The Disappointment of Idolatry
Idols are physical representatives of false gods (Dt 29:17). They typically bear the image of the man or animal of the idolater’s preference (Rom 1:23). Instead of worshiping the invisible God, who is the Creator of all things (Ps 31:6; 96:5; Jer 14:22), idolaters serve and worship the creature (Is 46:1; Rom 1:25). This is an act of rebellion against God (Ex 20:4; Lev 19:14; Dt 5:8; 1 Sam 15:23; 2 Kgs 17:12; Ezek 14:5). It is also a means for one to glean power over others (ie. Rachel’s stolen idols; Saul’s visit to the witch of Endor; Elijah vs. Priests of Baal; Seleucids or Romans setting up their idols in the temple and city of Jerusalem, etc.).
The power behind idols is demonic power (1 Chron 16:26). When a man serves and worships his preferred idol (Ps 106:36), he is worshiping the demon behind the idol (Is 42:17; Rev 9:20). Demons are angelic creatures who have acted in rebellion with the chief demon, Satan. Satan is also known as: the serpent, the dragon of old, the devil, the father of lies, the prince of the power of the air, and the god of this world.
Satan’s objective is to deceive men into thinking they can have the power of God, by being like gods (Gen 3:5). When a man feels helpless in this twisted passion, he turns to the cheap substitute for God…idols. He wants the power of God, but he wants to be God in the process.
When a man perceives his idol gives him power, he struts in pride and arrogance in the presence of his opponents (Ps 97:7; Ezek 18:12; Hos 13:1). He has opponents because the devil convinces man that life is a competitive game (Eccl 4:4). Winning the game is man’s insatiable desire.
The game of idolatry is to gain more of the world (Col 3:5). The businessman gains more wealth and quality product/service awards. The politician gains power and control over others. The athlete gains fame and glory, along with rings and trophies for his display case (Ps 115:4). The student gains academic medals, certificates, and degrees. Neighbors do their best “to keep up with the Joneses,” striving for this year’s “most improved lawn” accolade in the local newspaper.
Idolatries are tied to places, people groups, nations, and times (1 Kgs 11:5, 7; Ps 135:15; Is 10:10; 19:1; Jer 14:22; Ezek 20:7). The clock is always ticking during the fiscal cycle or the big game. Political cycles allow for shifts in power. Time is always running out. For the losers, the rhetoric begins as soon as their opponent celebrates this cycle’s victory. Glory is short-lived as everyone ramps up the hype for “the most important election of our lifetime”…again this next cycle.
Meanwhile, the glories of Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, etc. sit in a history museum or in ruins. The biblical message on idolatry could not be clearer, “Idols are a disappointment (Is 19:1. 3).” The glory that men quest for, today, will be faded glory soon enough. Idolaters will be put to shame and humiliation (Is 42:17; 44:9; 45:16).
The Christian preacher must be careful not to fall into the trap of idolatry (Ezek 23:49; Jon 2:8; Zeph 1:4). The power in the Gospel rests in the exclusivity of Christ (Jn 14:6). Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world (Jn 4:42; 1 Jn 2:2). There is no one else (Dt 32:39; Is 45:6; Titus 1:4; 2:13; 3:4–6). In fact, everything else is idolatry. It is the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ versus absolutely everyone and everything else (1 Cor 8:4). Whatever is not of faith in Him is sin and idolatry (Rom 14:23; Heb 11:6).
This statement of exclusivity shows how pervasive idolatry is in the world (Is 2:8). Sinners, who are not in Christ Jesus, as believers of the Gospel, are all idolaters (1 Cor 1:30; Col 1:27). They have placed their trust in something. Their hope is in something. That something is their idol (Hab 2:18).
By investing money, time, works of service, etc. toward some end other than the kingdom of God, is an act of idol worship. Man looks at the outward appearance of an action, and he excuses his neighbor of idolatry (Rom 1:32). God looks at the heart, and he knows the motive of every action (1 Chron 28:2; Ps 139:23; Jer 17:10; Rom 8:27; Rev 2:23). There is no one who does good, no, not even one (Rom 3:12).
The more a man puts into his idol, the more power he gives it (Is 48:5). The more control it has over him and those who join him. Expansive worship centers are created and the faithful convene for worship of idols. Time is given. Money is given. “Now, let the madness begin, and if the gods be with us, then the glory of victory shall be ours! Go Hawks!”
Christians must have no part with idols (Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; 1 Cor 5:11). The idols of one’s heart must be identified and then destroyed (1 Jn 5:21). Each man must examine himself and do the work to end idolatry in his heart and life (1 Thess 1:9). This is no easy task, as idols are actually demonic strongholds, and demons are more clever and powerful than men.
Thus, it must be the work of the Holy Spirit, using the Word of God to defeat and destroy the works of the devil in a person’s life (Jn 17:17; 1 Jn 5:4). There is nothing more powerful than the Spirit and Word of God, and there is nothing else that can succeed.
God only gets the glory if He alone does the work that only He can do. This is the essence of true worship — giving God, alone, the honor and glory due Him, for who He is and the great things He has done (Mk 5:19–20; Lk 1:49; 5:6; 8:39). He does not disappoint those who receive the grace to repent of their idols and who turn to Christ Jesus, our Lord, the icon of God (Acts 5:31; 11:18; 17:30; Rom 9:33; 10:11; 2 Cor 4:4; 1 Pet 2:6).
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 14, 2022