Idolatry causes madness in the land of idols, and men become fearsome for their idols (Jer 50:38). One would have expected this in Babylon, but the land of Israel was also filled with idols (Is 2:8). For all the gods of the peoples are idols (Ps 96:5).
Idolaters operate in the futility of their minds (Jer 14:14; Eph 4:17), and in the humiliation of shame (Is 45:16–17). Madmen craft idols, and they call out to the people to come and worship the images of wood, silver, and gold, “Let men kiss the calves (Hos 13:2)!” Men heed the call and bow down to worship the gods who give them wealth, fame, and power.
America is a nation saturated with idols and idolaters. We rise to the frenzied speech of political icons, the fan-aticism of sports tournaments, and diligently serve silver and gold with the rest of our time. Holy days of worship carry special names, “Super Bowl Sunday,” or “Super Tuesday,” or “Black Friday.”
Christians in America are clearly caught up in the lunacy. If it were not so pervasive, I would not serve as, “the troubler of Israel” in this dire matter. Believe me, I take zero pleasure in writing these words; and I confess my own sin, for in my Dispensational daze, I kissed the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Those stones are too big to throw at anyone, so instead, may we all be humbled under the grinding of the Millstone. Our hearts of stone must be transplanted with hearts of flesh. God help us.
What are idols? First, they are carved images. They are sometimes flat icons or sometimes three-dimensional figures (ie. statues, figurines, etc.). Carved images, in and of themselves, are nothing (1 Cor 10:19). To become idols, they must be energized by demons who provoke worship. A Barbie Doll is a figurine, but left to herself, in the box for several decades, she becomes something of worth. Men fight over her, buying and selling her plastic body and soul. At that point Barbie has become a proceleusmatic idol.
Second, idols are demonic spirits posing as gods. Idols are the work of our Adversary, Satan, the ruler of devils (Mt 9:34). Under the influence of demons, people can become idols, too. When normal people get weak in the knees around live persons, whom they have watched on video screens, there is an idol in the house.
Women dress sensually and seductively to garner immoral worship from men. This is demonic. Men boast of their prowess in business or sport or politics, and women fall for the demonic power behind these blasphemous blusters of mere men. “We will win the championship!” Really? Who made you God? Oh, that’s right…a demon (See Gen 3:5). False prophets and false prophecy entice men to serve idols by joining the campaign or becoming a fan of the team. It is madness.
What is idolatry? Sinful man is easily led away from God in mind, heart, and body. Idolatry is sin. When we are not loving the Lord our God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mt 22:37), we are in the realm of idolatry. Ok, stop for just a moment and think about the extent of idolatry, again. Your life is a drop of water in the ocean of idolatry. Our sweven, musings, confabulation, and behavior serve the name of some other god…trillions of other gods.
In a postgame interview, I receive glory, honor and praise. I am crafting myself to be a god (maybe I will have a bobble head figurine contract), by allowing others to worship me. Click here to buy our team logo jersey with “my name” on it for your children to wear. This is idolatry. Swoosh! That is the sound of the harlot goddess taking your money.
How do you worship an idol? Idols demand worship. Worship is finding something worthy of your time, talents, and treasure. Worship entreats the mind and the body to give heed to it. “Honey, I am working late again, tonight,” or “I am going to watch another game, today,” or “Just one more piece of pie,” or “Hit me again,” are signature statements of idol warning. “Click me! “ for more pleasure. “No, click me!” for a chance to win. “No, click me, I’m trending!” The billboard for the strip club in the adjacent lot to your church is spiritual warfare. Inquiring demons want to know, “What’s in your wallet?” and “Who will you bow down and kiss tonight?”
What is God’s assessment of idols and idolatry? First, David, a man after God’s own heart wrote, “I hate those who regard vain idols, but I will trust in Yahweh (Ps 31:6).” David’s disdain for idols extends to those who shamefully serve idols by worshipping graven images (Ps 97:7).
Second, God prohibits His people from bowing to worthless, dumb idols (Ex 20:4; Dt 5:8; Lev 19:1–4). Idols cannot speak, and they surely cannot save (Is 45:20).
Third, idols provoke Yahweh to anger (Dt 4:25) because they are a snare for His people (Ps 106:36) to become slaves to foreign nations (Jdg 3) and their foreign gods (Baal, Molech, Sparty, Chemosh, Isis, Boomer, Ashteroth, Bucky, Marduk, etc.). Idolatry can only result in disappointment (Is 42:17).
Fourth, God curses idol makers for leading people away from true worship of Him (Dt 27:15). Atheists and secular institutions are notorious for creating idols. They mock Christians for believing in the invisible God, but they make talisman logos for us to adorn on our clothing.
What is the problem with God’s people bowing down to idols? They are worshiping demons, and this incites God’s anger (1 Kgs 16:13, 26), and invites God’s judgment (Dt 32:21; 2 Chron 24:18). Idols compete with Yahweh for peoples’ allegiance (Ps 115), and it is folly for God’s people to participate in stealing glory from God (Is 44:9–10). The superstitious will even steal someone else’s idols to get the demonic power for themselves, as Rachel did with Laban (Gen 31). It is far better to hide your idols on one’s death bed, as Michal did when Saul came to kill David (1 Sam 19:13).
What does responsible leadership look like regarding idols? Leaders have sordid relationships with idols. King Solomon is the classic case of co-mingling worship of Yahweh and idols. For lack of a better term, Solomon was a whoremonger. He married foreign women who enticed him to worship their demon gods. Solomon built shrines and temples on the high places surrounding Jerusalem in honor and for worship of the gods. Let us not forget, in his better years, Solomon asked God for discerning wisdom, and God granted it to him. Clearly, sex and idol worship are powerful competitors for the wavering heart. Click here for “Amen!” or Click there for your favorite pornographic web site. You just cannot click both. There is nothing new under the sun.
Occasionally, God would send Israel a prophet to warn His people to stop with the idolatry. The guilty kings or guilty priests would file a lawsuit and have the prophet arrested and thrown into the cistern. Once in a while, a high-profile figure would actually repent of their sin of idolatry and change their ways, as in the case of Asa (2 Chron 15:8) and Josiah (2 Kgs 23). “Carrying away idols” is another way of saying, “casting out demons,” because the two go together. In other words, get rid of your idol and you will get rid of your demon.
What can you do to rid your life of idols? Whether you worship at an abortion clinic, a sports bar, a psychic’s house, an all-you-can-eat buffet, a stadium, a strip club, a shopping mall, a casino, or at the altar of your computer screen at home, it is simply best to avoid these temples of demons. Nothing good can happen where idols live and demand your worship.
Most people scoff at the notion of demons behind idols. If I say, “in the spirit of Texas,” or “in the tradition of the Masters,” I am simply referring to the god behind it. Everyone knows the power of allure in the field of product marketing. Advertising is the spiritual promotion of idols. Scantily clad women, a catchy jingle, or an unexpected comedy accompanies the company or product logo. The more inane or insane the promotion, the easier it is to remember.
Demons want your heart and your mind. They also want your money, so you will have nothing to give at church. A few years ago, in a church we were attending, we had an auction to raise money (2 Cor 8–9). I must admit, auctions are more fun than offering plates. Things started off a bit slow, but then the fight songs of two rival universities were played to stir up the spirits to stimulate giving. It worked. Clever, yes…but Christian? “Hail to the victors” in direct competition with “Jesus paid it all,” to stimulate Christian giving, “and the winner is…”
Did idolatry change from the Old to the New Testament? The only difference between the Old Testament and New Testament is the detailed unpacking of the subject. The Hebrew Scriptures carry most of the load of warning, prohibition, judgment, personal examples, etc. One example of correlation might be sex and money.
In the Old Testament, Baal would have sex with Ashatar (Easter) and ejaculate life giving rain on the land below. So, worshipers would bring tithes to the temple prostitutes and pay them for sex in the temple, as an act of worship, in following the example of the gods. Where you put your money and perform your sexual acts, today, says much about who and what you are worshipping.
The New Testament reminds Christians about the reality of idols, and there are enough commands not to participate in idolatry for us to point out 1 Corinthians 8, 10, along with the warnings to the church in Acts 15 and Revelation 2–3. When Christians read the stories of Israel’s idolatry, we must not separate ourselves from the stories, but we should separate ourselves from the bad behavior, derived from the bad company that corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33).
Idolaters love their raucous parades, their rallies, their marches, their protests, and their political and sporting events. You will also recognize their absence at the holy gathering of God’s people. They are utterly bored with worship in the pure Spirit and the wholesome truth at church, even on those sad occasions when the church mimics the world to bring them in.
Finally, what are some consequences for serving idols? Stop the madness this March. When men bow down and kiss their idols (team logo), they have committed an act of worship. Take heed to God’s Word, and avoid insubordination and idolatry, which King Saul failed to do (1 Sam 15:23). The evil spirit cost him his throne and his life.
Rather, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him (Ps 2:12).” “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker (Ps 95:6),” …and no one else. So, if you ever see your friend bowing down and kissing an idol, be a friend and tell him to stop; for the wounds of a faithful friend are far better than the kisses of Baal, or the favorite localized deity in the “Wildcat nation.”
Spokane Valley, Washington
March 7, 2021