For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. –
When I am honest with myself, I come face to face with the fact that hindering my full worship of God and his glory is my worship of what Paul called “images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” I am an idol worshiper. Be they actual idols made to resemble any number of gods, or the desires for money, status, safety, approval of others, or sex, the bible reveals to us that our problem is found in not worshiping God as he deserves. Many of you may agree that these “idols” are distracting to your walk with God or cause you to stumble. But, have you taken time to face what is at the heart of this worship problem? Are you aware that if not properly put in their place or destroyed, your idols may cause you trials and lead you into more destruction and temptation.
Lets take a brief look into the story of Israel and their desire of an earthly king as a window into our hearts and how we at times worship idols.
By asking Samuel to give them an earthly king, Israel did not want to serve God as their king. When we put our trust or hope in something or someone more so than in God, we are ultimately rejecting him. If you read further, you will find that one of the reasons Israel wanted a king was so they could be like the nations around them (). So it is with us. We often measure ourselves and our worth by how we compare to the world. We want what others have and in so doing, we reject God himself.
As we try and face our idols the first step is identifying what they are. One of the questions you can ask yourself to help you in this process is “What is the next thing?” What is the next thing in your life that you are looking to obtaining in order to gain satisfaction: moving, finding a job, getting that bonus, getting married, having children, just getting through the day, mending that relationship, getting the debt paid off, a vacation, getting that next project completed at home or work, retirement. I have experienced several of these in my life as the next thing that promises to make me happy. We all have some thing we are daydreaming about and saying “When I just have __________, things will be good.” And, when I do obtain the desire of my heart, guess what? Something else takes its place as the next thing. When you base your ultimate joy from obtaining some thing or status in this life then you may have found one of your idols. Be aware that many of the things I mention here as potential idols are not in and of themselves evil. It is often good things that we elevate above God and make into idols.
So what is the answer when we do find our idols? It is not simply enough to remove the idol, we have to replace it with something. Try and try as hard as I can, but by my hard work I can never seem to will myself to leave my idols behind. For the answer, lets go back to how God responds to Israel’s request for an earthly king.
And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. –
Even though Israel had been unfaithful and rejected God as their king, we are confronted by the truth that “The Lord will not forsake his people”. This is a great truth. When we realize that God, at his most faithful, when we were still unfaithful, caught in our sin and deserving of death, died for us on the cross, we can begin to worship God rightly. We can see that none of the things he died for: lust, anger, love of money, cheating, stealing, ever bring us lasting joy. These things never end in a spiritual profit or deliverance. When we replace our idols with the love of God in Christ we can then be fully satisfied and begin to place the things of this world in their rightful place.
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, (ESV)
7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. (ESV)
19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” (ESV)
20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. (ESV)