Cruising Route 66
They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.” … They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.” 11 Kings 17:12 & 15
II Kings tells the story of the decline of two powers. The Northern Kingdom, Israel, who had been led by 19 kings all of whom refused to submit to the God of their fathers, despite the prophets God sent them. Prophets like Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Elijah, and Elisha. Both the kings, and the people refused to listen. The Southern Kingdom, Judah, had 20 kings, and only eight of those walked with God. They too had powerful prophets to challenge them, like Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah to name just a few.
I have always believed that we, meaning everyone, will worship something or someone. We will never be without a lord to serve. The question is who or what do you bow to. Whatever it is if it is not God Almighty, is nothing more than an idol. When we allow idols to creep into our lives they tend to bring with them a clatter and distraction that drowns out the voices of those God has sent to us.
Do not make the mistake of picturing an idol to be what you would find on a Hollywood fantasy film. Idols come in many forms. We are to be on guard against anything that might occupy the place in your heart that should be reserved for God alone.
Just about every biblical warning about idol worship tends to refrain from classifying the idols or giving us a list of what to avoid. Any idol, regardless of its beauty or usefulness or original purpose, is to be set aside so God may reign supreme.
I’m not tempted to worship evil things, it’s the good stuff that plagues me most. It’s not hard to reject something that is clearly bad or wrong. What is hard is keeping good and wholesome things off the throne of worship.
In the Book of Numbers we found the Israelites in the wilderness being beaten by snakes and the people were dying. So Moses prayed for the people, and the Lord provided an answer that brought healing.
The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live. “So, Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. Numbers 21:8-9
It was a miraculous, glorious provision, and it worked. Jesus mentions it in John 3:14-15 as an example of what He would accomplish when He died on a cross.
The bronze serpent was a blessing from God and it was a effective means of deliverance. It was a good thing, that produced good results. It was a witness of God’s love and provision, what could be wrong with that?
One of the few kings that served God, named Hezekiah, set about cleaning things up. He started by removing the idols that were drawing people away from God and causing dissension and division.
He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father David had done. He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. II Kings 18:3-4
The snake was made around 1450 B.C. and distroyed around 600 B.C. For about eight hundred years they hung on to that bronze serpent. They dragged it around with them wherever they went, preserving it, protecting it, and polishing it, and worshiping it. They even gave it a name: Nehushtan, meaning simply, “a piece of bronze.”
You can make an idol out of anything or anyone. A church building can become an idol, it is simply a place to meet and worship our Lord, nothing more.
Your child can become your idol. In subtle ways you can so adore that little one that your whole life revolves around the child. God then becomes just a tool to raise our children in a better way.
Your work can easily become your God, as can any pursuit in life, a house, a lawn, an antique, a car. Anything can so grip your heart that it becomes your Nehushtan.
Please don’t miss my point. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of these good things. To possess them, any or all of them, is not a bad or sinful thing. But they become sinful when they possess you! Therein lies the difference.
Does Christ reign in your life without a rival? Or would you have to admit to some personal shrine in your inner temple where you privately burn incense? It’s so easy to get attached to idols, good things that are inappropriately adored.
Remember, when you have Jesus in the center of the room, everything else only junks up the decor.
Until next time…