“Flee from Idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14)

            Not a nice subject, but one that Scripture says a lot about. Sometimes Scripture stresses the folly of it: the stupidity of bowing down to things made by human hands (Psalm 115:2-8; Isaiah 44:9-20; Acts 19:26; Romans 1:21-25). Other passages speak of the evil of it (e.g. Ezekiel 8).

When we think of idolatry I suspect most of us think of physical idols, either graven or molten images (Deuteronomy 27:15). These can be images of men but also of other things such as animals (Romans 1:21-25) Then some worship heavenly bodies like the Sun (Deuteronomy 4:20; Ezekiel 8:16). Scripture also speaks of the worship of angels (Colossians 2:18).

            Today many people think that they have grown up so that they would not in this age worship stocks and stones (Jeremiah 2:27). However, they may practically worship film stars, sports stars or political leaders which, as to the latter, is done at the present time in North Korea. Actually those who say we evolved from inanimate matter are effectively saying that a stock was their father and that a stone brought them forth as it says in the passage in Jeremiah referred to above.

           Then others more or less worship religious leaders such as the Pope. When Christ took three of his disciples up to the mount of transfiguration Peter would have put Christ on a level with Moses and Elias, but God made it clear that Christ was his beloved Son and that He was the one they were to hear (Matthew 17:5). Even John the apostle had to be rebuked twice when he was going to worship an angel (Revelation 19:10 & 22:8/9). If such an one as John could fail in this matter we should certainly take warning lest we should fall into such a sin. John Himself says: “Children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Even the cross of Christ can be made an idol of just as the brazen serpent was in the Old Testament (2 Kings 18:4). Wearing a crucifix savours of this sort of thing. Then we have the ephod that Gideon made which became something that the Israelites went a whoring after (Judges 8:27). What this ephod actually was is uncertain. It was presumably beautiful because of the gold of which it was made (Judges 8:24-26). An ephod was normally a covering and when it was worn is called a linen ephod, possibly to distinguish it from other sorts of ephod. (1 Samuel 2:18), but possibly Gideon’s ephod was not clothing but something that covered other things (consider 1 Samuel 21:9) like a reredos(screen) in a church. There have been such things as a cloth of state emblazoned with the royal arms, hung on a wall (When God Spoke English, The making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson page 44). The fact that the form of Gideon’s ephod is not given ensures that we cannot get round the Biblical condemnation of it on a technicality. However, the ephod was man made and should not have been an object of worship. Theark of the covenant was not seen and was not an object of worship.

            Apart from man made idols, there are things such as relics which are made a lot of in some religions. The things thought to be relics are often bogus. Thus there is more than one skull thought to be the head of John the Baptist. He didn’t have two heads; at least one skull must be false if not both. In heathendom we are told of “the [image] that fell down from heaven (or from Jupiter)” (Acts 19:35). Lucky charms and all that sort of thing are not something Christians should go in for. These things are a form of superstition (Deuteronomy 18:11). Places can also have a fascination for some and they make pilgrimages to them. In the nineteenth century an obsession with Jerusalem came to be known as the Jerusalem Syndrome (Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore page 341). Nowhere in the New Testament are we exhorted to go on pilgrimages to so-called holy places. In fact pilgrimages are not spoken of in the Old Testament save the attendance at feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16) which were not pilgrimages as they are thought of today.

            The ten commandments tell us not only that Israel should have no other Gods but Jehovah, but also that they should not make images (Exodus 20:4/5). It was wrong to make images of heathen gods such as Baal, but it was also wrong to make images with the name of the true God attached to them. Aaron made a golden calf, but applied the name of Jehovah to it (Exodus 32:1-6).

            Today we have Christ the true image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is the one to whom we should do homage (Matthew 14:33). Let us beware of giving any man the place that Christ should have. The antichrist is coming and he will claim the place that God should have and will make an image as Nebuchadnezzar did (2 Thessalonians 2:4; Revelation 13:11-18). However, God will have the last word and He has decreed that all will bow the knee to Him (Romans 14:11); no doubt in the person of Christ (Philippians 2:9-11).

            Christ is the one in whom God has found his delight (Matthew 3:17). We need to have Him before us and become like Him so that we will be the excellent of the earth in whom God can delight (Psalm 16:3). We need to be those who “looking on the glory of the Lord,… are transformed according to the same image” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We do not want to be like those who make idols which are only an expression of man’s art and imagination, so that it is said: “They that make them are like unto them” (Acts 17:29; Psalm 115:8).

            Lastly, Scripture says of an idolater that a deceived heart hath turned him aside (Isaiah 44:20). If we deceive others it may well be that we ourselves will be deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).

April 2011