Idols. We’ve all got ’em, don’t we? Anything that we allow to come between God and us is an idol.
When we read about the Israelites in Exodus 32 we get pretty judgmental and wonder how they could have been so ridiculously stupid to demand an idol from Aaron when God had just led them out of captivity. Then we read about the righteous kings of Judah who sought to bring the nation back to God but for some reason left the pagan high places of sacrifice. “What are you thinking? Get rid of them!,” we cry out to these men from twenty-five hundred years ago.
“Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” – 2 Kings 12:2-3.
The undisturbed high places became a snare to Judah and a temptation to forsake God and return to idolatry. But God’s Word is like a mirror isn’t it? It’s tough to judge the Israelites when the Holy Spirit uses God’s Word to expose the idolatry in our own lives.
Looking back, I can think of more than a few things I have given greater priority than my relationship with the Lord:
- Sports – Oh, I loved my teams! I would scream at that TV like it was a matter of life and death.
- My retirement account – I was building a nice nest egg and it was on my mind all the time. My 401K became my security.
- Entertainment – Books and quirky independent films were my passion. I carefully watched for new CDs from my favorite bands and singer-songwriters only to listen to them a few times and then eagerly anticipate the next releases. I was forever chasing after the next “feel-good.”
- My ethnic heritage – Boy, did I devote A LOT of time to this one and I even became somewhat of an amateur expert.
“I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” – Ecclesiastes 1:14
Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having some hobbies and interests. My problem was they became more important to me than my relationship with my Lord. I was putting “things” ahead of God. I was trying to find my joy and fulfillment in “things” rather than in the Lord. My identity was based on my collections, knowledge, and experiences rather than in being in Christ. Worldly things definitely appeal more to the flesh than the spiritual things of God.
For many people religion is their idol. They’ve put their trust in institutional religion where the mantra is “just be good and try your best” rather than seeing themselves as sinners without a plea, as the Lord sees us, and accepting His only path to salvation, Jesus Christ the Savior.
“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you. Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure. Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom; in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” – Psalm 39:4-7
Thank you , Lord, for Your patience and mercy. Help me to follow You more closely and not allow anything to take Your place. Help me to tear down all the high places in my life.
“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” – Phillipians 3:7-9
Postscript: In our post-modern society where inclusivism and plurality are the buzzwords most would say, “Oh, just leave those high places alone. Everyone worships god in their own way. Don’t be so doctrinaire.”