What is idolatry? – Ezekiel 4 & 5, Part 4

Ancient Canaanite Teraphim. Figurines of fertility goddess. | Wellcome  Collection

Those statues above are ancient Canaanite idols. When I look at them, I can have a hard time imagining how people would worship them, believing they might have power. But as we have seen in our study of the life and ministry of the prophet Ezekiel, even the Jews who had a long history experiencing the power of the one true God, Yahweh, were tempted to worship idols.

We can be people who watch Ezekiel performing his strange skits, and we can write him off as emotionally and mentally unstable, or we can try to take it to heart.  Perhaps God, through Ezekiel, might want to teach us some important principles. How so? Start by asking the question of yourself, Am I being disobedient?  Am I being an idolater? 

I want to get a bit more specific.  What is American Christian Idolatry?  What I am asking you to consider is this, “In what ways do we American Christians succumb to idolatry?”  To answer that question, we first need to answer, “What is idolatry?”  This is an important question that will come up again and again in Ezekiel, so it is important that we understand idolatry at this early point in our study of this book. 

For the Jews, idolatry was the worship of other gods besides the one true God, their God, Yahweh.  God himself enshrined this principle in the Ten Commandments.  The first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me,” and second is “You shall not make for yourself an idol.”  God explained that second commandment further, which we read in Exodus 20, verses 3-6.  There he helps the people of Israel understand what idolatry is when he says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them…”

Did you hear the definition of idolatry there?  Idolatry is when we worship anything other than God.  An idol is the physical representation of the thing we worship.  Idolatry is the act of worshiping it.  In those ancient days when God first gave this command to the Jews, many nations located around them, the Egyptians, Canaanites, etc, all believed in gods, and their people would carve images of these gods out of wood, metal or stone.  In their hearts, minds and worship, the god and the physical image of that god were basically one and the same.  They believed those false gods had power to answer their prayers, heal them, and provide for them.  So they would give offerings to those idols, in hopes that their wishes would come true.

But the one true God, Yahweh, said, “Israel, you are not to make any idols of other gods or even physical representations of me. You are only to worship me as I am.”  Israel was only to trust in God because he was the only true God.  This teaching is repeated in the New Testament for the church, for us Christians.  We are only to worship God.  Paul writes, for example, in 1st Corinthians 10:7 and following, “Do not be idolaters…flee from idolatry…Are we trying to arouse the Lord’s jealousy?”

So what things, other than God, might we be tempted to worship in our day?  We might not believe that there are sun gods or sea gods, but are there other things that captivate our hearts and minds?  I think so.  We have American idols.  Not the singing competition, but many other things that we can devote ourselves to, and in so doing commit idolatry. 

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll suggest some possibilities for what might be American Christian idols.

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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