Long ago the prophet Isaiah cautioned the ancient Israelites to spurn the veneration of false gods and described their idolatry in the Bible for generations to come: “Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made” (Isaiah 2:8).
The fascination the ancient Israelites found in worshiping pagan gods and the idols of the nations around them turned them away from their Creator. Through their idolatrous practices they became so corrupt they were led into outright demonism and the ritual sacrificial killing of their own children (Psalms 106:36-38). They descended into the degradation of fertility cults, exalting such fictional deities as Mot, the god of death, Shapash, the Sun goddess and Molech [also named Milcom], the deity of fire and evil.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes the ancient Israelite worship of Moloch and the horrendous cruelty of child sacrifice. “The image of metal was heated red-hot by a fire kindled within, and the children laid on its arms rolled off into the fiery pit below. In order to drown the cries of the victims, flutes were played and drums were beaten; and mothers stood by without tears or sobs, to give the impression of the voluntary character of their offering” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume III, page 2075).
In today’s Western world, most people would disagree with the worship of fictitious deities, represented by wood or stone idols. But is idolatry only a problem of past ages?
The Bible defines idolatry as covetousness, which is setting one’s heart and mind on anything other than the Creator and His perfect, living laws (Colossians 3:5). Author Tim Keller wrote, “What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give” (Counterfeit Gods, pages xvii-xix).
So what comprises idolatry for us today? What could we consciously or unconsciously be putting before God in our life? What about the attainment of wealth, the desire for status, power and control, or work, recreation and entertainment, hobbies or sports?
When God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), He wasn’t just describing fictional deities, He was telling us an idol can be anything usurping His place as Creator and Ruler in our lives. We can become so absorbed in the daily whirl of activities we end up leaving no room for God or His Word, resulting in us becoming blinded to life’s true purpose and our incredible potential future in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
In the end, these idols—anything we put before God—leave us unfulfilled and empty because they were never intended to satisfy the place God should occupy. Certainly we must earn a living, care for our families and carry out other daily responsibilities, but we should always give God first place and diligently obey His commandments (Acts 3:19; Colossians 3:5).
UCGiA Beyond Today Blog