Through our pulpit messages in Isaiah, we often hear of God admonishing Israel for their idolatrous hearts. These idols are described as ‘a delusion’ (Isa 41:29) and ‘nothing’ (Isa 44:9). One can imagine God’s frustration at His people and I found it understandable that God would “give them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels” (Ps 81:12). To be honest, I felt that Israel deserved it as they seemed so thick and stubborn. However, the Lord humbled my arrogance as He showed me how subtle idolatry can be in my own life.
It first started as a necessity – I wanted to research on a particular something that I was intending to purchase. It involved my usual practice of going online to read what experts said and what the forums were abuzz about. It moved silently and under the radar to become a mild obsession – going online a few times a day to check the latest information; sacrificing half an hour of sleep time reading and thinking. Before long, it was the first thing on my mind when I woke up in the morning. It was then that God admonished me and led me to repentance through one of the devotions in our Devotional Journal.
Idolatry is the worship of anyone or anything which replaces our worship of the eternal God. That seems simple enough to understand, but idolatry is not always as blatant at it was in Exodus 32 when the Israelites made themselves a golden calf to worship.
In that instance, idolatry was clear, and most of us can safely say that we’ve progressed beyond something that explicit.
Idolatry however can manifest itself far more subtly. It occurs when we, over time, unconsciously assign to any Person or Object a divine status. Loving and enjoying healthy hobbies, work, company with friends and family often start out as good and upright. However, when these begin to rival Christ’s rightful place in our hearts and jostle with Him for our time, that’s when we need to be aware that idolatry is creeping up into our lives. We might even rationalise it in our minds and hearts and deny that we are idolatrous.
That was me – and eventually God in His grace and gentleness led me to accept that I was idolatrous and I could not kid myself any longer.
Dear church, idolatry is a reality and can be as destructive to us as the golden calf was to Israel. John Calvin reminds us that, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols”.
As disciples of Christ, we have to remember NOT to make this earth our permanent home. We are here preparing for another home and idolatry is the mirage that hides that truth. We must choose Jesus daily and pray for wisdom to discern and participate in things that are essential for the Kingdom to come – and guard our hearts against anything that might cause us to think or behave otherwise. Let us be aware of this subtlety of idolatry and not be complacent. As 1 John 5:1 warns and admonishes us, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”
By Adrian Ow, Pastoral Staff (YCKC Bulletin 6&7 April 2013)