Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Idols in Our Lives

“With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him? As for an idol, a metalworker casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and fashions silver chains for it.

A person too poor to present such an offering selects wood that will not rot; they look for a skilled worker to set up an idol that will not topple. Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:18-31 NIV)

The word “idolatry” has a primitive connotation to our modern minds. Gaudy statues of gold come to mind or wooden figures propped up in some dense jungle village.  It is hard for us to see idolatry in our midst, but it does exist if only our minds can grasp it.

Take a look around today on your way to work or on campus.  Notice how many people have their heads bowed toward a screen, their eyes fixated on the glow that emanates from it, mostly unaware of the people around them.  Think about the stadiums and arenas filled with people cheering, screaming, and jumping up and down, who have made their sacrifices of time and money to be there.  Think about how romantic relationships, of all kinds, are depicted in our culture as the pinnacle of love and the sacrifices people make to pursue and acquire them.

There is plenty of idolatry in our world if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear what people truly value. So the words of the prophet Isaiah are just as relevant to us today as they were to his audience nearly three millennia ago.  The stark choice he offered them was between those things created by man and the Creator.  But he didn’t merely leave them with an either or choice; he explained the futility of pursuing created things over the Creator.  All the idols fashioned by humans cannot replace God and will not provide the ultimate fulfillment its worshippers are seeking.  Can an iPhone truly compare to the Almighty God?  Does a sports team or a performer deserve more adulation than the One who provided them with their abilities?  Can a mere human be an adequate substitute for the One who is the source of all life?

The people in Isaiah’s day had the same problem as we do: our bent is to seek to fulfill our needs with something (or someone) other than God, who created us for Himself.  Everything He has created was given to us for our enjoyment, but not for our worship.  He, and He alone, has the sole claim on our hearts.

And the evidence of the futility of idolatry is all around us.  People are lonely, depressed, anxious, unhappy, discontent, bitter, and unfulfilled. The creators of today’s idols promote them as necessary for our happiness and fulfillment, but look around and listen carefully, and you will recognize the lie beneath the sales pitch.  “To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal? says the Holy One.”  Indeed.

Today, if you find yourself struggling and unfulfilled, examine your life closely.  Are there idols present in your life, things to which your heart is devoted to more than God?  If so, that is the source of your difficulty and it is time to get rid of them.  They will not give you what you seek from them.  Only the Lord can do that.  

© Jim Musser 2017

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