Other People’s Idols

And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 1 Samuel 7:3
This verse headed Daily Light for April 2nd.

There is a lot in the Bible about idols.  The second Commandment forbids any idolatry.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” Exodus 20:4-5

The apostle John ends his first letter with:  Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.1 John 5:21

We tend to think of religious statues and totem poles and of the gods of Rome or Greece.  God’s Word refers to something deeper.  We need to ask ourselves WHY God forbids idols and WHAT idols might be real life.

  1. An idol takes God’s place in our hearts and minds and choices
  2. An idol cannot help you or love you
  3. So God, who loves us, warns against them

Paul wrote to Christians in a society where idols (false gods) were part of everyday religious life.  They had places of worship and sacrifice.

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

Idols, then, do not exist.  They represent human fears and superstitions.  They are gods created by humans and tend to be in “their image”.  People give these gods power over them and worship them.  History shows that people worshipped gods (idols) in order to ensure they had the basics of life: provision of food, health, success and so forth.  In the Old Testament, we see that God’s people mixed up serving the One God with these false gods.  At the time of Elijah the confusion was so bad that the people had developed a parallel religion worshipping Baal [see 1 Kings chapters 17 and 18].  I think we can see that God’s warning about idols is wrapped up in the hopelessness of going to an idol for any kind of help [see Isaiah chapter 44 and Psalm 115].

These days of Covid-19 virus are revealing.  The way people are complaining about almost “everything” shows how fear and insecurity have shown that the things the world trusts in have “fallen”!  Governments, Health Services, Sporting Events, Concerts – all weakened or fallen.  Even World Leaders speak of prayer.  Hopefully, this means prayer to the Living God.

Read 1 Samuel Chapter 5 for an Old Testament illustration of this.

Since we, as God’s children, do not have idols in our homes or hearts, we can trust the One True God to be our rescuer and redeemer through our Lord Jesus Christ.  We respect good and noble things and value the love and sacrifice of people caring for this nation.  We see God’s hand in providing medicines and skills for a needy world.  We see God at work in the leaders and governments of the world.  We see God, in Christ, with arms outstretched to welcome people into His kingdom.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.  Matthew 23:37

I think, for us in the UK, the question is not whether we have a statue of someone we call god and worship before it and pray to it!  The question is about where we put our trust each day and where our hope is resting.