“Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.” -Isaiah 2:8
Traveling through Vietnam and Cambodia, we could not escape the prevalence of Buddhist temples dotting the landscape and every single city, town, and village, as well as the myriad statues of the well-known image of Buddha in the temples, in homes, and everywhere. These idols seem to be as numerous as the sands of the seashore. Stores are plentiful in which Buddhas of every size imaginable saturate the shelves and practically every inch of floor space in usually very high-ceilinged buildings.
As you walk, even among the huts and impoverished abodes of the poor, your eyes are drawn to the lavishly adorned Buddhist temples sprinkled everywhere. However, what seems not to disturb the minds of the millions of these followers of Buddha is that each and every statue of him is man-made. Men and women bow down to something their own fingers have crafted; they pay obeisance to a god whose very existence is owed to them. The reality is that they dominate this god with their own brains, nimble bodies, eyes which see, ears which hear, and mouths which speak.
How does a god of gold, silver, metal, or wood, unmoving, non-thinking, silent, and dumb as a post create you or the world in which you live? The Bible frequently asks this very question. The true God of all creation wonders out loud how His creatures can substitute an image of their own making, an image to which they give slavish devotion while ignoring the God who is, the God who tells them by word and deed that He has indeed made all things. The best definition, then, of every idol and every false god is “made, not is!”
What is the problem of those who follow idols rather than a living, all-powerful God? It is that they are willfully ignorant of seeing or hearing Him! The Apostle Paul tells us that man knows in his heart there is a God (Romans 1:19-21), yet man also says with the very same heart, “There is NO God!” (Psalm 14:1). The quandary of belief!
In Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, the Israelites are at long last no longer drawn to idol worship. They seemed to have learned their lesson over centuries. However, their hearts are still not focused on the true and living God. The Scripture describes them this way: “These people worship Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me!”
They have put away idols but instead substitute themselves as their god. They create in their practice their own rules of worship. So, they bring animals as directed for sacrifice, but they bring lame, blind, and blemished lambs to the altar, all the while believing they are still honoring God but thinking He does not see. They grumble and whine to themselves and others that God doesn’t really love them. They treat their wives terribly but still think God hears their prayers. They fail to tithe. They question, “Where is the God of Israel? Is He hiding?” There is no fear or love of God in their hearts, even as their lips say there is.
In a real sense, they are still idol worshippers, for they worship themselves as they should God. What they imagine, what they conspire with their minds, what they really feel like doing, they do. Thus, God’s truth “stumbles in the streets.” Their hearts are not engaged with God but with themselves.
Our own country is by and large not filled with literal idol worshippers, though they are here. False gods and idols still penetrate every society. However, the majority of people in our country and in the West worship themselves. Their idol is their own heart, their own brain.
Even the one who takes his own life has forsaken the true God and done what pleases their feelings, which really dominate them when they are in overwhelming emotional pain. Pleasure or pain, they choose their path. “I am the captain of my ship, the master of my fate” is the mantra which controls their thoughts.
Seeing this for what it is is the beginning of your salvation, for true self-recognition may well lead to repentance, and repentance is the beginning of fearing and seeking God. You will not come to Him with your whole heart until you realize you have nowhere else to go. Once you realize this, you should pay attention to what God is saying, which is, “No one comes to the Father except through me!” Jesus Himself says this, and Jesus is God in the flesh.
Put your manmade idols aside. Even distrust yourself, as you trust God. Come in your weariness and heavy burdens to the One who can and will give you rest!
“O soul, are you wearied and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior and life more abundant and free.
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”
(First verse of Helen Howarth Lemmel’s hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” 1922)
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