“Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Come to life!’ Or to lifeless stone, ‘Wake up!’ Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it. But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” Habakkuk 2:19-20
For a people consistently warned to turn away from their idols, the Israelites sure seemed to turn back them with annoying frequency. God unambiguously told them “Do not turn to idols or make gods of cast metal for yourselves. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:4) Yet time after time, “They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, “You shall not do this.”” (2 Kings 17:12) This temptation remains for us today, which is why the apostle John warned us by saying “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:21)
What makes idols so appealing? The words of God given to the prophet Habakkuk reveal one reason idols are so appealing to us: They don’t talk back.
Idols stand silent. We talk to them, and try to coax them into doing our bidding. All such idols are, of course, false: “[Idols] can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.” (1 Samuel 12:21) But we turn to them so frequently because we feel like we are in control of them. We get to do all the talking and don’t have to listen since they don’t talk back. And in our fallen state, we like to hear ourselves talk. We like to be in control, or at least pretend that we are. Idols never make requirements of us, never challenge us when we sin.
Consider money. Money never tells us what to do. We tell it what to do. This may be why Jesus spoke so often about money; not because it is intrinsically evil, but because it can become an egregious example of idolatry. We like it because we use it however we choose, and it never complains. It never talks back.
By contrast, the true God of scripture is revealed as the God who speaks. The Lord spoke the universe into creation (Genesis 1) and has continued speaking to us ever since. When the Lord of the universe speaks, what can we do except remain silent before Him: “The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” (Habakkuk 2:20) The God who speaks can be intimidating, for He who embodies truth, unlike idols, does make requirements of us, challenges us, and wants a loving relationship with his children. Perhaps that’s also part of the attraction of idols: God desires relationship with us, and relationships can at times be messy.
All idolatry is ultimately a form of self-worship: Turning away from the true God who speaks and is deserving of our worship, to mute idols who we falsely believe listen to our vain commands. Let us today recommit to choosing the living and true God who has redeemed us by his blood, and saves us from our sins by virtue of his grace. Let us reaffirm our desire to listen to the God who speaks, and cast aside all useless idols which dishonor our loving God. And let us pray to hear what God has to speak into our lives today.
Questions: Take time to identify which idol is most tempting for you: What is it? How can you seek God’s help to turn away from it?
by Darren Hewer
Used by Permission