What Are Your Idols?

We have been studying the words of God given to Ezekiel in relation to his first ‘official’ act as prophet to the Israelites. This first prophecy is particularly against Jerusalem, the last remaining free city of the Israelites. It was under siege and the prophecy told that it would not end well. There was talk of only one third surviving, but they would be chased by the sword, and killed in the places where they worshipped their idols. And yet, a remnant would survive…

We read today, beginning part way through the chapter of this prophecy: Ezekiel 6:8-14

‘But I will spare some, for some of you will escape the sword when you are scattered among the lands and the nations. Then in the nations where they have been carried captive, those who escape will remember me – how I have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols. They will loathe themselves for the evil they have done and for all their detestable practices. And they will know that I am the Lord; I did not threaten in vain to bring this calamity on them.
‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: strike your hands together and stamp your feet and cry out “Alas!” because of all the wicked and detestable practices of the people of Israel, for they will fall by the sword, famine and plague. One who is far away will die of the plague, and one who is near will fall by the sword, and any one who survives and is spared will die of famine. So will I pour out my wrath on them. And they will know that I am the Lord, when their people lie slain among their idols around their altars, on every high hill and on all the mountaintops, under every spreading tree and every leafy oak – places where they offered fragrant incense to all their idols. And I will stretch out my hand against them and make the land a desolate waste from the desert to Diblah – wherever they live. Then they will know that I am the Lord.’

As we have found before, the style of writing of Ezekiel includes a lot of repetition, so today’s reading has very little to add to what we read before. But I was struck by a certain section of this: “…I Have been grieved by their adulterous hearts, which have turned away from me, and by their eyes, which have lusted after their idols.” This ‘adultery’ and ‘lust’ causes them to enter into ‘detestable practices.’

First, I was interested in the use of the word ‘adulterous.’ This denotes an illicit relationship. So the obvious interpretation here is that the Israelites’ correct relationship was to be with the Lord, but they chose not to be. Instead they chose to have a relationship with things – idols.

These are not even other gods, because there are no other gods. They are pieces of wood, stone, or pottery. Of course, the devil can tell lies and make you believe that there is more to it than this. Evil spirits can work in you to create addictions and make you more vulnerable to lusts and carnal failings. But the main idea here is that the relationship was illicit – not faithful to the one you should be with.

So the challenge is not only for a nation that was in open rebellion against God for 390 years, but also a challenge for us. Paul, in his teaching about the communion sacrament, tells us that we need to examine ourselves. Are we in a right relationship with God, or are we really in an illicit relationship, placing our love and hope in something else? Do we have idols? Do we change our behaviours because of these idols?

And so that leads to the obvious personal questions: Do I have any idols? Do I change my behaviour because of idols? What do I ‘lust’ after? What am I prepared to do for those things that I lust after?

Don’t ‘switch off’ here, and don’t automatically assume that these questions are not for you. This is a whole area where it is important to be brutally honest, and especially with yourself. We can deceive ourselves sometimes, or we are comfortable with the way things are in our lives – and so are reluctant to consider that there may be something fundamentally wrong that needs to be changed. We are always resistant, as humans, to changing the status quo. But maybe it is time to allow God to turn us upside down a little, shake us a bit, and to see what falls out of the pockets and hiding places…

So… do you rush home from the church meeting because of some program on TV instead of giving some time and love to someone who needs it, or instead of speaking with the pastor or elder after being challenged in the spirit during the service? What is more important to you when you make such a decision? You have altered your behaviour because of something you desire…

How about your giving? I am not going to talk about tithing into the church’s bank account, because that is legalism. We, as Christians, have been bought with a price. Therefore everything that we are and everything that we have belongs to the Lord. It is NOT a case of putting 10% into the offering and then going away feeling that you have done ‘your bit.’ Maybe God doesn’t want you to put into the offering at all this week, but you do so anyway because you do not want to ‘look mean.’ – So what are you worshipping here? How is this affecting relationships and what you do?

And thinking more about money, how much are you not giving because of that expensive thing you are lusting after? I am not 100% against advertising, because businesses have the right to find ways to make money. But there are different kinds of advertising. There are those adverts that simply inform. Then there are those that create a lust for the item, and so you begin to fall into the sin of coveting. To aid with this, there are even those adverts that create a carnal lust, using our sexuality to increase our desires for a certain item – as though you could have more luck in love and sex by simply buying the latest smartphone or perfume…

And so behaviours change because of the lust, the coveting, the great desire. And the sexuality is awake at inappropriate times, and you are encouraged to lust after other men or women at the same time as beginning to make this object of your desire as an idol… And so there begins some ‘detestable practises’ in your worshipping of this idol (inappropriate flirtation perhaps, when you already have a spouse).

This is a very large area to consider – and you have to be brutally honest with yourself.

That latest smartphone – it doesn’t matter! Forget it! Be happy with what you have, and also grateful for it. You do not ‘need’ those new features (and many really do discover this after the purchase when they realise that whole months passed without even thinking of the new features).

You do not need that expensive car that is a status symbol. What are you really doing anyway when you think that you need a status symbol? Is this not the sin of pride? That sin which makes you feel better than others… Why would you want to raise yourself above others in anything other than excelling in love for the Lord?

The new 4K screen TV set… For goodness sake! Even ‘mere’ HD is still being charged extra on many TV services as though it is new and ‘premium’! And a mere year after those services began, there was already the new UHD screens. And then so soon after that we have these new 4K screens. They are talking about ultra-wide-format screens in future. Or the so-called ‘retina’ screens. And so there will be the ultra-expensive price to go with the new technology. And of course the ultra-expensive cost of the new ‘premium’ service. Not long ago it was 3D televisions, but people soon were tired of wearing the glasses, or of the headaches that they kept getting…

Stop and think! Industry wants you to buy new all the time, even when you do not need it. They invent ways of trying to convince you that you need something that you do not need. This removes from you a great portion of your income to be in obedience to (in an adulterous relationship with…) and so keeps you in greater poverty than you need to be.

It reduces the amount you are willing or able to help the homeless person near you, or that guy on the street that has holes in the shoes and inadequate coat, but winter is coming… It stops you checking if your neighbours are OK, and not struggling so much with the bills that they worry about losing their homes, or worry about having the utilities disconnected, or worry about safety because they can’t either do or afford to do repairs. Or have no bed and can’t afford a new…

There can be so much need on your doorstep, in the congregation, and even in your family. But you will not help because you need to replace the car you bought only last year, or you need that new TV format despite your TV is less than 2 years old. Or you need that status symbol. And so it goes on…

So what are your idols – these are things that you have an illicit relationship with in an area of your life. You change your behaviours away from what they should be for the sake of these idols. You may even enter into ‘detestable practices’ (actual sin) because of this idolatry.

The Lord was patient for 390 years with Israel, so he will be patient with you. But make no mistake – if you do not ask these questions about yourself and answer honestly, then you have problems between yourself and the Lord!

Leave a Reply