What if I told you that idol worship is as prevalent today as it was in ancient times? And what if I told you that we all have a tendency to worship idols today? If we are not careful, we will end up replacing God with a poor substitute, and that great mistake will bring damage and disappointment to our lives. If I say the phrase “idol worship,” what comes to your mind? Most people think either of primitive people bowing down before statues, poles, animals, or ancient people worshiping Greek gods like Zeus or Hercules. The Bible gives us three warnings about idol.
Anything or anyone can become an idol
In our modern world an idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, or a hero. Said simply, an idol can be anyone or anything that takes the place of God.
Exodus 20:3-5 You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods…
The heart wants what it wants
The great theologian Woody Allen once said, “The heart wants what it wants.” Most of us think idols are something outside of us, something foreign, something we take pictures of, something you hold in your hand or pray to. The truth is that idols are first formed in the heart. Idol worship is an inside job that works it’s way outside.
Ezekiel 14:3 …These men have taken their idols into their hearts.
Probably none of you has an idol made of wood, metal or stone in your pocket or purse, but all of us carry idols hidden deep within our hearts. Idols can be external, but they start in the heart. Idols are internal things that work their way out to become external things. Here is the scary part. We are capable of producing idols as fast as an assembly line at Ford Motor Corporation. Idol worship is a universal disease that we all have. It spreads quickly and can end up destroying our lives.
Do you remember the story of Rachel’s theft in Genesis 31? It was the first time idols were mentioned in the Bible. Rachel stole idols from her father. She took his gods. She both deceived her husband and endangered her family. Why? Idols were her backup plan in case God didn’t come through. Her desire to have children like her sister Leah was the most important thing in her life-more important than God. She cried out, “Give me children or I’ll die.” Her idol worship blinded her from the true God and from reality. She forgot that God was her only hope. She couldn’t see straight. Idols blind us from the true God and from reality.
Genesis 35:2-3 So Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.”
Deal with your idols before they deal with you
You and I were created to worship. Every person ever born on the earth was created to worship. So the question isn’t, will you worship? The question is, what or whom will you worship?
Will you worship the idol of science, the earth idol, money, sex, and power?, Or how about the most prevalent and dangerous idol of all- the idol of yourself? The reality is you will worship something or someone. Something or someone will take first place in your life.
Psalm 97:7 Those who worship idols are disgraced- all who brag about their worthless gods-for every god must bow to him.
In the end, idol worship will bring great damage and disgrace to our lives. If we are not careful, we will end up replacing God with a poor substitute, and that great mistake will bring a lifetime of sorrow and regret.
- Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
- Have you ever thought that an idol could be something other than a man made object? Explain.
- What are some idols that you have in your life?
- What do you try to gain by “worshiping” an idol?
- Why do you think it is easier to worship an idol than it is to worship God?
- Read 1 Kings 18:21-39. What was the first question Elijah asked the people? How would you answer that same question?
- Look at 1 Kings 18:37. What were the two things that Elijah was hoping would happen by this display of God’s power? How does worshiping the idols in our lives keep these things from happening?
- Write a personal action step based on this conversation.