Idolatry is one of the most prevalent sins within Scripture, and it is often associated with nationwide depravity and degeneracy. The children of Israel repeatedly struggled to overcome it, with one of the most notable instances occurring in Exodus:
“Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’
And Aaron said to them, ‘Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf.
Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!
So when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow is a feast to the Lord.’ Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”
(Exodus 32:6, NKJV)
Aaron, the high priest and spiritual leader of the Israelites, accommodated the people’s request, built the idol himself, and then commanded them to worship it as if unto the Lord! Certainly, he would have known that this was unacceptable behavior. Just before this, the Lord had specifically commanded the following to Moses and Aaron together:
“You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
(Exodus 20:3-6, NKJV)
Aaron directly disobeyed the Lord’s command and led the people astray in Moses’ absence. Moses returned to find the people worshipping a golden calf, just as the Lord had said. In anger, he broke the tablets, melted and crushed the idol, and the people who had worshiped the calf were killed.
What does this have to do with us? We don’t bow down before golden statues. Many Christians no longer consider whether or not they commit idolatry because they do not have a physical idol that they pray to or worship. However, idols are not simply wooden or stone figures. They can be anything in the heavens or the earth that you place above God.
If you cannot live without something, you have likely made that thing an idol. If you put more time, effort, or thought into your relationship with someone than you do the Lord, you may be neglecting the most important relationship you will ever have.
Some examples of modern-day idols may include:
- Addiction to substances, including caffeine or food (coffee, smoking, etc.)
- Entertainment (television, books, activities, games, etc.)
- Relationships (partners, children, friendships, etc.)
- Things (cars, homes, money, etc.)
- Personal success or careers
Does this mean you cannot enjoy things or love people well? No. But it does mean that you should carefully evaluate your priorities. Everyone has priorities, whether they make the conscious decision to do so or not. Scripture is clear that the only way to follow God is to place Him first, spouses second, and children third. Everything else follows suit.
If you believe you have an idol in your life, Paul commands you to flee from it (1 Corinthians 10:14). In other words, remove it from your life. As long as you live, it is never too late to confess your sins, repent, and rededicate your heart to the Lord (2 Chronicles 7:14, Proverbs 28:13).
Even people who try to live righteously fall into sin – including pastors, priests, and kings. Nobody has the same struggles, and something that may be an idol for one may not be for another. Thus, it is important to remember that we should not judge other’s lives (Matthew 7:1-3) because we know not what is in their heart or what their relationship with God truly looks like (1 Samuel 16:7).
Obviously, there are certain things that do take time and effort in our daily lives, and your relationship to the Lord is not hindered by your responsibilities. He also wants you to have fun and experience pleasure (Ecclesiastes 8:15)! In remembering to keep your priorities in check, enjoy the blessings of the Lord with peace of mind and heart.
Are you interested in learning more about God’s commandments? Consider starting with “Moses as a Prototype of the Messiah: A Hebraic Study from the Book of Exodus” taught by ISOW instructor Bill Cloud.
– Jennifer A. Turner, Staff Writer