It took only forty days from when Moses went to talk with God on Mount Sinai for the Israelites to fall into idolatry. Even after witnessing the miracles that freed them out of Egypt, they demanded that Aaron make a new god for them to worship. (Exodus 32)
We can think: “How is that possible after they’d so strongly experienced God’s goodness?”
As long as they were faithful to serve God things went well for Israel. As soon as they turned to other idols things started to go seriously downhill. And yet, again and again the Israelites turned from God. They were deluded by riches, by other customs and different teachings.
The Old Testament is rich with examples, both good and bad, that remain just as relevant in the present day. They serve as a cautionary tale for our own lives.
Modern day idols – more than golden calves
Today idolatry remains a powerful tool that the devil uses to turn us away from God. However, now it has taken many different forms.
Just like in the stories from the Old Testament, there are many pleasures of life or material goods that divert our attention away from serving God. Achieving these earthly goals can consume us. Many would quickly do whatever immoral deed it takes to satisfy their desires.
Even smaller, more “harmless” things can twist our attention away from God. It can be very easy to get completely wrapped up in earthly matters. I can talk for hours about these things, but ask me about God’s Word and I’m completely empty. Dry as a desert.
But shouldn’t that, as a Christian, actually be my only true concern? To fill myself with the word of God so that I have a clear guideline by which to live my life? The Bible gives us incredibly clear direction about how we are to take this.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.” Colossians 3:1-2.
“But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do no break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:20-21
How do I spend my time?
We always take 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 such a glorious future. If my eyes are really open to see that a life that is pleasing to God is what really matters, then all the temporary distractions will fall away. They will no longer have any value. 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 on a wandering, back-and-forth trail, but that your mind is set firmly on things above! God will bless such a heart that is wholly for Him, just as He blessed the Israelites when they were faithful to Him.
What is the root of idolatry?
“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5.
Here we can clearly see what is behind idolatry: covetousness. When the things of earth become great to you and divert your mind and heart from the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit.
All too often, the biggest idol in our lives is the one that looks us right in the mirror each and every morning. We are by nature egocentric, self-involved people. Our thoughts naturally go in one pattern: me, me, me. This spirit, which is promoted by every form of media available today, is the same spirit that filled the devil when he challenged God. (Isaiah 14:12-15) This spirit is horribly destructive and can only be countered by humility – by placing our lives in God’s hands and yielding completely to His will.
The dangers of serving two masters
Someone who tries to play the balancing act of serving both God and earthly idols is doomed to fail. We receive a very clear warning about this in Matthew 6:24: “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.”
James 1:8 says that a double-minded man is “unstable in all his ways.” Even if we begin with a pure desire to serve God alone, this determination can drift away if we allow ourselves to be distracted by earthly “idols” instead of seeking the things above. This determination is something worth fighting to hold onto! We will find that, just as in the days of the Israelites, God richly blesses a faithful singleness of purpose, and there is still a curse over idolatry. Let us fix our vision firmly on the eternal and we will experience God’s goodness and power in our lives.