that He has set out. My dreams of being a part of a glorious Story are true! He wants to use us, and He will use us if we allow him to. Jesus can bring us healing from emotional scars, problems that have happened in our families for generations, healing in our marriages and in our families. This is what he calls us to! This is what He is about! When Jesus opened up the scroll in the temple, this is what He read “…he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed…” Life becomes a pilgrimage where we can become a part of His Story that is changing lives, granting people freedom from slavery both emotional and physical. We need faith to believe that His way is truly the best way.
We are choosing life. Every time we choose Jesus over something that entangles, we are choosing life over death. This is not meant just for heaven, but here on earth also. We will always struggle with sin, but it does not have power over us. God is more powerful than the evil in this world. The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. Let us be not be on the defense for Jesus, rather than on the offense.
The grace on the cross has freed us from the power of sin and death.
My prayer in writing this is not that we will be legalistic about what we watch or read or listen to or any other thing that can can be an idol, but that we would understand that there is a correlation between the idols of the Old Testament and life today. My faith is weak and I am very easily influenced by others, so I may have to be more careful with what I watch and listen to. Please accept me as one whose faith is weak without passing judgment on disputable matters.
I have two challenges for you:
What idol is God asking you to tear down and replace with the ultimate God of the universe, who is all-powerful, loving and worthy of our praise?
Do you believe that God is calling you to a deeper story, one that will last for all eternity?