Shining Idols: What They Demand

Shining Idols: What They Demand

God established worship: an encounter with his people mediated through the tabernacle. The tabernacle safeguarded the presence of God: the personal, active God was invisible. With the golden calf, there was accessibility to a visible god who was an impersonal object.[vi] In true worship, we encounter the holy, the awesome. In idolatry, we encounter the domesticated, the manageable. There is a stark contrast between true worship and idolatry.

Are you an idolater? I already lost you, didn’t I? Most wouldn’t raise their hand to affirm their idolatry.

Idolatry doesn’t preach well to us 21st-century Westerners. A couple of years ago, I had someone leave the church after I preached on idolatry. “You preached for most of your sermon on the Old Testament, the law against Idolatry, and how might we be guilty of idolatry today,” she reflected. She said that the sermon didn’t connect with her and didn’t offer “spiritual encouragement.”

Oh, friends, the dangers we face when we think that biblical passages on idolatry don’t apply to us! When God calls us, God calls us to leave our idols to follow him.

There is no room in our hearts for idolatry and following the one true God. That is such a significant theme that it has been said that “The central… principle of the [Old Testament is] the rejection of idolatry.”[i]

And yet idolatry seems as though it doesn’t apply to us today. Do you have a golden calf in your home? Do you start your mornings off at the local altar?

But idolatry is no mere ancient practice. It is the default function of the human heart. Our gods have gotten modern make-overs, but they are the same gods they always were: beauty, power, money, achievement, satisfaction, comfort, security, love, independence, happiness, respect. These things are good in and of themselves, but they are not meant to be worshiped. They are gifts from the Giver. And yet we worship them rather than him.

As Bob Dylan famously said, “you’ve got to serve somebody.” We all serve somebody or something. Or, as 16th century pastor John Calvin said, our hearts are “a perpetual factory of idols.”[ii] We are made for worship.

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