…horrified by idols, delighted by/in Jesus!

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Tuesday night and another elders meeting was drawing to a close. The conversation had moved on from the pastoral concerns, prayer requests and business of church life. We’d just discussed the merits of banana cake and we  were talking about my project for today – building an idol!

Making an Idol

Now before you all decide go ‘Old Testament’ on me and ‘assign me a place with the heathen’ I need to explain. Tomorrow morning, the Open The Book team are going to be acting out the story of Manasseh, the king of Judah (2 Kings 21:1-18). I’m playing the part of Manasseh and I need an idol to worship and an altar to make sacrifices on. So that explains why we currently have a 5 foot high statue of Molech in my lounge but why am I writing about it here?

Worshipping an Idol

As we stood round last night, discussing the practise of idolatry in the Old Testament, we talked about Molech and the rituals that were carried out by the worshippers. There is some debate over the exact nature of all that was practised in the worship of these idols. It is clear that Manasseh looked to reverse all that his father had done to cleanse Judah of idol worship. Eventually “…he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.” (2 Kings 21:6)
Yup, you read that correctly – he burned his son as an offering! This is a graphic description of the nature of these sacrifices.
The children were placed, alive, in the outstretched arms of the idol, which had been heated until it was glowing red! To drown out the screams of agony a band of muscians would play and the mothers would stand by stoically tearless. (*1)
It’s this horrific scene that ‘provokes God to anger’.
While we may not physically ‘sacrifice’ our children and loved ones, there are still ‘idols’ that may call us to sacrifice time together or cause us to fail them in other ways – this could be work, family relationships, ‘progressive’ education agendas or even our ministry responsibilities.

Revealing an Idol

Last night, as we discussed these practices, Saul mentioned Jeremiah 7:31 where we read this [Emphasis mine]:

“…they have built the high places of Topheth, …to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.”

The practise of child sacrifice hasn’t even crossed God’s mind…(well, as we’ll see that’s not strictly true!) but what this does mean is that slaughtering innocent children isn’t going to make you right with God!
Clearly God has a better way in mind to make it possible for us to draw near. He doesn’t call us to sacrifice our sons for Him…because He is going to sacrifice His son for us! Just allow that to sink in…

All ‘false gods’ demand our time, money, effort, devotion and attention. They seem so attractive and promise to deliver so much, yet behind it all they are hollow idols, devoid of real power and they will ultimately fail us and enslave us. God provides a way for us to escape their clutches and experience true freedom.

Smashing an Idol

The theologian John Calvin is observes;

“…the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.” (*2)

Calvin links our constant idol making, both physically and mentally, to the depravity of our hearts. So to be a Christian is to be continually smashing the idols in our lives. We need to be aware of ‘the high places’ in our hearts where we are drawn back to worship idols instead of God – and set about demolishing the site. Where do we need to revist today, swing our spiritual sledge hammers and smash our false gods to smithereens?

Establishing True Worship

It’s all boils down to the object of our worship. Once a false god is de-throned, we must allow Christ to take it’s place or our hearts will rapidly fashion another ‘god’ for us to devote ourselves to.

Our ‘false gods’ will always, and ultimately, lead to our destruction. It is only Jesus, the eternal Son of God; who can bring us eternal life through His sacrificial death. Join me in delighting in Him!


Questions for Community Groups/Personal study

  1. When you hear the word ‘idol’, what do you think of?
  2. God is ‘provoked to anger’ by idol worship. Why?
  3. What idols are worshipped in our society today? (What are things do people admire, adore and devote themselves to?)
  4. Are you aware of the ‘high places’ in your own life that need to be demolished? How can you destroy them? Who could help?
  5. Read 1 Peter 3:18. What made this sacrifice different to any other? Tell someone why you delight in this truth.

Footnotes:

*1 – https://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/molech-moloch.html – (see Rawlinson’s Phoenicia, 113, for fuller details)
*2 – Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin – http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/institutes.iii.xii.html

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