Have you worshiped a carved image lately? Yeah. Me neither. When we think about idolatry we sometimes can go to one of two extremes – one way is to think that it doesn’t relate to us at all, because let’s face it I’m not going to bow down and prostrate myself before a piece of wood. The other way is to make everything an idol and go on an extended morbid introspective idol hunt. Perhaps we classify things as idols that aren’t really idols and all the while our idol hunt draws us farther into us, instead of leading us out of ourselves towards the one true God.
In Deuteronomy 4 we see Moses big introduction to his summary of the law given previously. In 4:15-31 he cautions them specifically about idols. Telling them to “watch yourselves very carefully.” (v15) But what does Moses say an idol is? 4:19 provides a pretty good definition.
“And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven” (Deuteronomy 4:19 ESV)
Three things we note about an idol here:
- Idols draw us away. What is pulling at our spirits today to give more to them? As time, energy, emotions are all limited, if something is pulling at us to give more it usually requires that we give less of something else. Husbands fall victim to this sometimes in the “I am the provider” perspective. Yes, we are to provide for our families, but at what cost to our families? There are countless other examples.
- Idols require service. We can short-circuit our understanding here is we simply think we have to bow down to worship something. Worship = heart felt service. What or whom are we serving? A great example here is other people’s opinions. To keep ourselves high up on someone else’s scale takes a lot of work! Did I say the right thing? Wear the right thing? What will the other person think of me now? We are serving the fear of man.
- Idols are common to everyone. Our verse says that Israel is to watch themselves carefully to not be drawn away and serve the things that “God has allotted to all the peoples under heaven.” These can be good things. Work is a good thing. Positive relationships with others are good things. But those things are not supposed to terminate on themselves, they are supposed to lead us to worship the giver of those things – God himself!
So idol worship is far more commonplace than we may have imagined. What is the hope? How do we grow and change? Moses tells us! It’s to give ourselves totally to the only one worthy of worship. “But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV).
God is near, he is not far. And even though we all deserve wrath and judgment he offers us mercy through the sacrifice of Jesus, His Son. We receive this by repentance (turning from false worship) and faith (trusting in Jesus with every bit of our lives.). A wise pastor once noted “We worship our way into sin, and we will worship our way out of sin.” We kill idol worship by worshiping the true God.
What is drawing us away today? Asking for more service?