“Then He brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the LORD and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun.” – Ezekiel 8:16
Compassionately He looked. Sovereignly He chose. Lovingly He reached. God formed the nation of Israel and bestowed bountiful blessings on them. He led them out of bondage into a lush land and allowed them the security and benefits of belonging to Him. For a time they cherished the one true God, though they periodically strayed from His ways. Most grievously, their periodic straying spiraled into habitual unfaithfulness. Eventually the Israelites corporately replaced the LORD with various idols worshipped by other nations. While in His temple–where He dwelt–they turned their backs and lifted their hearts to other gods.
It’s easy to reflect on the travesty of Israel’s sin–the rebellion, stubbornness, and selfishness that motivated them. Their departure from God’s goodness for the devil’s dangling deceptions astounds us. Why would anyone trade genuine joy and satisfaction for the allure of empty promises? Why would a people chosen by God exchange His blessings for heartache? But they did … and so do we.
God no longer dwells in the temple, for the Holy Spirit resides within each Christian. I Corinthians 6:19 compellingly clarifies, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” Yet we often–in His holy presence–lift our hearts to other gods. The American way: money, materialism, comfort, attractiveness, popularity, success, pleasure, entertainment, control, etc.–idols like these likely affect us all in some way. More personally, a desire to be in charge, a deep longing for financial security, attachment to agreeable living conditions, and vanity rank high on my list. Nestled obscurely in my heart, these idols occasionally captivate me. Instead of focusing on the one true God, I wander. Just as Israel “turned their faces” toward false gods, we do too. Theirs were made of wood and precious metals, whereas ours are generally invisible. Yet every idol is treasured in our hearts.
Certainly our nation has fallen far from God. Rebelliously and arrogantly we reject His Word, His ways. We seek to succeed in our own strength. Relishing evil, we zealously replace right with wrong. And we as the church bear the bulk of responsibility for the USA’s deterioration. Gradually we’ve become “lukewarm … rich … wealthy … and have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:16-17). Increasingly we’re enamored with idols like popularity, buildings, programs, numbers, superior understanding of doctrinal truths, and our own “righteousness.” Often we neglect caring for the poor, practicing humility, serving–loving!–the body of Christ. Shamefully our light flickers dimly. We’re so busy doing church that in many ways we’ve ceased BEING the church. Though countless Christians and specific congregations genuinely love and sincerely serve God, the American church’s love for Christ–corporately speaking–has been dampened by love for ourselves and this world.
Honestly this all seems overwhelming and just about impossible. Is there any hope in light of our unfaithfulness? YES! God mercifully and graciously calls us to repent–to change our minds about what we really cherish individually and as Christ’s body. Seeking exposure of our idols, let’s examine how we spend our time, what we truly value, and where our dependence actually rests. Recognizing and confessing our errant ways comprises the first step toward yielding to God’s ways.
I cringe in admitting my own idolatry. Everything within me screams, “Idolatrous? Not me!” But as God lovingly searches my heart and reveals its wicked ways, I humbly acknowledge my guilt. In love I echo the Apostle John’s instruction: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (I John 5:21). With joyful gratitude, I look to Jesus, for “… we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (I John 5:20).