Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“In spite of all our stress and crushing difficulties we have been filled with comfort and cheer about you because of your faith, the leaning of your whole personality on God in complete trust and confidence.”
1 Thessalonians 3: 7
“Just as God leads I am content:
I rest me calmly in His hands;
That which He has decreed and sent -
That which His will for me commands –
I would that He should all fulfill;
That I should do His gracious will
In living or in dying.”
Today’s Study Text:
“For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not perfect (complete and whole) with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father…And the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned from the Lord, the God of Israel, Who had appeared to him (Solomon) twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods, but he did not do what the Lord commanded.”
1 Kings 11: 4, 9,10
“Idols That Turn The Heart”
“Whatever man (or woman) loves, that is his (her) god. For he (she) carries it in his (her) heart; he (she) goes about with it night and day; he (she) sleeps and wakes with it, be it what it may -- wealth or self, pleasure or renown.”
How would I define an “idol”?
Is there something in my life that I would call an “idol”?
“Whatever preoccupies your thoughts and your schedule, is quite likely your “god.”
The Joy of Faithful Obedience
“The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.”
- W. Tozer
I’ll never forget the first time I heard the story about the three Hebrew young men who refused to bow down and worship a huge golden idol erected by King Nebuchadnezzar.
The Babylonian king wanted to impress everyone in his kingdom and prove to them that his power and glory was unfathomable so he sent out a decree that to worship any other god other than the one he declared all-powerful, would have severe consequences.
In Daniel 3, we find out exactly what the penalty was for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego -- three young Hebrew men who refused to obey the king’s edict. Into a fiery furnace they were hurled like kindling.
As a young child, all I remember about this story was that these three young boys walked safely out of that furnace. In my childhood mind this was a big win for God’s team.
But as I have grown older and studied the Bible more, I’ve found there is much more to this story than what I learned as a youngster. What’s more, as I studied about King Solomon, and the excesses which began to take over his life and rule his world, I realized how closely the story of King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol and King Solomon’s golden extravagance were intertwined, for they both dealt with the heart and soul of what idol worship is all about.
One of the first things I ever remember hearing about “idols” was when I was reading the story of the golden calf that the Israelites made in their wilderness wanderings. To be quite honest, I didn’t find it that odd that the Israelites wanted a “god” they could see, feel, and touch. Frankly, there are times I’d like to touch God -- just to know He is right beside me. Even Moses asked God to let him see God face-to-face as he could see a friend. Having been slaves in Egypt for 400 years, and having only carved images as representatives of the gods that were worshipped, I can understand the fact that the Israelites, after having Moses absent for forty days and nights, wished for something or someone more tangible -- and so a golden calf was built. Even Aaron, Moses’ brother and the high priest, went along with this false endeavor.
By the time we get to the book of Daniel, even to my mind, something had changed and the idea of idolatry carried with it more significance than a frenzied dance around a gold calf. Idols weren’t just carved figures, although we find throughout the Old Testament that many times, figurines were used as symbols for the gods -- any gods.
However, it is in the story of King Solomon’s life and it is from the words of the three Hebrew young men that for me, a clarity begins to develop which helps me understand why God, in His instruction to His children, began, what we call the Ten Commandments, with these words:
“You shall have no other gods before or besides me. You shall not make yourself any graven image to worship it or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; You shall not bow down yourself to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. But showing mercy and steadfast love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Exodus 20: 3-6
Remember, these words were spoken to individuals who for 400 years had seen their Egyptian taskmasters rule and reign by the power of gods made of stone and wood and crafted by human hands. However, at Mt. Sinai, the God of heaven and earth, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob called His chosen children to worship -- a worship which does not attempt to turn God into a puppet, made for my selfish purposes. As the great evangelist D. L. Moody correctly stated, “You don’t have to go to heathen lands today to find false gods. America is full of them. Whatever you love more than God is your idol.” As I thought about the fact that these words were spoken years ago, when all the “things” available for many individuals were even less than we currently have, one could ask, “How much more ‘idol worship’ do we find in our world today?”
It is this thought that brought me back to the correlation between the three Hebrews who were told to worship King Nebuchadnezzar’s golden idol and instead of doing as they were ordered, they replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, it is not necessary for us to answer you on this point. If our God, Whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the burning, fiery furnace, He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods, or worship the golden image which you have set up” (Daniel 3: 16-18, Amplified Bible).
I really found these words by Patrick Henry enlightening as he reflected on the response from these three young men. As he observed, the Hebrew’s devotion to God was not dependent on God’s “exercise of power on (their) behalf.” Then he continues by saying: “The three men saw God, not the projections of their desires, not their longing for security, not their eagerness to bash the Babylonians, but the God they determined to be worthy of worship because God is God, not because God is at their beck and call, bound to their timetable or their convictions about ‘sooner’ or ‘later’…the three Israelites saw God in the clarity of their commitment; their own wishes did not get in the way.”
Here’s where I find I mess up more frequently than I’d like to admit for I have literally found myself trying to use the “god” I dream up as my personal concierge, wanting this “god” to be ready to do my bidding at a moment’s notice. And when He doesn’t answer me the way I want, on the timeline I’ve established, when I can’t see Him at work; when I don’t feel His presence, just like the children of Israel in the wilderness, I’ll replace the “god” I think I need, the “god” I’ve cooked up in my mind, with other people or possessions who become the idols that I’ll willingly worship if they satisfy my immediate needs. As C. F. D. Moule so aptly noted, “Idolatry is an attempt to use God for man’s purposes, rather than to give oneself to God’s service.” This is what happened in the life of King Solomon -- a young man whom God called beloved. Who God promised to bless with unlimited wisdom and immense prosperity. Yet when given all these gifts and more, Solomon chose to, as Blaise Pascal stated: “Render to the creature the honor which is due only to the Creator.”
Trying to please himself with all the gold he could amass; with all the women he could call his own; and with all the power to rule as much of the world as he possibly could, King Solomon found his world turned upside down and his heart was unable to focus solely on the things of God. In the words of John Piper in Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, “We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade the treasure for images, everything is disordered.”
In the words of King Solomon: “After all this, there is only one thing to say: ‘Have reverence for God, and obey His commands, because this is all that we were created for.’”
Ecclesiastes 12: 13
Good News Bible
“Oh! For a closer walk with God
A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
The dearest idol I have known,
What-e’er that idol be;
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.”
“O Lord, rescue me from myself
and give me unto You,
Take away from me all those things
that draw me from You
and give me those things
that lead me to you.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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