Removing Idols: Choosing Jesus Over Everything
When I decided it was time to start writing, I hadn’t completely decided on what I was going to write about, but I had an idea. Fifteen minutes later I opened up the Bible and the following verse was the first thing I read. It cinched it. (This girl loves confirmation to an annoying degree.)
“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 26:1, ESV).
I don’t know about you, but when I read about the Israelites making a golden calf to worship in Exodus 32, I gotta shake my head. Oh, making it out of gold was a nice touch. I’ll give them that. But a calf? Maybe the local artist didn’t feel confident making an elephant or a lion. (If I were on the idol-making committee I would’ve suggested a unicorn. A golden unicorn - THAT would’ve been something to see.) The Israelites hadn’t been out of Egypt and slavery that long when they made that idol. Speaking of Egypt…
The Egyptians worshiped many things. They worshiped a frog-headed goddess named Heqt who they thought assisted women in childbirth. They also revered grasshoppers/locusts, believing them to be protectors and messengers of good fortune. Supposedly, they prevented evil and carried the Egyptians' deceased relatives to the sky. Pharaoh gave soldiers golden flies for courageous acts in battle as they symbolized courage and tenacity. They held that flies protected from misfortune and diseases. (Anyone else not making these connections? My husband is a farmer, and grasshoppers have never been messengers of good fortune!)
Every plague God sent against Egypt was strategic, revealing the powerlessness of the gods they served (Exodus 7-11). He was showing Himself to be the True God. And the Israelites witnessed it all. They saw numerous miracles and God make a fool out of the Egyptian gods. Yet now in their midst stood a golden calf.
Hearing how the Egyptians worshiped frogs (among other things) and the Israelites worshiped a calf makes me feel smarter. I just want to take a moment and enjoy this feeling. (A few minutes later…) Hmmm… We may know more about certain things in this day and age, but we’re still people just like them, aren’t we? What ridiculous thing do I worship unaware? (Did the Israelites think a calf was better than a frog?!)
What’s the equivalent of a “golden calf” today? What do we turn to, hoping it will give us strength, fertility/health, success, or help? Money and fame might be on that list. They’re rather obvious choices. But I’m thinking the idols we might be susceptible to aren’t going to be so obvious. Remember: the Israelites were the ones who had been following God - and they were the ones that made a golden calf.
The golden calf was to represent gods to them when Moses, their leader, and connection with God, took too long getting back from his trip up the mountain. Without this “connection” in their midst they quickly looked to make something to fill this role. So they created this idol with their own jewelry and efforts. Then they worshiped it, thinking it would now lead them.
Unfortunately, we do see this today. When we look to others to be our connection to God, we can become disillusioned when they let us down or aren’t available when we need them - they’re “gone” too long. We may then look for something else to fill that role instead of going directly to God to fill our needs. Thanks to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we’re able to have our own relationship with God - we can personally be connected to Him at all times.
Idols are also created when people keep what they like about God and drop what they don’t. People who pick and choose what they want to believe about God have created an idol of their own making. They no longer worship the God of the Bible even if they have given their idol His name. They are two different beings. One offers power, authority, and life, and the other is without:
“But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them” (Psalm 115:4-8).
Bowing our knee to a unicorn (even a golden one) is obviously absurd, but no more than worshiping a “god” we’ve created and who doesn’t actually exist. The way to make sure we’re worshiping the God of the Bible and not a figment of our imagination is to read the Bible and have our own relationship with Him.
Reveal any idols we have erected and help us remove them from their place in our lives. May we get to know You for ourselves, so we might worship You alone, the One True God. And may our personal connection with You grow, flourish, and run deep. In Jesus’ name, Amen.