Our world is filled with idols — cars, homes, skyscrapers, boats, airplanes, electronic gadgets, racial or gender superiority, real estate, property, science, education, medicine, constitutions, legal systems, nationalism, celebrities, drugs, brand names, political parties, capitalism, government, free enterprise, unionism, the economy, consumer goods, status, titles, position, money, gold, oil, stocks, bonds, central banks, materialism, leisure, religious traditions and religious doctrines.
Let’s understand how idolatry destroys our country and how worship of our triune God is the only answer to fixing America.
We will look at the commandment against idolatry. Though there are many idols we could discuss, we will specifically look at the idols of exclusivity, false gospels and the golden calf of impatience with God. We will see that our idols are useless and dead, whereas our Savior is alive.
Pictures, Statues & Idols
Some people think that any picture or statue is an idol (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) and so refuse to allow statues of biblical heroes or pictures of Jesus in their churches. Is that the case? What does the commandment against idolatry really mean? It does say not to make an image of anything in heaven, on earth or in the water. However, it also says not to bow down to them. Can we look elsewhere for an answer? Yes we can. We may notice that the mercy seat was covered by two statues of cherubs, images of things in heaven. We may also notice that the tent covering the tabernacle contained pomegranates embroidered into its fine tapestry. Those are images of things on earth. The difference is that those statues and pictures were not worshiped. Nobody bowed down to them.
Idolatry is worshiping an image of anything in heaven above or here below (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). An image is something made by human hands. In spirit it means that in today’s world we have hundreds of idols which we worship. The list could include such things as cars, homes, skyscrapers, boats, airplanes, electronic gadgets, racial or gender superiority, real estate, property, science, education, medicine, constitutions, legal systems, nationalism, celebrities, drugs, brand names, political parties, capitalism, government, free enterprise, unionism, the economy, consumer goods, status, titles, position, money, gold, oil, stocks, bonds, central banks, materialism, leisure, religious traditions, religious doctrines and so on. Is there anything wrong with these things? Just as there was nothing wrong with a bronze snake on a pole, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these modern man-made images. The idolatry is in worshiping these things.
The Idol of Exclusivity
Bowing to the idol of exclusivity is a form of self-worship (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). This happens when patriotism becomes jingoism or denominational loyalty becomes bigotry. It is easy to idolize our opinions and exclude those who believe differently. Jesus welcomed thousands and fed them, ate with prostitutes and other sinners. Even after all his disciples had abandoned him, when he arose from the dead, he rejoined them blessing them with peace (Luke 24:36-49). The idol of exclusivity blinds us to the reality of Jesus and his inclusiveness. On both sides of modern debates over gender, sexual orientation and social justice we can easily exclude those who Jesus would not. Inclusion does not mean that we have to agree on everything, but that we welcome even those with whom we disagree on some things to mutual fellowship in Jesus.
The Idol of the Prosperity Gospel
The idol of the prosperity gospel is a heretical counterfeit (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). It denies our calling to suffer. That does not mean that God does not give health or wealth. However, this false gospel perpetuates the idea that true believers ought not suffer, or that poverty and sickness are results of our personal sins, when the exact opposite is often true. This bogus gospel which claims to be spirit filled, is in reality idolatrous and materialistic. Part of the Christian life is willingness to suffer with Christ (Romans 8:17), to follow his steps in sacrificing our lives for others (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus did not sin, yet suffered for us, rising again on the third day and promising power for us from on high (Luke 24:36-49). Simply reading what Jesus taught helps avoid this deception.
The Golden Calf of Impatience
While Moses was on Mount Sinai alone with God, Israel built an idol (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5) — a golden calf (Exodus 32). The people grew impatient with Moses’ absence. They wanted leadership that they could see. Aaron weakly bowed to the people’s wishes, built an idol and threw a party. The people ran wild and thousands died. Jesus too had informed his disciples of what must take place at the cross (Luke 24:36-49) but they still scattered. Rather than patience with God’s plan, they had built up an idol in their minds of immediate salvation from Roman oppression. We too are impatient with God. When we don’t see immediate results from God or church leadership, we too take matters into our own hands. We create the golden calf of impatience. Let us wait in patience for God to provide.
Reading of the Gospel
Let’s read today’s Gospel text Luke 24:36-49.
Let’s read today’s Gospel text Luke 24:36-49.
Idols are variously described as vile, disgusting, detestable, vain, worthless and useless in the Bible. When we worship a fashion, a gadget or a drug, we are worshiping a dead thing, an idol (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). Anciently, idols were cast, or sculpted by human hands and worshiped as if they could help. Idols can be set up in the heart (Ezekiel 14:7-8). In 1 Samuel 15:23 arrogance and stubbornness are tied into idolatry. It describes idolatry of the ego. When we are arrogant and stubborn we are worshiping ourselves. An idol is something that cannot help at all when disaster strikes (Jeremiah 11:12). An idol cannot release us from failure, which is what remission of sins means (Luke 24:36-49). Ultimately, only God can save us from our human problems. Everything else is a worthless idol.
Dead Idols, Living Savior
Whether made from molten metal or carved from wood, an idol is a death thing (Exodus 20; Deuteronomy 5). Even the idols of our minds are fabrications in our hearts. We are people who cannot live beyond the grave on our own. The great difference between and idol and Jesus is that Jesus is alive. An idol is dead. Jesus rose from the grave. An idol is useless to save. Jesus lives to save. In Luke 24:36-49 he addressed his disciples after his resurrection and promised a power that no idol can provide. It is a power that all of us can have. It is not a power that is from within us or that we can create. It is a power from completely outside of our human ability. It is a power from on high, from heaven alone.
We are all tempted to worship the idols that we have all created. Fixing America starts by destroying the idols we have created. We need to get back to worship of the true God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — in him alone is salvation and no other.