Tuesday, November 8, 2011

idolatry's root is selfishness

For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree
1 Kings 14:23

Judah was left as the Israeli tribe holding the temple ground and David's throne in Jerusalem. But they did not treasure and worship God any longer. Very quickly the people of Judah slipped into rampant idolatry. It was epidemic among the Israelites. And the book of Kings and Chronicles record the ups and downs of what was a spiritual roller coaster ride for the children of Israel.

I do want to comment on something that I noticed as striking in this description of idolatry under Rehoboam. It is clear that idolatry is a selfish exercise. It is not motivated by worship. It is motivated to please self. What they built to worship they built for themselves. It find that to be fascinating and applicable to my own experience. Any abandonment of God or any false worship or anything else other than God is an attempt at satisfaction of self. At its root, idolatry is an attempt to put my desires, my goals, my wants, above the will of a God Who will not allow other gods before Him. God desires worship and devotion. He demands it. He deserves it. Idolatry lets human beings temporarily seem to direct their lives (at least in the appeal of idol worship) according to their own wants and desires.

With that in mind, I can see lots of application to how the idolatry of Israel and Judah as instructive to my times, even to my own heart. I am not tempted to cast a Baal in bronze. But I am continuously tempted to get only what I want out of my life. I am tempted to build "idols" for myself. It is accepted as normal, even in evangelical sub-culture where we claim God is directing us. Our main culture legitimizes idols. We call a big one "The American Dream" -- often the most devious and deceptively demonic because it lulls us into a selfish trance of materialism and spiritual apathy. And very soon a son of this idol, Materialism, will rear up and appeal to us to storm the stores on Black Friday to "get what they want" or... what we want.

Another idol might be "Rights". Funny how when we talk about them, we often say, "I have the right to..." Asserting and demanding my rights is often just another selfish worship of something other than God. John Calvin was quite brilliant when he declared the human heart to be an idol-making factory. The factories are still running at full production, even in a dying world economy.

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