Idolatry

People Naturally Desire To Worship A God

When the cat is away, the mice will play. This cliche is seen in the last chapters of Judges, and we tend to live according to it when we do not think there is an authority in our lives.  

A great example of this is at the end of the book of Judges (ch.17-21). It begins with Micah and his mother in “The hill country of Ephraim”—not a new location in Judges:

  • It is the place of Joshua’s burial (2:9);
  • Ehud sounded his trumpet there (3:27);
  • Deborah held court there (4:5); and
  • Gideon sent messengers there to call up the men of Ephraim to go against the Midianites (7:24).

Look how different it is by the end of Judges though! The phrase “there was no king in Israel” occurs three times in chapters 17-21 (17:6; 18:1; 21:25). When there is no king, people will do what is right in their own eyes. In other words, they will become their own kings or submit themselves to all kinds of other kings.

We see a natural desire for worship in Micah and his mother, and we share this natural desire.

The short story—Micah had stolen 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother but returned it to her. Her response:  “. . . I dedicate the silver to the LORD from my hand for my son, to make a carved image and a metal image. . .” (Judges 17:3, ESV)

Do you see anything in her response that doesn’t make sense? This shows how far off the Israelites had come in their thinking and beliefs–Micah’s mother would dedicate the silver to the Lord IN ORDER FOR it to be made into a carved image and a metal image. The 2nd commandment directly forbids this: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Exodus 20:4, ESV)

But Micah wasn’t done there:

  • v.5- he sets up a shrine, which is essentially is “the house of God.” This is an abomination because there was only one house of God at that time and it was in Shiloh, which is even noted in Judges 18:31.
  • v.5- he sets up his son as a private priest. First, priests are to be public, not just for one person. Second, is his son even qualified?
  • v.7-13. Maybe Micah did realize the qualification part of this, even though he didn’t care, because he finds a Levite and asks him to be his priest.

Levites were the priestly class of Israelites, so Micah got that right. But God was not Micah’s authority, and his confusion is revealed in Judges 17:13: “Then Micah said, ‘Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.’”

Not only did Micah’s mother dedicate the silver to the Lord to be used to make idols, but Micah presumed upon God’s blessing of his ungodly decision to create a place of worship outside of Shiloh with carved images and idols.

They naturally desired a god: something to rule over them, look up to, and try to please. People today share the same natural desire to worship by setting up their own places of worship and idols (whether physically or mentally).

Why would people do this? Let me offer two reasons:

  1. All people are made in the image of God (Gen 1:27), meaning at least that people have a soul and are able to have a personal relationship with God. In other words, every person is created to glorify and worship God, and when they don’t worship God, that longing to worship is still there. Instead of worshipping who they were created to worship, though, people will create all kinds of idols and other pursuits to fill that void that can only be satisfied in God.
  2. The law of God is written on people’s hearts. “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” (Romans 2:14–15, ESV). Because people are made in the image of God, we naturally have the law of God written on our hearts. There is a general sense of right from wrong in every person, though sin can so horribly cauterize the ability to discern the difference. As John Piper said, people “. . . have enough knowledge of the moral law of God in their hearts by virtue of being created in God’s image so that their consciences are conflicted: sometimes approving, sometimes disapproving.” So, people are naturally pursuing morality, and that will lead to some kind of religion in their life.

Are you naturally desiring the One True God, or is your natural desire to worship misdirected?

 

Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

 

Our View of God is Diminished When We Choose To Sin

Samson exemplifies this principle. Judges 16 records the popular encounter between Samson and Delilah. The main point of that chapter is Samson’s flirting with presumptuous sin, and any one of us are like Samson in the way that we set our affections on something ungodly and are blind to any obvious attempts of that thing to lead us astray. Samson finally told Delilah the truth about the secret of his strength after he had tricked her three times.

Here is a simple but profound point that struck me when I noticed it. When Samson told Delilah the truth, he said “…A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man” (Judges 16:17). Interestingly, he uses the name Elohim for God there instead of Yahweh, the Divine name.

Elohim certainly can be a reference to Yahweh, but it can also be used to refer to all kinds of gods. Delilah, a polytheistic Philistine, might have thought nothing of what Samson said because that’s how any one of her gods could have been addressed. In fact, the Philistines use Elohim to refer to their gods in this very chapter (four times in verses 23 and 24).

Right before he tells Delilah what it would take for him to break the last stipulation of his Nazarite vow (therefore, sinning against God), he refers to God in a way that couldn’t be well distinguished from any other so-called god. Samson’s view of God diminishes as he chooses to sin.

The same can be true for us. A temptation has risen to the level of being a god to you, and the One True God is nothing more than another option in a world of many gods.

It changes though. Samson has a moment at some point after his capture and imprisonment where he comes back to the realization that Yahweh is God, not himself or anyone or anything else. In verse 28, Samson called out, “O Lord God, please remember me…” Here Samson cried out Yahweh. He knows who the One True God is. He returns to having a proper view of God.

So, the question for you: what is your view of God when you are tempted beyond what you think you can handle? If He is nothing more than another option in a world of options, then you’re sure to rely on yourself and give in to sin. But if you view God properly as holy, righteous, and able to strengthen you in times of need, then you can choose and live in righteousness.

Photo by Elena Taranenko on Unsplash

Check Your Heart First

God teaches us an important lesson through Gideon: focus on your heart before you focus on others’ hearts.

In Judges 6, Gideon knew that God was raising him up to save Israel from the oppression of Midian. The very night that Gideon had a revival moment with God, building the altar called the Lord is Peace, God gave him his first instruction. It is not a war plan; it’s a worship plan.

Priorities! You would think that God would unveil some great military plan to stop the Midianites,

sort of like he did to Deborah and Barak. But God takes a different course of action here and we must catch this lesson. Israel wanted peace. They experience oppression for seven years under the hand of Midian and cried out to the Lord for help. God raised up Gideon to save them, but they needed to look into their own camp for peace and freedom before thinking about Midian. Israel was filled with idolatry and God told Gideon to tear down to the altars to Baal and Asherah in his own town before he gave him any instruction about the Midianites. God was reorienting their heart to Him–a worship plan!

You must get your priorities right in order to be at peace with the Lord. You can cry out to him when you’re in difficult moments (like Israel), but if you’re still trying to find satisfaction and peace in idols, it’s going to be very difficult to see the Lord for who He is and who He needs to be in your life.

Check your own heart before you try to step out in faith to accomplish what the Lord has called you to.  

Photo by Taylor Nicole on Unsplash

Scroll to top
WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com