The idols must go

Photo by Julia Volk on

The things that we fear and the things that we put our trust in are the things that become our idols. 

They become our idols because we give power and authority to them.  We think that they have control and influence over our lives.  We are scared that if we do not do what they want and require then they have the power to harm us.  We hope that if we appease them, keep them happy that we can get them on our side, they won’t hurt us but instead will look after us. Maybe instead they’ll even hurt our enemies.  That in a nutshell is how idolatry works.

I’ve argued that Greg Beale’s interpretation of Isaiah 6 is right, that the people are unable to perceive and understand because they have become like their idols.  They are just like those carved images with the appearances of noses, mouths, ears and eyes but the inability to truly smell, hear and see.  That’s God’s judgement on them for becoming like their idols in other ways by absorbing the evil values of Canaanite, Moabite and Egyptian gods and goddesses. 

We become like our idols when we allow the values and priorities of the world around us to shape our thoughts, emotions and actions.  We are meant to allow Christ and his word to dweel richly in us, we are meant to be filled with the Holy Spirit, communion is meant to symbolise our feeding on Christ. Instead, we imbibe the things of this world. We allow our thoughts, our imaginations, our ambitions, our words to be shaped by the images we look at on screen and in magazines by the song lyrics we listen to and sing along with and by the advice of the friends we choose to surround ourselves with. We begin to look like our idols. We dress like our heroes, we adopt the fashion of the age with the specific body image statements it makes and the messages that come with that about whose image we are or are not made in.

If God’s people had become like their idols, then the point of God’s message through Isaiah was that those idols had to be destroyed and removed from the land so that the place of God’s covenant blessing could be purified.

The application for us today then, with a little bit of help from Romans 8 is that the idols that we have come to cling to have to be stripped away from our lives until we are depending on Christ alone.  So, it is helpful for us to think about what those specific idols might be.  What I would expect to find is that in one sense, we will have different individual idols but at the same time our idols are the same because they all reflect the beliefs of society and culture around us. 

Here are somethings that I’ve seen become idols over recent years.

  1. Brexit in the UK and equivalent forms of national populism around the world.  This means that for some in the UK that the equivalent idol has been the EU.  In the United States it would be Trumpian MAGA (Make American Great Again) and dare I say it, Scottish Independence, Irish Nationalism and Unionism can both also take on this role.
  2. Class identity.  Pride in being working class or aspiration to rise through the classes and find not just economic prosperity but cultural respectability too.
  3. Body image. Being the right weight, shape, appearance.  This can include the desire to be thin or shapely and the desire for muscular strength too. 
  4. Sexuality and sex.  Seeking comfort, intimacy, value, pleasure.
  5. Success in education and employment. This can be about material security, status and popularity.
  6. For a few years COVID and our responses to it became in different ways idols, whether a complete fear of COVID and belief that everything must stop or a defiance against measures seeing freedom as under attack.
  7. Specific individuals that become opinion formers from columnists and politicians through sports and pop stars to social media influencers.  People we look up to, dream of meeting and winning the attention of and who we listen to and seek to imitate.

These are the different types of idols but what they have in common is that they are ways of seeking value through attention and acceptance, of looking for security and safety or seeking comfort and satisfaction.

Where are you looking to for value? How are you seeking to satisfy your needs? What gives you security.  If you are finding those things in anything or anyone other than Christ, then know these two things.

  • All of these idols will ultimately fail, they won’t satisfy you, wont’ keep you safe, won’t give you true value.
  • All of these idols must go.  Only Christ can truly reign in our lives. There is no place for rivals for his rule and his affection.
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