The Futility of Idols – Psalm 135:15-18

When People Worship Idols, They Become Like Them

15 The idols of the nations are 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,
nor is there breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them will be like them,
and so will all who trust in them.

Metal Monstrosities

In the time when the Psalms were written, people trusted in metal idols.  Even today, people trust in idols.  These idols were about as effective as the golden calf that Aaron created when Moses lingered on the mountain with God.  They are worthless.  God abhors idols in our lives.

But it is not only the metal monstrosities that He hates.  We are so sinful, we invent new ways to sin.  We are not content with metal idols – we need more subtle idols that no one can steal.  We set up our jobs as idols, placing work before God, family, and the work of the brethren.  We worship movie stars, music stars, politicians, rich people, anyone that appears to have more than we do, and appeals to our inner desire to be publicly recognized and adored.  We even worship ourselves.  And when people aren’t enough, we worship the sun, the moon, the stars, the Earth, creatures on, in, and above the Earth, and every other conceivable thing in the universe.  Some even worship Satan, demons, angels, and (other real or imaginary) beings outside the physical universe.

We worship that which we desire to become, or which we believe will give us what we want.  We were created to be image-bearers, and worship is a key part of image-bearing.  It is an acknowledgement of the superiority of someone or something over us, and our desire to be like it or be in fear of it.

Handcrafted Horrors

The fact that the idols made by the hands of men at the time this Psalm was written is intriguing.  Isaiah had this to say about idols:

9 All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
11 People who do that will be put to shame;
such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and shame.

12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

Mute Mouths

The Psalmist recognizes the futility in idols. First, they cannot talk.  How can an inanimate object give counsel, impart wisdom, console, cheer on, or otherwise communicate with a human being?  For that very reason, idols are worthless.  Because we recognize that, we make other people idols, or idolize ourselves.  Being created to be social creatures, we seek to communicate with ourselves and who/what we worship.

Unseeing Uselessness

Idols cannot see.  If they cannot see, how then are they able to look upon our plights to offer anything to us?  Mute, sightless idols are worthless and useless.  Even people who can see and talk cannot provide what we need – relationship with the one who created us and the universe around us.  We seek out these things because God has placed in our hearts the desire to seek Him out in relationship.  God, by His very trinitarian nature, implies unity in relationship.  As image-bearers of God, we share that same nature, or a desire to be a part of that nature.

Craftsman Changed

When people create idols, they become like them – worthless and useless as image-bearers of God.  By creating the very things that rob people of true worship and place false images of their creator in the hands of men, they lead people away from God rather than to God, which is our primary responsibility as image-bearers of God.

Treasonous Trust

When we trust in idols, we reject the One who created us, and like the idols that we trust in, we too become worthless as image-bearers of God.

This is what happens when we refuse to use our eyes to see and our ears to hear by not seeking the One who gave us both:

Son of man, you are living among a rebellious people. They have eyes to see but do not see and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious people.

Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?

as it is written: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear, to this very day.”

But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Do our eyes see and do our ears hear?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have graciously given me life, and mercifully have given me this day.  Rouse me out of my spiritual stupor, and grant me keen awareness of those things that I have been ignorant of until now.  Strengthen my body and my mind for the rigors of spiritual battle today.  Help me to keep my sword sharp, and my armor well-tended.  Help me to recognize when that which You have provided and is good has become an idol in my life.  Give me the ability to place everything in its proper place, so that I will not be deceived by the lie.  Help me to retrain my brain so that it desires what You desire and not what the world, the flesh, and the devil want me to desire.  Please give me eyes that see and ears that hear, that I may worship You will all of my heart, mind, soul and strength.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

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