My Idol Doesn’t Do Much

From the very beginning of Israelite history, just after their release from the bonds of Egyptian slavery, we see this people turning to idolatry. At the feet of Mount Horeb, the people wait under the care of Aaron for the return of Moses. He had climbed the mountain with Joshua to receive from God the oracles of conduct that would help guide and shape the people to success. But the people got nervous when Moses took too long on the mountain. Turn to Exodus 32:1-6 to pick up the story. They implored Aaron to fashion an idol so that they could revel in food and fun at its feet. Obviously, the event disappointed the Lord, and He nearly wiped out the people.

There are some valuable lessons that can be learned from this event. First, it certainly does not take long for idolatry to take hold of people once it has been conceived in the heart. It was not necessarily the long wait for Moses that caused them to turn aside to the golden calf, but rather it was a lack of faith almost from the time they entered the wilderness. Even before the calf was built, the people were already obstinate and full of disbelief. They cried against God and Moses when they were pursued by the Egyptians in Exodus 14. They grumbled at the lack of food in the wilderness in Exodus 16. They were constantly balking and complaining about something, anything they could get! So while idolatry is the outer manifestation, the profanity itself, it is the inner faithlessness that is the root problem. Idolatry simply is Satan taking advantage of a sin that we bring upon ourselves.

And that is the key! It comes from within – the idol itself is only the outer manifestation of self-elevation. Turn to Habakkuk 2:18-19 and notice that the idol-maker trusts in his own handiwork. He trusts in himself. While an idol-worshipper may praise the idol itself, understand that it is really himself that he praises. After all, an idol is only what we make from the labor of our hands. It is only the fruition of our own abilities. It is only what is concocted by our own imaginations. An idol can be no greater, no more powerful, no wiser than the fool who created it! I feel sorry for the fool who cries to an idol for help, or pleads to an idol for safety, refuge, peace, wisdom, or love! Also see Isaiah 46:1-7.

Of course, idolatry is all good when trouble is far away. But when the time for testing comes, and when an idol is called upon to save, it can do nothing! Notice how the Lord states it in Jeremiah 2:27-28. Essentially, God is saying, “If you are going to turn to idols, O Israel, then by all means, let them save you. Feel free to have as many idols as you can imagine, and we shall see how they hold you in the day of trouble!” If idolatry is essentially self-elevation, though, then God is really challenging them. “Can you save yourself?!”