When I hear the word “idolatry” I think of the ancient pagan practices of human sacrifice. I’m also reminded of God’s warnings and commands in the Bible like Exodus 20:3. It made the top of the top 10. We worship idols today, but they aren’t as obvious. Most of our pain and heartache come from this modern practice. What is a modern idol? Why does God warn us against the worship of them?
“You shall have no other gods before[a] me.Exodus 20:3
What Is An Idol
An idol, as described by Psalm 115:4-8, as the work of human effort. We use idols to try to control our crazy lives and get what we want. Idolatry often starts seemingly innocent. We use them to gain attention, love, affection, power, control, survival, significance, peace, release, and more. Or we feel that they can take care of our problems or fill our needs. We may turn to them to relieve stress to replace a lack in our relationships or to mask our self-hate or unforgiveness. They provide temporary relief, but the tables turn before we know it. We create them to serve us, to meet a need, but in the end, we become their slaves. We sacrifice more and more thinking they will answer, but they don’t.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell.Psalm 115:4-8
They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.
Nothing we create will be greater than us, and an idol is our creation. When we worship idols, they block us from God’s love and the love of others. They create problems in our earthly relationships too. When we make a person or relationship an idol, we have unrealistic expectations that only a God can fill. When they fail us, and they will, it tears us to pieces. No fallible human can take the place of an infallible God. In many false religions, use blood sacrifice, often a child sacrifice. The prophets of Baal in 1 King cut themselve to get their god to answer. When we lift our souls to an earthly god, the prince of this earth uses it for our own destruction. He hates God and hates us because God loves us so much that he sent his son to die for our sins.
And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.1 Kings 18:28
Why does God command us not to worship idols? He created us for a relationship; it’s the same reason we desire kids. We are built for a relationship with God so there is a God-sized relationship void in our lives. No one else or nothing else can fill that place. The source of most of our pain and heartache comes from our idols and our worship of them. The gods of our culture can be fame, money, power, food, talent, beauty, celebrities, politics, ideals, sex, family, significant other, money, power, image, physical appearance, leisure, success, image, and more. When we try to use these to replace God, who is love, with human love, we will never be satisfied. When we try to inflate these gods to fill the void, we become blind and deaf to God reaching out to us to heal and deliver us.
God doesn’t want us to cut ourselves, sacrifice our babies, animals, or other people on an altar. Idol worship requires our lifeblood. It’s about pain, cruel, painful sacrifice, personal sacrifice. Any idol we worship becomes that cruel taskmaster. God does require a sacrifice of us too, but it’s not mean and destructive. God wants our love, our devotion, and our worship. Romans 12:1 says that our bodies are a living sacrifice, and we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God and not giving it over to our gods. Sometimes, we’ve become so blind and deaf and are oppressed by anxiety and cares. What do we do?
I appeal to you, therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b]Romans 12:1
We pray. Pray with me: God, I worship you as my creator and the creator of heaven and earth. Nothing I can create can come close to the magnificence of your glory. Please forgive me when I’ve set up and maintained an idol in my life. I thank you for your grace and restoration after I’ve been crushed. Show me my idols, lead me in the way of your understanding so my eyes and soul can be open to your love, joy, and peace. Amen.
Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law!Psalm 119:29