It took only forty days for the Israelites to fall into idol worship when Moses went to talk with God on Mount Sinai. Even after they had seen all the miracles God had done that freed them out of Egypt, they wanted Aaron to make them a new god to worship. (Exodus 32.)
We can think: “How is that possible after they experienced God’s goodness so many times?”
As long as they were faithful to serve God things went well for Israel. But as soon as they turned to idols things started to go really wrong. But still, again and again the Israelites turned away from God.
The Old Testament is full of examples, both good and bad, that are just as relevant for today. They are a warning for us.
Modern day idol worship – more than golden calves
Today idol worship is still a powerful tool that the devil uses to turn us away from God. And idols can come in many different forms, like “pleasures of life”, money, education, everything that people esteem as very high or that can draw our attention away from God.
Just like in the stories from the Old Testament, there are many “pleasures of life” or material things that can lead our attention away from serving God. To reach these earthly goals can take up all our time and attention. Many people steal or cheat or are unfaithful to satisfy their desires.
Even smaller, more “harmless” things can draw our attention away from God. We can easily be completely taken up with earthly matters. Many people can talk for hours about the things they’re interested in, but ask them about God’s Word and they’re completely empty. Dry as a desert.
But as a Christian, shouldn’t that be my only true interest? To live in such a way that I am pleasing God? To fill myself with the word of God so that I have a clear guideline how to live my life? The Bible tells us very clearly what we should do, for example in Colossians 3:1-2 (GNT), “You have been raised to life with Christ, so set your hearts on the things that are in heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right side of God. Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth.”
And in Matthew 6:20-21 (GNT), Jesus says, “Instead, store up riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are.”
How do I spend my time?
We always make time for things that we are interested in. My hope is eternal life with the Father and the Son! My whole being should be focused on this glorious future. If I really see that pleasing God is the only thing that truly matters, then all the temporary things will fade away. They will no longer have any value for me. I should be able to say with Jesus, “My kingdom is not of this earth.” John 18:36.
Take a look back at your past week and ask yourself, “Where were my thoughts? What was I busy with?” If you have an honest and pure desire to serve God, then you need to “take up a battle” so that your thoughts are not scattered all around but that your mind is set firmly on the things of God! God will bless such a person that only wants to please Him, just as He blessed the Israelites when they were faithful to Him.
What is the root of idol worship?
In Colossians 3:5 (NIV) we read, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”
Here we can clearly see what is behind idolatry or idol worship: sinful desires! When the things of this earth become great to you and lead your mind and heart away from the voice of the Holy Spirit.
Often, the biggest idol in our lives is ourselves. By nature we just think about ourselves. Our thoughts are usually just about me, myself and what’s mine. This spirit, which is encouraged by every form of media today, is the same spirit that was in the devil when he went against God. (Isaiah 14:12-15.) This spirit will destroy us, and can only be overcome by being humble – by giving our lives in God’s hands and by submitting completely to His will.
The dangers of serving two masters
You cannot serve both God and earthly idols. Jesus warns us clearly about this in Matthew 6:24 where He says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [money].”
James 1:8 calls this a “double-minded man”, and he says that such a person is “unstable in all his ways”. Even if we begin with a firm decision to serve God alone, we can easily lose this if we allow ourselves to be taken up by earthly “idols” instead of seeking the eternal things. This firm decision to serve God alone is something worth fighting for and holding on to! We will find that, just as in the days of the Israelites, God richly blesses a faithful person, and that there is still a curse over idol worshipping.
Let us focus firmly on the eternal things and we will experience God’s goodness and power in our lives.