Idols of the Nations

June 30, 2020

15 The idols of the nations are of silver and gold, made by human hands. 16 They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. 17 They have ears but cannot hear; indeed, there is no breath in their mouths. 18 Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.

Psalm 135:15-18

Written by Andy Engberg from the Brentwood Campus

When someone mentions the word idol, our minds immediately conjure up images from a popular TV show. We have been desensitized to the point of having a positive reaction to this concept. The Bible, however, tells a completely different story. The concept of idolatry was well understood in the ancient world as being the practice of worshiping pagan gods. After the fall, idols or man-made statues were a physical representation of pagan gods, and they were devised with the intention of being worshiped by their followers.

The God of the Bible, on the other hand, created man to bear His image. The Hebrew word tselem was a standard word for idol in the ancient world. Tselem appears in the creation narrative of Genesis 1:26-27, where it says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God.” God values us because we were created in His image, and this truth has eternal significance. In contrast, the idols of the nations were “made by human hands” and held only earthly value by way of silver and gold. Verses 16-17 say, “They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear.” But God does see us and hear us, and He answers our prayers. He is the almighty creator of the universe, and He wants a relationship with you and me.

Verse 18 says, “Those who make [idols] are just like them, as are all who trust in them.” We take on the characteristics of what we worship. Thus, worshiping God will cultivate His characteristics in us. People who worship idols are blind to what God is doing. They cannot hear His voice or speak of His wonders. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:24, “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.”

Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” Make no mistake, idolatry is alive and well in our culture today. Idolatry does not require the worship of a statue or idol. Paul describes it as anything belonging to our “earthly nature.” We can make an idol of anything. Money, jobs, material possessions, favorite pastimes and even people we admire can become idols.

When God created man, the Bible says, “Then the Lord God formed the man out of the dust from the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Man-made idols do not have breath or Spirit in them. God breathed “the breath of life” into man, giving us life. The word for breath in verse 17 can also mean spirit. The Greek New Testament word used for spirit also means breath. “Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10). Therefore, it by God’s Spirit that we live. Man is a physical representation of God’s creative power. Idolatry occurs when we place our hope in something other than God.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. How do you spend your discretionary resources? A great deal can be discerned about the condition of a person’s heart by how they spend their free time and money. As Christians, we should honor the Lord with our time as well as our money. We run the risk of making idols for ourselves if we allow anything to take precedence over our relationship with the Lord.
  2. A relationship with God has eternal value. In this fallen world there is no shortage of ungodly temptations designed to take our attention off God. There is however one way, and only one way, to have a relationship with God—and His name is Jesus.
  3. Conforming to the image of Christ will reap fruit not only in time but in eternity as well. Be careful not to conform to the ways of this world. That will lead to idolatry which has eternal consequences.