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Explore: When idols tug at your heart

• The Explore the Bible lesson for June 8 focuses on Ezekiel 1:1-3; 1:28-2:5; 6:7-10.

We all have memories of love lost. We all know the pain of rejection by someone to whom we had given our heart. There is nothing more painful than having trusted someone with whole-hearted devotion only to have that devotion spurned.

When I was in college, I dated and fell madly in love with a young woman. After a while, I was certain this was the girl I would marry. We even began shopping for wedding rings. Then, she decided she didn’t want to continue the relationship. For months afterward, I suffered loss of appetite, sleeplessness and humiliation. Finally, after enough time passed, I realized I would live again.

Idolatry in proper contect

It wasn’t until years later someone helped put that experience in proper context for me. A false god, he said, is anyone or anything to which we assign the power to declare our worth to us other than our Creator God.

It’s easy to be astonished by those who openly worship idols of any kind. Religions, foreign or domestic, that teach people to bow down to man-made objects of worship don’t make sense to Christians. Reading mysterious and mystical scriptures like Ezekiel can be confusing because the words and ideas are so foreign to our way of thinking.

However, although removed from us by continents, cultures and millennia, the ancient words of the prophet still ring true in our day and time. It may be difficult for us to understand the prophet’s visions, but his teachings are clear enough.

Idolatry is a sin that threatens the soul. It’s a sin as common in our day as it was in Ezekiel’s, although it may have taken on different forms.

Call to repentance

Prophets rarely are popular whenever they appear. Prophets shine the light on sin; they call attention to our pretense of worship of God voided by our genuine worship of lesser gods. They call us to repentance that demands an admission of personal fault and responsibility.

We tend to want to keep the prophets closed up in the Bible. We don’t want them confronting our day-to-day sin. Yet, the role of the prophet is to point us back to our only true hope, the love and life that flow from God and God alone.

Before repentance from idolatry issues in behavioral reform, it involves our personal acceptance of responsibility for seeking hope and life in a source other than God. Therein lays the core issue.

We worship material things or personal relationships because they appear to meet a need in our lives. We gain some sense of worth from them. They make us feel better or bring us some sense of identity in our social standing we’d otherwise do without.

The problem with idols is either some earthly force can destroy them or they can reject us, turn and walk away. In the end, as important as material possessions may be or as valuable as any human can be to us, they lack one significant thing.

Idols are powerless

They have no power to ultimately give us life and hope, which come only from the One who created us and loved us enough to send his Son to die for us. God calls us from idolatry back to himself because of his great love for us.

Almost certainly, when the prodigal son returned home, his father was overwhelmed with joy and threw a party because his son had been wandering in a land where he would die, physically and spiritually. When the son came home, he also came back to love and life, which is all the father wanted for the son in the first place. Sometimes, our heavenly Father allows us our idols just so we’ll learn the same lesson, painful and costly as it may be.

In the end, we are no greater than what or whom we choose to worship, that to which we give the ultimate devotion of our heart. God calls us to repent of idolatry so we might become all we were created to be, children of the Holy, eternal God of all creation.

       
 
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