Thursday, July 11, 2013

Little Children, Guard Yourselves From Idols

Worshiping a golden calf or a graven image gives focus to idol worship. There is a definite object of worship, and there are practices which are expected or accepted in conjunction with that worship that frequently includes some form of human gratification. Over time the worship of idols has become more and more subtle. The obvious objects have given way to the hidden ones of the heart. They have shifted from worship of false gods to the worship of others, ourselves, and the things we treasure.  They have also shifted from offering sacrifices out to fear to putting in place protections so that we might not fear.

Idol worship in the past had a focused object (as it remains in some parts of the world today), whereas today the central objects have largely become more obscure. But the reality of what is behind the worship of idols really hasn't changed significantly. It is still strongly based in seeking what we want or protecting ourselves from that which we don’t want, and it still leads to our going to great lengths to achieve that which we otherwise would not approach.

The reality is that idol worship is and always has been about replacing the true object of worship with an imitation. Man was created to be in a relationship with his creator God, to worship God with his whole heart, and to serve God all of his days. This is also true for everything God created. Even our earth and the heavens declared God’s greatness. And even the angels sang God’s praise. This is how He created things, and how He intended them to be.

But, in His wisdom He also gave choice in this worship. Scripture records for us that the first one to abuse this choice was one of his most beautiful angels, Satan himself. Ezekiel 28 begins with a rebuke of the king of Tyre, but then with a second instruction it seems to shift from speaking of a mere human king to someone bigger than that king who likely influenced the heart of the king. We read this in Ezekiel 28:12-15,

Ezekiel 28:12-15 “Son of man, take up a lamentation over the king of Tyre and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God, “You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: The ruby, the topaz and the diamond; the beryl, the onyx and the jasper; the lapis lazuli, the turquoise and the emerald; and the gold, the workmanship of your settings and sockets, was in you. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were the anointed cherub who covers, and I placed you there. You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked in the midst of the stones of fire. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you.’””

Isaiah adds to this picture, also speaking in terms that go beyond the nature of any human. In Isaiah 14:12-15 we read, How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.”

Clearly we see here that this individual is spoken of as being created beautifully and highly placed. But then he became big in himself and extremely prideful, to the point of seeking to raise himself to a position above God—saying I will, I will, I will, I will, and I will. But God showed him that he wouldn't, and God brought him down. Jesus said of this in Luke 10:18, “I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.” We read in Ezekiel that Satan (as we know him now) was in the Garden of Eden in his previous beauty, but in Genesis we read of him in the garden as the serpent who deceived Eve, leading to the sin of Adam. And since that time the spiral of sin has continued to hold man in its grasp, being subject to its deceptive elements.  

In Colossians 3:5-7 we get a picture of this idolatry of the heart that drives fallen man and which can also influence even followers of Christ. “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.” Before placing our trust in Christ and receiving our salvation and our release from the bondage to sin, this is who we were. Now we are told to live differently. John tells us in 1 John 5:21, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”

And one way to guard ourselves from idols is to subject all of our desires to God, and to trust Him for His direction and provision. Because unguarded desires, even good ones, can easily lead to subtle and even not so subtle demands, we then progress to judging the one withholding the satisfaction of these demands—including even God, and then affecting what we do. In James 4:1-2, and 7-8 we read, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. … Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

Today Sarah writes about our need to worship God alone and the traps that lead to our eyes turning from Him to other things.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (7/11)

Worship Me only. Idolatry has always been the downfall of My people. I make no secrets about being a jealous God. Current idols are more subtle than ancient ones, because today’s false gods are often outside the field of religion. People, possessions, status, and self-aggrandizement are some of the most popular deities today. Beware of bowing down before these things. False gods never satisfy; instead, they stir up lust for more and more.

When you seek Me instead of the world’s idols, you experience My Joy and Peace. These intangibles slake the thirst of your soul, providing deep satisfaction. The glitter of the world is tinny and temporal. The Light of My Presence is brilliant and everlasting. Walk in the Light with Me. Thus you become a beacon through whom others are drawn to Me.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Exodus 20:4-5

You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light. 2 Samuel 22:29

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