Tag Archives: idolatry

True Peace

Meditations on the Psalms

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8 ESV)

People want peace. Most every person who has ever lived has wanted to live in peace. There are some, a handful of disturbed people, who thrive on conflict and war. As they inflict as much pain as possible, they are quickly stopped so the remainder of the people can have a peaceful existence. There is no peace without God. Having peace with Him guarantees eternal peace but also guarantees temporal persecution. The world cannot offer or guarantee peace, only danger and conflict and turmoil. Any longing for peace comes from the inherent image of God found in each person. Any actual peace comes only with an intimate relationship with God. All of the turbulence and instability of the world is a direct result of sin. Where there is sin, there is no peace. Sin causes turmoil with all relationships.

Both the Psalmist and Jesus demonstrated their reliance upon God by declaring their trust in Him to protect them when they sleep. Peace is the word shalom and means completeness, safety, soundness, welfare, prosperity, quiet, tranquility, contentment, friendship. To lay down and sleep are the same words used in Psalm 3 and can mean to take rest over a long time or, euphemistically, to die. “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me” (Psalm 3:5 ESV). David was not afraid to die because of his trust in God. Jesus was not afraid to die, knowing the purpose of His ministry was to die. He anticipated being tortured to death but walked to His death with confidence and peace with God.

It is God only who gives anyone peace, allowing them to dwell,or abide, remain, to have one’s home and inhabit, in safety or security. Our peace and security is God, not just in God. One of God’s many promises to the nation of Israel, as He led them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, was peace and security, provided His people continued to follow and obey Him.

 “For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” (Deuteronomy 30:11-20 ESV)

As the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land they were given orders by God. They were to obey the commands, decrees and directions of God. They were to not adopt or practice anything done by the people of the land they are entering. The people of the land worshipped idols, not God, and practiced evil. God strictly warned His people to devote the inhabitants of the land they were possessing to destruction, to kill them all, otherwise they would lead His people away from God. “You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you” (Exodus 23:32-33 ESV). God commanded His people to not sin, nor to follow the world or a people who taught and practiced sin.

Peace with God, and living in peace before Him, comes from and through a righteous and obedient relationship. Though we face death, though Jesus faced a horrible death, yet those who are God’s have eternal peace with Him. Out peace is had through Jesus Christ and out identity with Him is in His life, death and resurrection. Jesus promises the Holy Spirit for those who are His. With the Holy Spirit comes guaranteed peace with God.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 ESV)

Peace is not circumstantial but wholly dependent upon a vital relationship with God, the Son.

Advertisements

Trust

Meditations on the Psalms

Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.(Psalm 4:5 ESV)

Sacrifices and offerings mean nothing when there is self-focus, not on the Object of the gift. A self-focus shows the thinking of the heart is not on God but on an idol. What can this idol do for me? How can I influence or control this idol to act in my favor? Self-absorbed offerings to God dishonor Him. This is why slaughtering a righteous sacrifice is important and why that offering must first be the person presenting the gift.

The writer of Hebrews gives a lengthy and concise description of the sacrifice of Christ shown in the sacrificial ordinances of the Mosaic Law. These sacrifices pointed to Christ and are fulfilled in Him. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:15-16 ESV). Our righteous sacrifices and offerings are no longer clean animals but ourselves, abandoned to Him, living in the world as a testament to Him as He prepares us for eternity.

Though the Psalms show the thinking of the heart of Jesus Christ as He lived and ministered in the world and His trust in God, this is the first time in the Psalms the word trustis used. Trust means to have confidence in and to be bold for the Object of trust, because one is secure and safe in His presence. Trust is one of the basic elements of faith. Faith is always in an object one believes has worked and made promises and demands obedience.

Believing is the intellectual element of knowing the truth of God’s works in creation. Obedience is the willful, volitional element doing that which is a natural, essential part of the image of God in obeying the direction given. Trust is the emotional-moral element based on the promises of God. All three elements make up faith. Remove or lessen the action of any one of the elements and faith becomes something other than faith. It is always the Object which determines the truthfulness of faith. Only God can deliver that which He promises. No idol can ever promise anything let alone deliver on a promise. Idolatry becomes the person infusing a non-living, non-existent, or demonic entity with a fantasy promise based on a superstitious and unfounded belief.

Jesus was the only person who has ever lived who both completely trusted God and made promises to us only He can keep. Speaking to His disciples about Lazarus, Jesus declared He was going to raise him from the dead. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11 ESV). Jesus told Martha that those who believed in Him, which means trust Him, will not die spiritually. This declaration is a promise. “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26 ESV). There are two more incidents which follow the raising of Lazarus found within the context of the story. Jesus promises that those who follow Him and serve Him will be with Him in eternity. “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:26 ESV).

Jesus worked to glorify God. His promise follows God’s voice, thundering from heaven, that God will glorify His name and the Name of His Son. “But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-28 ESV). Jesus then promises to draw all people to Himself as He is crucified, hanging on the cross. He also promises to defeat the Deceiver. “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:30-32 ESV).

Jesus trusted God. Facing physical trauma, being tortured to death, produced emotional reactions from Him. He agonized over completing God’s will on the cross.

“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:42-44 ESV)

Trust is an emotional act of the will believing that God will fulfill the promises He has made. We can trust God because Jesus trusted God. God always delivers what He promises.

Repentance

Meditations on the Psalms

Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. (Psalm 2:10 ESV)

God calls those who rebel against Him to repentance. All who mutiny against God and incite mutinous behavior in others face His unavoidable wrath and ultimately, annihilation. God commands them to turn away from their sin and rebellion because only the foolish continue to fight against the God who created them. Wisdom is a godly characteristic.

God uses two words to encourage these disobedient and obstinate leaders back to a relationship with Him. He tells the kings to be wise and the rulers to be warned. Wise means to be prudent, circumspect, have insight, understand the signs of the times and the thinking of the heart of themselves and others. Kings are to consider carefully their words, actions and judgments, looking for the perfect combination of prudence and application to bring the most honor to both themselves and their kingdom. Warned means to be chastened, admonished and instructed, corrected and disciplined. Rulers are to apply the rulings of the king to the people in a way which fulfills the intent of their sovereign.

Since both kings and rulers are under the authority of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the thinking of their hearts should reflect the intent of God, not themselves. This statement is an admonishment to return to serving God. God tells them to stop sinning.

On a Sabbath, early in His ministry, while in Jerusalem during a feast, Jesus spoke to an invalid at a pool called Bethsaida. Many invalids congregated there because of a superstitious belief an angel of God would come down occasionally, stir the waters of the pool, and the first person into the pool would be healed of their infirmity. Jesus approached only one of the invalids and healed him. He did not heal any of the others.

The man’s focus, his eyes, the thinking of his heart, was solely on the pool and its magical properties given occasionally by a supernatural being. Jesus asked the man, only this one man, “Do you want to be healed?” (John 5:6 ESV). Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be made whole and complete. The man’s response showed his complete defeat and hopelessness in every becoming healthy. “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me” (John 5:7 ESV). He had been taught about the wrath of God against those who sinned. In the thinking of his heart, God made him this way because of some sin and under no circumstance would God undo what He had done. Nor did the invalid know who Jesus was. He clung to his superstitious, idolatrous belief and whined that no one cared to help him. Jesus healed the man instantly, telling him to “get up, take up your bed, and walk” (John 5:8 ESV).

When confronted by the religious leaders, the man who was healed still did not know Jesus by name. He had been healed on the Sabbath. He did not follow Jesus or cling to Him or devote himself to his benefactor. When Jesus withdrew Himself, the healed man did nothing to show his gratitude. Nor did he desperately search for Jesus. Instead, he went his way and was confronted by the Jews, probably the Jewish religious leaders, about carrying his bed, which was working and something verboten for any to do on the Sabbath. He admitted ignorance, pointing away from himself to the One who performed the miracle. His thinking in his heart was “don’t blame me. I’m only doing what I was told” not “he healed me, an invalid for 38 years.”

Jesus found the man again and spoke startling words to him. “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you” (John 5:14 ESV). The implication of Jesus’ words is “look at what happened to you. You are healed by My authority. Stop sinning or you will find yourself exiled from the presence of God.” We know the man immediately went to those who accused him of working on the Sabbath and told them it was Jesus who healed him. From this testimony, the Jews decided to persecute Jesus for breaking their rules.

Here is the crux of the rebuke of Psalm 2:10. Use the thinking of your heart to come to a reasonable conclusion about your rebellion against God and stop sinning. Jesus began His ministry preaching repentance. However, God has been commanding people to repent since the fall of Man. No one is excluded from this call.

Introduction to Psalm 2

Meditations on the Psalms

God tells us bluntly the entire world is fighting against Him, not only refusing to obey Him but actively conspiring against Him. Psalm 2 takes up the theme of Psalm 1, expanding and explaining the extent of the war raging against Him, and by extension, against those who are His.

God speaks in the first person of His completed actions. Psalm 2 begins with God asking a rhetorical question, then He answers His own question with statements of eternal truth found in the rest of the Psalm. Though the Psalm does not speak directly to idolatry, those who are in authority, who teach and train others, instruct their students in the worship of idols because they refuse to worship God. Idolatry is replacing that which only God is and does with anything not God. Those who insist upon setting up for themselves useless idols in the place of the eternal God find themselves destroyed, along with their idols. God will not tolerate continued rebellion, or those who teach and train others to rebel.

Jesus is given all authority over the peoples, kings and rulers of the world. All people mutiny against His authority, refusing to acknowledge Him as King or Creator. All people build up idols to take His place. These idols are blatant creations of their own minds, the thinking of their own hearts, so they might imagine they control their own destinies. How foolish.

Kings carry authority to make and uphold laws. Yet, even kings of the world cannot change that which is set in eternity. They may decree something different than what God has established but they cannot change reality or truth. It is the duty of kings and rulers to uphold truth, not to change truth to suit their individual ends and desire. Idolatry, at its basest level, is the individual changing the truth of God into a lie and saying the lie is true.

“What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.” (Habakkuk 2:18-20 ESV)

Jesus instructs His disciples to not adhere to the teaching of those whose sole intent is to usurp the authority and place of God. “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6 ESV; see Matthew 16:5-12). Initially, His disciples did not understand these words.

They watched Jesus feed thousands, taking the food available and creating more food for the people. Jesus did that which only God can do, creating one substance out of another. God created Adam out of the dust of the earth (see Genesis 2:7). He then created Eve out of the rib of the man (see Genesis 2:22). By creating lots of food out of a little food Jesus showed He is God. He then told His disciples to beware of the teaching of those who value tradition over the words of God. Their teaching would lead people away from Him, not toward Him. Jesus thunders severe words against those who lead astray people created in the image of God.

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. (Matthew 23:13-14 ESV)

Standing before Pilate, who thinks he has greater authority, Jesus declares those who brought Him for execution face greater condemnation. “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11 ESV).

Psalm 2 addresses those with worldly authority, placing them directly under the eternal authority of God and warning them of the consequences of rebellion.  God set His Son, Jesus Christ, on the everlasting throne, placing Him over all in the heavens and in the created universe. This is not a debatable fact.

Stories in Daniel

No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. [Daniel 2:27-28 ESV]

Every story in Daniel is a direct and bold confrontation of sin and of worldviews which either marginalize God or show out-and-out hatred for Him. In the middle of a kingdom devoted to idolatry God placed four men devoted to Him. Each was fully convinced of God’s justice and righteousness, of His holiness and eternity. Their decisions in the face of suffering for righteousness’ sake was to do only God’s will regardless of the immediate danger.

From the beginning of their story they refused to defile themselves with the food of the world. For most this means nothing. But, these were young men from noble families, “youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace” [Daniel 1:4 ESV]. All were taken captive from Judah, made eunuchs, and then trained in the culture, the mores and folkways of Babylon, to advise the king. Instead of lamenting their loss they determined to remain true to the calling of God. They learned and excelled and applied themselves to their temporary duties while remaining focused upon God. By placing God first they were recognized as leaders, lights of wisdom in a dark, devious culture.

What are the stories in Daniel? Besides not eating the food, probably unclean food to them, they refused to worship the false idols representing their king. For three, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, this refusal to worship the golden idol of Nebuchadnezzar incurred his violent wrath. Nebuchadnezzar did not know God, and treated Him like all the other gods of his life. But God is not a figment of imagination, nor a mist or pall of smoke easily blown away. He lifts up those He wishes and brings low those He wishes to bring low. He lifted up Nebuchadnezzar and startled him with His power and grace. No one dies until God determines their time to die, even when thrown into a fire hot enough to kill any who come close. The guards who died obeyed their king even though it cost them their lives. They worshipped him, or were afraid of him, willing to give everything for him. Though sentenced to death those who obeyed God, having devoted their lives to Him, lived. It does not matter whether the world uses fire or lions, those who worship God will live with Him though they die in the world. Their light shows Him to the world.

Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. [Daniel 3:28, ESV]

Daniel was given by God the ability to interpret dreams. Dreams were, and still are, seen as a means for the supernatural (or the buried psyche) to speak to the natural. Great bodies of literature and teachings of cultures focus upon dreams and their meanings. Nebuchadnezzar, and later Darius, and other idolatrous leaders drew around themselves those who purported to interpret dreams. But Nebuchadnezzar was different, even insane. He had a dream and demanded his sorcerers tell him the dream and then its interpretation. He was a shrewd, mad man, looking for any excuse to exert his “unlimited” power over the lives of his subjects. He enjoyed murdering people and ordered all the “wise” men murdered because they could not do the impossible.

Daniel’s God is the God of impossible solutions. He not only revealed to Daniel the dream He had given Nebuchadnezzar but gave Daniel its meaning. God’s light of truth shown through a man, totally devoted to God, in a way the godless idolater could not deny. Nebuchadnezzar had no excuse for denying God or placing himself equal to Him. But he did deny God, and he did make himself equal and even greater than God, and lost his mind for seven years. Nebuchadnezzar did not put all he learned about God together correctly until the end of his life.

Speaking to Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, on his last night alive, Daniel proclaimed God’s judgment, the light of God’s truth, against the man. Read Daniel 5:18-23.

God placed these men where He wanted them, so they could focus the light of their lives, God’s light of truth, on the darkness of the world. This is undeniably true for all Christians.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” [Daniel 3:16-18 ESV]

Suffering for righteousness’ sake occurs because of the sinful actions of usurping God’s ultimate and absolute authority by those who deny God. Those who endure such suffering are those who know they belong to God even while working for and living with those who hate Him.

In the book of Daniel there are two significant times when those who belong to God would not violate their relationship with Him for the sinful dictates of the authorities.  Daniel, Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah each faced the unrighteous anger of the false religious peoples of their exile.

Like every other king Nebuchadnezzar thought himself above God, or at least equal to other gods. Those who surrounded him fed him their continual patronizing worship. By increasing their popularity with the king they maintained a comfortable and powerful lifestyle. Any danger to their arrangement brought immediate anger and fear and manipulation to maintain control.

When the king built a tall, impressive golden idol and commanded everyone to worship the idol, it did not matter that the thing was a lifeless piece of metal, precious as it was. People worshipped it on command. Nebuchadnessar could have built it out of cow patties, told them to worship it and they would have done so. He expected everyone to do what he commanded, no matter how bizarre. Except in his mind worshipping an idol was not bizarre.

When the king was told his three advisors would not obey his command and worship an idol he was furious. How dare they disobey him, the king. He threatened them with agonizing death if they did not immediately obey him.

Please note these men were his trusted advisors. They, with Daniel, were wiser than any of the other advisors to the king. They were not known for disobeying his commands. They carefully weighed the commands of the king against their growing relationship with God and never compromised the eternal with the temporary. Yet, when asked to place anything above God they politely refused.

Daniel was confronted by a similar experience. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom had ended and Darius, king of the Medes and Persians, was in power.

It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom 120 satraps, to be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, to whom these satraps should give account, so that the king might suffer no loss. Then this Daniel became distinguished above all the other presidents and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him. And the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.  [Daniel 6:1-3 ESV]

He loved Daniel. His advisors hated Daniel. “Then these men said, ‘We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God’” [Daniel 6:5 ESV].

They manipulated Darius to write a law which could not be voided or revoked. Everyone in his kingdom must pray to Darius and not to any other god for a period of time. Anyone who violated this law was fed to the lions. Without thinking Darius agreed. Daniel heard the law and immediately went to his home, opened the window facing toward Jerusalem, and prayed to God in front of all people. It was his custom to do so and he refused to hide. Darius, manipulated by his advisors was forced to uphold his law.

God saved these four men, who suffered for righteousness’ sake.  Hannaniah, Mishael and Azariah were not burned in the fire. Daniel was not eaten by lions. But other Christians, persecuted by the Caesars of Rome or other nations have been eaten by lions and burned with fire and killed in other ways. Those who are persecuted for righteousness show their allegiance, not to this world but for God.  We are members of His kingdom and our hope is in Him.

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. [Hebrews 11:39-40 ESV]

God’s promises are trustworthy because God is trustworthy.

God’s Second Statement

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. [Exodus 20:4-6 ESV]

God equates idolatry as hatred toward Him. Worshipping an idol is an act of hatred toward God. Only the enemies of God would do such a thing.

Of all the sins God hates, and He hates all of them, the one He punishes consistently throughout the history of Israel is the sin of idolatry. In His first statement He declares He alone is God. There can be only one God. In this second statement He states the rebellious attitude of sinful man to commit idolatry as an act of hatred toward Him. Idolatry does not simply affect the person worshipping a false god but cascades through successive generations. When children see their parents worshipping they will follow suit. Those taught to worship idols will continue worshipping idols.  Those who worship God, the only God, and teach their children to follow their example are shown God’s “steadfast love” because of their love for Him.

It is too easy to describe examples of idolatry. Every idol is characterized by the superstitious beliefs given by the imagination of the idolater. I see three basic characteristics.  First, the object is manmade, created by sinful hands or a sinful imagination for whatever reason.  Secondly, the object is worshipped, which includes obsessive rituals and actions. Finally, the object is believed able to fulfill an imaginative promise when obsessed over correctly or to withhold what is promised when the ritual is not correctly fulfilled.

When the imagined promise is not fulfilled superstition places the blame on the person’s incorrect worship and not the inability of the created thing. Thus, faith is placed in an object which can deliver nothing. For some reason, the person believes with their intellect there is evidence of the objects ability, then emotionally trusts the object is able to deliver what is misbelieved as promised.  Finally, the person obeys the anticipated expectations believed to motivate the created object to fulfill its end of the bargain.

Under these conditions, all of the evidence seen, when viewed subjectively, assumes the  created object has a moral standard, defined subjectively, which must be followed. Idolatry begins in the mind and the heart. Place this template upon any object or obsession and you will discover an idol.

In the history of Israel idols were those created things worshipped by the enemies of God. Israel is told to completely devote to God, execute and destroy the peoples of the land they were given by God lest the people lead them astray to worship the idols of the land. God judged the people of Canaan because of their idol worship.  Israel did not fulfill God’s command and soon turned away from Him, the only God, to worship idols.

God, speaking through Isaiah, describes the stupidity of idolatry.

All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” [Isaiah 44:9-17 ESV]

Idolatry increases wickedness and immorality. It is the logical next step in rebellion against God, our Creator. Those who worship idols find in their idols the excuse they need to justify their rebellion against God. If God is not god, and the thing worshipped defines the moral standard demanding obedience then there is no rational, emotionally justifiable reason to not follow the thing in which ones faith is placed and to reject all else. If you call the thing a god then it can easily replace the things others call their gods. Idolatry results in make nothing god.

But what if you worship something and don’t call it a god?  Suppose one obsesses over making money, playing games, filling one’s mind with inappropriate images, taking drugs.  Doesn’t Jesus say “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” [Matthew 6:21 ESV]. Idolatry becomes anything which takes God’s place. Either way, you are displacing God from His rightful position in your life.

Idolatry is fuel for persecution. Look at those who persecute Christians. They believe their god has told them to, making their wicked, sinful actions justifiable and righteous. Facing and enduring persecution is part of the evidence God uses to justifiably condemn the world, those who have rejected Him. Our testimony for God is part of our inherent desire to love Him, and worship Him in both Spirit and truth.