Flee from Idols
September 23, 2018
Fulfilling Human Needs
God creates us creatures who may not live independently. We are reliant on external help to survive. We are created with a hole which needs to be filled. We may not fill the hole ourselves. We need help. We are a people with needs.
Here are a few examples of needs which we rely on an outside source to fulfill.
Fulfillment and Satisfaction
A basic need we have is to find fulfillment and satisfaction. We are created hungry, and we need to eat food for nourishment. We drink liquids because we are created with a thirst. We are created as people who need rest, and so we sleep. We are created with the need for oxygen, and so we breathe. We seek to fulfill and satisfy these basic needs on a daily basis.
Peace and Security
God creates within us the need for peace and security. When we feel secure, we are at peace. If there are chaos and turmoil, we do not find peace and security. People who have little peace or security live lives of stress and anxiety.
Joy and Happiness
God creates us as people who desire to find joy and happiness. We look forward to times when we know we will laugh, be joyful, and be happy. Often, the joy and happiness come from the fulfillment of our basic needs for food and drink. When our needs are not being met to our satisfaction, we have less joy and happiness. The need for joy and happiness is very strong. We will go out of our way to find joy and happiness.
Purpose and Significance
Another need we have as people is the need to find purpose in life. We desire to be a people of significance. We need to feel important, that our lives matter. When we dig deep into the human psyche, we find that our need for purpose and significance is directly related to our relationships with others. When others love us, we find purpose in life. We want to feel as though our lives count. We want to make a difference. People who have no meaningful relationships will feel empty and useless.
Our lives are an endless pursuit of meeting our needs. We may not meet these needs on our own. We need help. God intentionally creates us with a hole that only He may fill.
People Are Either Christians or Idolaters
Where we turn to have our needs filled determines what kind of person we are in the eyes of God. If we turn to God to meet our needs, then we are a Christian. But, if we turn away from God and seek other ways to have our needs met, then we are an idolater.
An idol can be anything we value more than God. Examples of idols include possessions, careers, relationships, hobbies, sports, entertainment, goals, alcohol and drugs, gambling, pornography, and so forth. Some things we idolize are obviously sinful. But most often, the things we idolize can be good, such as food, relationships, or careers.
Idolatry takes many forms. For example, some people find significance in life from their job. Perhaps they have an important title such as vice president. The title makes them feel good. The title makes them feel important and that they matter. They have a sense of belonging. The person might spend long hours at work to maintain the position of vice president of the company. They might even lie or deceive to keep their position. Sometimes the person will neglect their family because being a vice-president is more important than being a parent.
Another example of idolatry is someone who finds joy and happiness in material goods. They enjoy shopping and collecting things of the world. They are happiest when they have the latest and greatest cell phone. They are happy because they drive a luxury automobile and people turn their heads as they drive by. They are happy because their home is in a great neighborhood. They enjoy money because it enables them to buy the stuff that makes them happy.
Those who worship God find purpose and meaning in life serving God. They could care less what title they have at work so long as they do work that is pleasing to God. God is their boss, and they are happy and content with obeying Him.
Those who worship God are content with what they have. They thank God that their needs are met, and they don’t need to find their happiness in material goods. They enjoy living simply and could care less about all the latest gadgets.
A Christian turns to God and knows all of their needs are met by God. An idolater does not look to God, but the look elsewhere to have their needs met. People are either a Christian or an idolater. There are no other alternatives.
Everyone is a witness
Everyone is a witness that gives testimony to where their needs are met. The Christian is a witness for God because they trust Him to meets their needs. The idolater is a witness for idols because the idols fulfill their needs.
God tells the Israelites, in chapter 41-44, that they are His witnesses. As witnesses for God, they are to proclaim the glory of God and how He makes them happy and complete. They are to proclaim that the God of Israel is all-powerful. He gives them their daily bread. He is their protector who keeps them safe. They find significance in being chosen by God. As God’s children, they are happy, and life has meaning. They belong to God, and for them, that is enough.
Idolaters are witnesses for idols. They trust idols to make them happy and well. They invest in their idols, and the money they use to invest is also a form of witness. For example, if someone spends $100,000 on an automobile, their purchase is a testimony that the automobile is important to their happiness and well-being.
There are many ways we witness. We witness with what we say, our verbal testimony. We witness to others by how we spend our money. We witness by how we spend our time.
God tells us that we are His servants and chosen witness. God wants the Christian to proclaim that He is glorious and is the source of our needs. As servants of God, it is the responsibility of Christians to witness to idolaters. The only way for an idolater to learn that their idol will not meet their needs is if a Christian helps them to see.
Idolatry is Futile and Shameful
An important message we bring to idolaters is that their worship of idols is of no value. Isaiah 44:9-11 is very clear in expressing that idols are worthless, they are futile. The witnesses of the idol fail to realize that where they turn to have their needs met is of no profit. In other words, they think their idol meets their needs, but little do they know that at the end of the day, the idol does not meet their needs.
The outcome of seeking after idols is shame. The shame comes when they realize how their idol compares to God. It is embarrassing to spend time and energy into something that has no value. Idols are a useless investment, and those who invest in them fail to see their folly.
What is an Idol
Isaiah provides the clearest pictures of the making of idols in the Bible. From his explanation of the process, we learn what makes up an idol (Isaiah 44:12-17).
Idols are man-made. One man shapes a cutting tool to carve, and another man uses the tool to shape the wood. They are made by men who are like you or me, they get hungry and tired. They are not super-humans in creating something unique. Idols are made by ordinary people.
Abide (welcomed at home, cherished)
The idol will sit in a house (v.13). In other words, it is welcomed and put in a prominent place. The idol abides with people. An idol finds residency in the life of the idolater. If you go to their home, you will see their idol.
Material of this world
Idols are made of ordinary materials. The idol maker plants a tree and uses half of the tree for firewood. The other half of the tree becomes the idol which he makes into a god. The material of the idol is nothing special. The wood in the woodpile next to the stove is the same as the wood used to make the idol. There is nothing special about the wood in the idol. So, what makes it an idol?
Bestowed god-like qualities by man
What makes a piece of wood an idol is the idolater. God-like qualities are bestowed upon the idol by man. Isaiah 44:17 helps us understand exactly what idolatry is all about.
He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.” (Isaiah 44:17)
The idolater falls down before the idol. That is a sign of the idol having authority.
When something is worshipped, those who worship ascribe value to the object. We only worship what is valuable.
The idolater prays to the idol. That means the idolater believes the idol may be of help by hearing the prayer and changing the course of life events to meet the needs of the idolater. If the idolater needs food, he may pray to the idol to bring forth rain for the crops. He believes the idol makes things happen.
Last, the idolater believes the idol may deliver them from trouble. It may be deliverance from poverty, harm, or sadness and gloom. The idolater looks to the idol to be a savior that will save them from their present situation.
Rebellious People Choose Idols
Why Do People choose idols? The reason is simple. It is a matter of authority. They would rather create idols than to submit their life to God’s authority. The Apostle Paul sums up the life of an idolater in the first chapter of Romans (Romans 1:18-23).
People suppress the truth about God because they are unrighteous. Rather than admit God exists, they pretend the evidence for God does not exist. Evidence for God is clear. There is no such thing as an atheist. They claim atheism because they prefer sin. By pretending God doesn’t exist, they don’t have to obey God. They do is exchange the glory of God for an idol.
They don’t want to acknowledge that the Creator God fulfills their needs. They would rather ignore God than say thank you to Him and bring Him honor. They pretend that they are wise, but they are fools.
People choose idols because they are deceived
Isaiah tells us that the idolater is deceived in their heart and mind. They don’t know or understand. They don’t realize what they are doing. They take a piece of wood, cut it into two pieces. One piece they use to cook on the stove and the other piece they bow down and worship. It is illogical. They hold an idol in their hand and are unable to recognize that the idol is nothing but a lie.
An idolater is unable to deliver themselves. They don’t know they are deceived. They need someone to show them the truth. That is where God’s witnesses come in. God chooses us as His witness so we may help save the world from themselves.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, "HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!" (Rom 10:14-15)
The New Testament call to evangelize comes from the book of Isaiah. We are God’s chosen witnesses. We are a blessing to the nations.
We are Witnesses of the Straight Stick
We often wonder what to say to unbelievers.
This quote from D.L. Moody is very helpful. He says, “The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it.”
We are witnesses of the straight stick. We will not win any arguments telling people their idol is of no value. They are deceived and already believe the idol meets their needs. What we need to do is proclaim the treasures of Christ. We need to have faith in the Word of God to convict sinners.
Preach the Unfathomable Riches of Christ
We are called as God’s witnesses of the gospel. We are to preach the unfathomable riches of Christ. The riches of Christ are far superior and will meet their needs.
We may open the Scriptures and share truth from the witnesses that have gone before us. We can tell of the testimony of Paul, Isaiah, David, Peter, James, John, and the other apostles. We also may share our testimony of how Jesus meets our deepest needs.
We may witness that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who leads His sheep to lie down in green pastures and beside the still waters (Ps. 23:1-2). Jesus watches over His flock (1 Peter 5:4), and He lays down His life for His sheep.
For those who seek security and safety, Jesus provides a refuge (Isa. 25:4). He is a mighty Fortress and our Hiding Place (Isa. 32:2). Tell the anxious that Jesus provides peace which passes all understanding. And, He sends us the Comforter (Isa. 61:2; Jn. 14:16).
Jesus offers living water for all who thirst and whoever drinks of His water will never thirst again (Jn. 4:14). Tell the hungry that Jesus is the bread of life; those who come to Him will not hunger (Jn. 6:35).
Jesus has great authority over armies of angels. He rules and watches over His people because He is King of Kings and (Zech. 14:16) and Lord of Lords (1 Cor. 12:3; 2 Pet. 1:11). Jesus carries the government upon His shoulders. Jesus is the Chief among ten thousand (Song of Sol. 5:10). His Kingdom has no end, and He perpetually sits upon His throne forever and ever.
In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). Jesus is the truth (John 14:6).
Jesus is the Just One (Acts 7:52). He is the Judge (Micah 5:1; Acts 10:42). Jesus is the Lawgiver (Isa. 33:22) and the purpose of the Law (Ro. 10:4). With Christ, our need for justice is satisfied.
Everyone is a sinner needing forgiveness. Christ, because of His great love, and because of the riches of His mercy, offers forgiveness of sin. He is the Merciful and Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14; 2:17); the Minister of the Sanctuary (Heb. 8:2), and the great Deliverer (Rom. 11:26) who will rescue us from the kingdom of darkness and deliver you to His kingdom of light.
Jesus paid the penalty of sin with His death upon the cross because He is the Horn of salvation (Ps. 18:2; Lk. 1:69); the Savior of the world (Lk. 1:47; 2:11; 1 Jn. 4:14). Even though we are dead in our sins, Jesus makes us alive. His blood washes us so we stand before the throne of God as a people who are holy, blameless, and above reproach.
How do we know all this is true? We know because God predicts the future and explains the past. God’s word passes the test and proves He is God. There are hundreds of prophecies that have come true. We believe what we hear because it is proven true. We don’t hope that it is true, we know it is true.
No idol provides the prophetic accuracy of God’s word.
The New Testament Warns Believers about Idolatry
As we reveal the glory of Christ, we need to be careful not to fall into the trap of being idolaters. The New Testament gives many warnings against idolatry.
We cannot be warning people about idolatry when we have a log sticking in our eye. We need to be very careful. Idolatry is the strongest of all temptations. Those who think they are free from idolatry are fools. Resisting the worship of idols is a lifelong battle that is part of the Christian life.
If you have pride, you are an idolater. If you have a problem with overeating, you are an idolater. Every time we look at something and want it for ourselves, we are coveting. And, the Bible says coveting is idolatry. The Apostle John warns us and says,
Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21)
Guard against idolatry by Remembering God’s grace
The best way for us to guard against idolatry is to remember God’s grace. God’s grace will humble us. When we think about grace, we remember that there is nothing we have done to deserve our salvation. We are nothing more than servants of God.
God forms us, and we are His servants. God wipes away our sins for His own sake.
The Earth Praises God’s Glory
Isaiah ends the section by calling upon creation to shout for joy. It’s not hard to imagine that if creation can shout, that there is a good reason to shout. No longer will the elements of Creation be used as an idol in place of God. God makes the mountains and the forest for His glory. When a man uses the elements of Creation as an idol, it goes against the natural order.
The Lord has redeemed Jacob and released Creation from the bondage of idol worship.
We are God’s chosen witnesses
People who are lost in deception will only hear the truth from God’s witnesses. We need to lovingly and boldly share the truth of God with a world that is lost.