WHAT IS IDOLATRY?

PSALM 81:8-16: “Listen, my people, and I will admonish you. Israel, if you would only listen to me! There must not be a strange god among you; you must not bow down to a foreign god. I am the Lord your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it. “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel did not obey me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans. If only my people would listen to me and Israel would follow my ways, I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes.” Those who hate the Lord would cower to him; their doom would last forever. But he would feed Israel with the best wheat. “I would satisfy you with honey from the rock.” CSB

OBSERVATION: What is idolatry? In our Western world is idolatry even a thing? Is this some antiquated concept reserved for the pages of the Old Testament or some other culture? I don’t have any idols in my home, so how could I be guilty of idolatry?

The Psalmist writes the word of the Lord to His people – “Listen, my people, and I will admonish you. Israel if you would only listen to me! There must not be a strange god among you; you must not bow down to a foreign god. I am the Lord Your God who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” We can understand these words in the context of the day that they were written. However, what practical application do they have for me?

First, there is the call to listen and receive admonishment. I will never identify the idols in my life if I am not positioned to hear the Lord’s voice, and willing to receive His correction. If I close my heart to His voice, if I resist His correction, I will blindly persist in my idolatry – without even knowing it. It is the love of God that brings us correction and instruction to keep us from wandering astray!

  • “And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives.” Hebrews 12:5-6 CSB

When we are positioned to hear the Lord’s voice, when our heart is open to receive His correction, our spiritual eyes will be opened to understand His words. It takes an attitude of humility and repentance to both hear and see. Without these we will continually hear and see everything from a human perspective and not from God’s. When our spiritual eyes are opened we begin to understand what idolatry really is.

Idolatry is not merely the worship of an idol made by the hands of a man. In its essence it has nothing to do with an image, but it has everything to do with our hearts. Idolatry is when we allow anything, or anyone, to take the throne of our heart. Our jobs can become our idol. Our family can become our idol. A relationship can become our idol. And the list could go on and on. Anything or anyone who takes God’s place on the throne of our heart is an idol. And when we replace God with these we fall into the sin of idolatry.

Idolatry is a deceiver. It promises to give you what you desire, but in the end it leaves you only empty and wanting. You climb the ladder of success only to find that there is no fulfillment at the top of the ladder. You look to a person to bring you fulfillment, only to find out that they are imperfect and incapable of being your source of life. Idolatry is a wall between God’s intentions for our life and the realization of these intentions. Listen to what the Psalmist says.

  • “If only my people would listen to me and Israel would follow my ways, I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes…I would satisfy you with honey from the rock.”

God wants to bless us. Idolatry wants to steal that blessing. If the enemy of our souls cannot keep us from believing in God, he will try to distract us by becoming preoccupied with something or someone other than God. The enemy will try to build a wall of idolatry between me and the Lord. And God will never break down this wall. He will never violate our free will. We must break down this wall through humility and repentance.

  • “But my people did not listen to my voice; Israel did not obey me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own plans. If only my people would listen to me and Israel would follow my ways,…”

I have a choice in life. I can live in the blessings of God’s provision, or I can live in the “if only” of life. The “if only” comes when I ignore God’s voice and His correction. The good news is that no one has to live in the “if only” of life. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead so that we could be set free from the “if only” of life. We can be restored to a full relationship with the Father and walk in His provision and blessing. We simply need to always put God first!

  • “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34 CSB

Lord, search my heart today. Show me if I have allowed any idols to be set up in my life. Give me the grace to hear Your voice, to receive Your correction, and to tear down any wall of idolatry that separates me from You – through humility and repentance. Give me ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart to obey.

In Jesus Name!

About Kirk's Devotional Journal

Kirk L. Zehnder is the Founder of Resurrection Christian Outreach. RCO is a ministry that promotes the growth and vitality of the local church through speaking engagements, seminars, various media tools, and written curriculum and books. This ministry was started over 35 years ago by Kirk as a means to strengthen the church that he was pastoring. It grew as Kirk began to share these tools with other churches. Today many of the materials are being used by local churches both nationally and internationally. Kirk's Devotional Journal is a result of struggling with Bible reading programs that never seemed to work. Kirk feels the Lord helped him discover an easy to follow program to Read, Reflect, Pray, and Journal through the Bible in one year. This program is called L.I.F.E. Unlike other programs there are no dates to follow. You can miss a day and still complete your reading. You never feel like the dates and verses you missed are chasing you. You are free to enjoy your daily Biblical journey and listen to the voice of The Lord. For more information on the L.I.F.E. plan, send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com. Kirk is also available for speaking engagements, seminars, and retreats. With over 40 years of professional business and pastoral ministry experience, Kirk brings a unique combination of practical wisdom, humor, and Biblical insight. If you would like Kirk to speak at your church, school, or ministry, please send an email to rcoutreach@aol.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible to discuss your opportunity.
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