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?

Worhiping God – Exodus 20:4-6

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

We were made to worship.

Everyone worships – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, background, or any other qualifier – our Creator made us to worship Him and Him alone.  He so rightly desires and is worthy of worship, He built it into us.  And we WILL worship something or someone – God, Satan, ourselves, animals, stars, the Moon, the Sun, the creation, someone else, or something else.  We cannot help but worship.

As we prepare our hearts for worship on the Lord’s Day, ask yourself this question:  “Do I have any idols in my life?”  From the scripture above, it would appear that idols are something that we make.  But perhaps it is better to label, as an idol, anything that you place more value on (desire) than worshiping God.  We often think of worship as gathering with other Christians to corporately worship God, or praising Almighty God in prayer and song wherever we are when we do it.

But Paul, possibly in light of Jesus’ definition of worship, saw something different.  He expands our understanding of worship just as Jesus expanded our understanding of murder , adultery, and divorce.

In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Oh, there is so much packed into those two sentences!   But here is the key to worship:  Worship is about EVERYTHING we do, say, and think.  It is not just when we pause to remember God (who He is and what He has done and will do); it is the outpouring of our souls in every waking moment to a glorious and beautiful Creator.

Let’s ask ourselves again:  “Do I have ANY idols in my life?”  The question should be expanded by asking, “Is there anything in my life that I have not dedicated to God and, even in the enjoyment of it, acknowledge Him by engaging in the practice of recognizing its proper place in life to ensure that God ALWAYS has first priority in everything?”

Here is a list of common idols that we may or may not see in our lives:

Everything we think, everything we do, and everything we say is an expression of worship.  So, who/what are we really worshiping?

A short prayer of preparation:

Merciful Father, your mercies renew every morning.  You are full of grace and beckon us to come to you with contrite hearts, for you have said that blessed are those that mourn.  Search my heart, O God, test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offense in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.  You and You alone can see my hidden faults, for sin blinds me to them.  Show me the idols in my life, Lord God.  Where they exist, You cannot rule and reign.  Remove them from me – remove even the desire for them from my heart, that with clean hands and a pure heart I can come before You in joyful worship.  Guide me in the ways I should go.  This I ask in the precious name of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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