6 Those who lavish gold from the purse,
and weigh out silver in the scales,
hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
then they fall down and worship!
7 They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,
they set it in its place, and it stands there;
it cannot move from its place.
If one cries to it, it does not answer
or save him from his trouble.
When we think of idolatry, we think of people bowing down to statues, crying out to false gods. For most in the US, this concept has been totally removed from our sight. However, for those who have been in other countries, we have managed to witness idolatry in its traditional form first-hand.
The next way that we in the US often identify idolatry is to talk about things that we worship or focus our hearts on that are not God. We talk of making our televisions, our bank accounts, our jobs, or our popularity idols in our lives. It is not uncommon to hear a pastor pick up this theme and talk about contemporary idols that are not statues, but that are items sold at the finest of stores in our shopping malls.
I want to pick up one theme of idolatry that we seldom mention. It is found here in Isaiah 46:7. In a clear contextual discussion of people who are vainly worshipping a man-made statue, God says this: “If one cries to it, it does not answer or save him from his trouble.” This is an aspect of idolatry that I have seldom heard used in a definition of idolatry, but, if it is understood, it will open up our understanding of the things which we turn to in our lives that are truly idols. I mean this: an idol is something to which we cry for help or turn to for support that is not the Lord and is therefore unable to rescue us.
Take out the concept of materialism, add in the aspect I just pointed out, shake it around, and see what you come up with now for modern-day idols. It is not just a nice car or house. What do we turn to for support that is not the Lord? Where do we look for solace in our souls that is not able to save? Sometimes the idol may be a drug designed to ease our feeling of guilt though our guilt is there because of our sin before a holy God. Sometimes the idol may be the political process, as we mistakenly believe that the hope for the US is found in the right party being in power. Perhaps the idol is the US, as we look to the country as the source of hope for the world instead of the Lord being that hope. Perhaps the idol is a spouse whom we elevate to the position of savior, comforter, and helper in our lives instead of finding our worth and comfort in the Lord. Perhaps the idol is a pastor or Christian author upon whom we rely to change the hearts of the people instead of crying out for God’s Holy Spirit to speak to his people through his word. Perhaps the idol is a nicely-packaged program that we expect will really “draw people in.”
It would be wise for you to ask yourself this question: What do I turn to for help in my life that is not God? What do I rely upon in my world that cannot really help me? Any of the things you come up with may well be an idol. And Christians, let us be frank, God will not tolerate us giving his glory to idols. He will demand we remove such idolatry from our lives. Let us no longer rely on what cannot save. Let us find our help and our joy in the only One who is worthy to be our help and Joy, the Lord God Almighty.