Feeding a Piece of Wood
I will forever be grateful for that day. I was in Northern India, in one of the high, holy cities of Hinduism. It was my first time ministering there, so our hosts took us on a four-day introductory tour of the religion.
We entered a temple to observe the spiritual rituals of worship. Those entering were emotional, joyous, and grateful to be there. Then, a Hindu priest appeared in the inner sanctum of the temple. He bowed before an idol made of wood, washed it, dressed it, and placed a bowl of rice and fruit in front of it.
Almost in disbelief, I said to myself, “Can’t he see that this idol is nothing? It isn’t alive; it cannot see or hear; it will not eat the food offered.” The priest’s worship and service were tragically misplaced. What a delusion! How could he be this blind?
What happened next was even more stunning. The priest first knelt, then lay on his stomach, with arms outstretched before this well-carved piece of wood. It was a picture of complete surrender, adoration, and worship.
Can you picture the scene?
As I watched, tears filled my eyes. The blindness and darkness of this moment overwhelmed me. The depth of the evil bondage of idolatry hit me as it never had before.
But I was also convicted. Even though I had never bowed before structures made from wood, metal, or stone, I was more like this Hindu priest than unlike him. Idols capture my heart, control my desires, and shape my living.
What about you? Could it be that you, too, look for life, hope, and protection from created objects that have no ability whatsoever to deliver what you ask? Where in your life is there evidence of the irrationality of idolatry?
Every sinner has the capacity to ask creation to do what only the Creator can do. Romans 1:25 says, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever!”
I like to say it this way: idolatry is looking horizontally for a savior. It is hoping that my job, experiences, and successes; spouse, children, and friends; physical strength, intellect, and appearance; or possessions, pleasure, and wealth will give me satisfaction, freedom, healing, wholeness, and peace of heart.
Idolatry somehow, someway, buys into the delusion that abundant life can be found outside of the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is surrendering the rulership of my heart to something other than the God who made me and who alone has rightful claim to the surrender of everything I am and have.
Our susceptibility to idolatry is just one of the reasons why we need to gather for worship each Sunday. We need to be reminded to focus the eyes of our hearts on things above and not on the things of this earth.
Let’s joyfully gather to remember and celebrate the glory and grace of the One who alone is able to give us life and, in so doing, can rescue us from all the false gods that battle for control of our hearts.
“Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the Lord will answer him myself. And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 14:6-8)
P.S. – my new devotional, Sunday Matters includes 52 gospel reminders of the beauty and significance of gathering for church. This devotional is adapted from that book, which is available at PaulTripp.com/Sunday.
Paul David Tripp
1. Although you may not be feeding and/or bowing down to wooden idols, ask the Lord to search you and reveal the parts of your heart that are serving idols not necessarily made of wood, metal, or stone.
2. Now, think of a few places in your life where you ask created things to do what only the Creator can do. Take some time to list them out by name (some examples might be your job, physical strength, finances, intellect, appearance, wealth, pleasure, possessions, etc.) and ask yourself where there might be evidence in your life of the irrationality of idolatry? How can those idols of the heart be exposed for what they really are, and then be destroyed?
3. How has your idolatry tricked you into delusionally thinking that abundant life can be found outside the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ? Where have you (either intentionally or unintentionally) surrendered the rulership of your heart to something other than God? How can you purposefully shift those improperly surrendered areas back over to the Lord?
4. Pause now and re-read Ezekiel 14:6-8. Even though you may have heard the word “repent” several times in your church-going life, what does repentance actually mean? What does repentance look like? Why do you think the Scripture refers to idols as abominations? Why might the Lord “turning his face against you” be such a harsh consequence of idolatry? Explain why Jesus is the ultimate solution to our struggle with idolatry. How can the good news of the gospel transform your approach to battling idolatry in your life?