idols, part 1

©2022 dan bulkley | ask@lifefellowship.org

section 1

We are commanded to flee from idols i corinthians 10:14 , but in our modern, "scientific" culture it is easy to lose touch with what our Lord is communicating to us about idols as we tend to picture ornate statues from Indiana Jones, dark, smoky, incense filled rooms with strange people doing strange things before strange statues. We know there is something more to idols in our own lives, but it is easy to dismiss idols because they have taken on a more metaphoric form for the church. Though idolatry proper is growing in our culture, as the vacuum of knowing there is more to life than what is seen ecclesiastes 3:11  romans 1:20  begs for filling; idolatry proper is not necessarily our problem as much as the world’s growing problem that can only be amended by the Good News of Christ Himself i corinthians 5:10, 12-13 . But as for us i corinthians 8:6 ,  we need to understand how idols are a very real and present problem in our own lives i john 5:21 .

jump to next section →

reference scripture

i corinthians 10:14 esv

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

return

ecclesiastes 3:11 esv

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart...

return

romans 1:20 csb

For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

return

my notes

i corinthians 5:9-10, 12-13 esv

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."

return

i corinthians 8:6 esv

yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

return

i john 5:21 esv

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

return

my notes

section 2

Again, it is too easy to miss what is being communicated by our Lord in the Scriptures when it comes to idols because we almost inherently associate it exclusively with archaic practices, obsolete superstitions, statues, and false, organized religions. While such outward demonstrations are the overflow of idolatry; idolatry itself is not always so obvious or easily avoidable i corinthians 5:10 . And though we know statue-esque idols are of no real substance i corinthians 8:4 , we then truly need to understand what God is pointing out when He tells us to keep ourselves from and flee from idols i john 5:21  i corinthians 10:14 .

jump to next section →

reference scripture

i corinthians 5:10 esv

not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.

return

i corinthians 8:4 esv

...we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one."

return

i john 5:21 esv

Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

return

i corinthians 10:14 esv

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

return

my notes

section 3

For us, a simplified definition of an idol is, "anything that takes the place of God in our own heart". The problem with a reductionist definition is that it diminishes the descriptions from Scripture and functionally dismisses the very real presence of the multitude of idols in our hearts because we rationalize them away i john 1:8  proverbs 30:20 , cover them over with self-deception galatians 6:3  james 1:22, 26  and are simply blind to idols ii corinthians 4:4  because as Christ followers we count ourselves as anything but actual idolators jeremiah 2:22-28 .

jump to next section →

reference scripture

i john 1:8 esv

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

return

proverbs 30:20 esv

This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, "I have done no wrong."

return

galatians 6:3 esv

For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

return

james 1:22, 26 esv

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

return

ii corinthians 4:4 esv

For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

return

jeremiah 2:22-28 nlt

No amount of soap or lye can make you clean. I still see the stain of your guilt. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken! "You say, ‘That’s not true! I haven’t worshiped the images of Baal!’ But how can you say that? Go and look in any valley in the land! Face the awful sins you have done.

You are like a restless female camel desperately searching for a mate. You are like a wild donkey, sniffing the wind at mating time. Who can restrain her lust? Those who desire her don’t need to search, for she goes running to them! When will you stop running? When will you stop panting after other gods? But you say, ‘Save your breath. I’m in love with these foreign gods, and I can’t stop loving them now!’

Israel is like a thief who feels shame only when he gets caught. They, their kings, officials, priests, and prophets— all are alike in this. To an image carved from a piece of wood they say, ‘You are my father.’ To an idol chiseled from a block of stone they say, ‘You are my mother.’ They turn their backs on me, but in times of trouble they cry out to me, ‘Come and save us!’ But why not call on these gods you have made? When trouble comes, let them save you if they can! For you have as many gods as there are towns in Judah.

return

my notes

section 4

In this church age, it is hard to recognize idols in ourselves because our idols are all so seemingly individual. While two people enjoy the same activity, for one it may be something to give thanks to God for i corinthians 10:30 , while for the other it may be an idol i corinthians 8:7 . It is only through the plumbline appraisal ii corinthians 13:5  amos 7:7-8  of Scripture romans 7:7  that we can even begin to detect idols in our individual hearts psalm 36:2 .

jump to next section →

reference scripture

i corinthians 10:30 nlt

If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?

return

i corinthians 8:7 esv

However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

return

ii corinthians 13:5 esv

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

return

amos 7:7-8 esv

This is what He showed me: behold, the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand. And the LORD said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said, "Behold, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass by them;

return

romans 7:7 esv

if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet.

return

psalm 36:2 csb

For with his flattering opinion of himself, he does not discover and hate his iniquity.

return

section 5

We are far more crippled and burdened than we actually realize revelation 3:17 . While we simply feel the unpleasantness of circumstances as our only disadvantage, our hearts are on a deadly trajectory that the present unpleasantness does not compare to matthew 18:7-9 . We are hindered by so many idols in our relationship with the Lord and with others hebrews 12:1  psalm 106:39 . We are crippled, burdened and afflicted in a dilemma as we limp between the opposing premises of the True God and false idols i kings 18:21  james 1:6-8  proverbs 3:5 . This crippling is in our hearts; we have obstructed relationships with each other and God because of idols that are set up within our own heart ezekiel 14:1-8 . Hence, God warns us and is striving with us to free our hearts from idols ezekiel 14:5 .

jump to next section →

reference scripture

revelation 3:17 esv

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

return

my notes

matthew 18:7-9 esv

"Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

return

hebrews 12:1 csb

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us

return

psalm 106:39 nlt

They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves.

return

i kings 18:21 esv

And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him." And the people did not answer him a word.

return

james 1:6-8 esv

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

return

proverbs 3:5 esv

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

return

ezekiel 14:1-8 niv84

Some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat down in front of me. Then the word of the LORD came to me:

"Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of Me at all?

Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him Myself in keeping with his great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted Me for their idols.’

Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! When any Israelite or any alien living in Israel separates himself from Me and sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet to inquire of Me, I the LORD will answer him Myself. I will set my face against that man and make him an example and a byword. I will cut him off from my people. Then you will know that I am the LORD.

return

ezekiel 14:5 niv84

I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted Me for their idols.

return

my notes

section 6

God is literally exposing our idols as frauds of our own heart’s desires hosea 2:5-8  by showing that He is the One and Only True God, even though often the only way we see this is in the valley of trouble hosea 2:14-15 . He does this so that we may have a genuine, intimate relationship with Him free of rival, thieving, destructive paramours hosea 2:16-17 . As it is impossible to serve two opposing gods. The opportunity cost of love in our hearts is too high. We will eventually devote ourselves to one or the other, and love one and hate the other luke 16:13 , as there can be no harmony between Truth and Lies, Life and Death ii corinthians 6:14-16 . One cancels out the other.

jump to next section →

reference scripture

hosea 2:5-8 esv

For their mother has played the whore; she who conceived them has acted shamefully. For she said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will hedge up her way with thorns, and I will build a wall against her, so that she cannot find her paths. She shall pursue her lovers but not overtake them, and she shall seek them but shall not find them. Then she shall say, ‘I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better for me then than now.’

And she did not know that it was I who gave her the grain, the wine, and the oil, and who lavished on her silver and gold, which they used for Baal.

return

hosea 2:14-15 nlt

But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.

return

hosea 2:16-17 nlt

When that day comes," says the LORD, "you will call Me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’

O Israel, I will wipe the many names of Baal from your lips, and you will never mention them again.

return

luke 16:13 esv

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

return

ii corinthians 6:14-16 esv

For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God...

return

my notes

section 7

So, God exposes our desires, ideas, resources, etc. as deficient and detrimental exodus 12:12  romans 7:13 . Hence, this is why we suffer so much in this life- to expose and save us eternally from the idols stealing our souls away from life unto death exodus 9:14-15  ezekiel 14:5  job 34:11-15  job 33:8-30, 36:5-12  leviticus 26:18-19  lamentations 3:37-40  deuteronomy 32:36-39  i peter 2:11 . He is showing us who is truly God by taking away the incompatible desires, the idols, away from us ezekiel 24:25, 27 . Those are loss to us compared to know Jesus philippians 3:7-8 .

jump to next section →

reference scripture

exodus 12:12 nlt

I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the LORD!

return

romans 7:13 esv

It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin....

return

exodus 9:14-15 esv

For this time I will send all My plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like Me in all the earth.

For by now I could have put out My hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.

return

ezekiel 14:5 niv84

I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted Me for their idols.

return

job 34:11-15 esv

For according to the work of a man He will repay him, and according to his ways He will make it befall him. Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice. Who gave Him charge over the earth, and who laid on Him the whole world? If He should set His heart to it and gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.

return

job 33:8-30, 36:5-12

Too Large For The Notes: Available In Your Own Bible

return

leviticus 26:18-19 csb

"But if after these things you will not obey Me, I will proceed to discipline you seven times for your sins. I will break down your strong pride. I will make your sky like iron and your land like bronze...

return

lamentations 3:37-40 esv

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the LORD!

return

deuteronomy 32:36-39 esv

For the LORD will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free. Then He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection! See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand.

return

i peter 2:11 nlt

Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

return

ezekiel 24:25, 27 esv

"As for you, son of man, surely on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their soul’s desire, and also their sons and daughters...

On that day your mouth will be opened to the fugitive, and you shall speak and be no longer mute. So you will be a sign to them, and they will know that I am the LORD."

return

philippians 3:7-8 esv

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

return

my notes

section 8

We have dramatic examples of this throughout Scripture, but none with so much bravado as YHWH exposing the gods of Egypt to all the people living there exodus 7:5, 12:38 ; so that they might know Him, YHWH-I Am-"The Self-Existent One".

reference scripture

exodus 7:5, 12:38 esv

The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out My hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.

A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds.

return

Jehovah-I Am-YHWH

Over

exodus 7:12 esv

For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs.

return

Isis- goddess of magic

Heka- god of magic

Nehebu- a snake god

Unut- a snake goddess

Wadjet- a snake goddess

exodus 7:21 esv

And the fish in the Nile died, and the Nile stank, so that the Egyptians could not drink water from the Nile. There was blood throughout all the land of Egypt.

return

Hapi- god of the Nile

Anuket- goddess of the Nile

Tefnut- goddess of water

Osiris- the Nile would flood and recede with him

Khnum- Nile flood god

Hatmehit- fish goddess

exodus 8:6 esv

So Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt, and the frogs came up and covered the land of Egypt.

return

Heket- frog goddess

Hapi- god of the Nile

Anuket- goddess of the Nile

exodus 8:13 esv

And the LORD did according to the word of Moses. The frogs died out in the houses, the courtyards, and the fields.

return

Ptah- creator sustainer god

ast- goddess of protection from bad

exodus 8:17 esv

And they did so. Aaron stretched out his hand with his staff and struck the dust of the earth, and there were gnats on man and beast. All the dust of the earth became gnats in all the land of Egypt.

return

Geb- god of earth

Ptah- creator sustainer god

exodus 8:24 esv

And the LORD did so. There came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and into his servants’ houses. Throughout all the land of Egypt the land was ruined by the swarms of flies.

return

Uatchit- fly god

Khepri- scarab beetle god

Ptah- creator sustainer god

my notes

exodus 8:30-31 esv

So Moses went out from Pharaoh and prayed to the LORD. And the LORD did as Moses asked, and removed the swarms of flies from Pharaoh, from his servants, and from his people; not one remained.

return

Ptah- creator sustainer god

exodus 9:6 esv

And the next day the LORD did this thing. All the livestock of the Egyptians died, but not one of the livestock of the people of Israel died.

return

Hathor- a cow goddess

Buchis- a living bull that physically represented Montu (a god of war)

Banelodjedet- a ram god

Apis- a living bull that physically represented Ptah (creator sustainer god)

Bet- a cow goddess

Heryshaf- a ram god

Hesat- a cow goddess

Kherty- a ram god

Khnum- a ram god

Mehet-Weret- a cow goddess

Mnevis- a living bull physically represented Ra (king of the gods)

Ptah- creator sustainer god

exodus 9:9 esv

It shall become fine dust over all the land of Egypt, and become boils breaking out in sores on man and beast throughout all the land of Egypt.

return

Imhotep- a healing god

Sekhmet- a healing goddess

Serket- a healing goddess

my notes

exodus 9:24 esv

The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.

return

Set- god of storms, supporter of pharaoh

Sopdu- a god of the sky

Nut- a sky goddess

Shu- god of the atmosphere

exodus 9:25 esv

The hail struck down everything that was in the field in all the land of Egypt, both man and beast. And the hail struck down every plant of the field and broke every tree of the field.

return

Bast- goddess of protection

Horus- a god of sky and protection

Nehebu-Kau- a protective god

Renenutet- a agriculture goddess

Werethekau- a goddess of protecting pharoah

exodus 10:13 esv

So Moses stretched out his staff over the land of Egypt, and the LORD brought an east wind upon the land all that day and all that night. When it was morning, the east wind had brought the locusts.

return

Shu- a god of wind

exodus 10:15 esv

They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt.

return

Neper- a grain god

Osiris- a god who enlivens vegetation

Renenutet- an agriculture goddess

exodus 10:21-23 esv

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, a darkness to be felt."

So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was pitch darkness in all the land of Egypt three days. They did not see one another, nor did anyone rise from his place for three days, but all the people of Israel had light where they lived.

return

Aten- a sun god

Atum- a sun god

Hathor- a sun goddess

Horus- a sun god

Iah- a moon god

Khepri- a sun god

Khonsu- a moon god

Montu- a sun god

Nut- a celestial goddess

Osiris- a sun god

Ra- the sun god, king of the gods

Thoth- a moon god

Sopdet- a star god

Weneg- a celestial god, who maintained cosmic order

my notes

exodus 12:29-30 esv

At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead.

return

Pharoah- god/king

Ammit- goddess of condemned souls

Anubis- god of the dead

Bes- god to protect children

Horus- god to protect pharoah’s kingship

Maat- goddess of justice (Exodus 4:21-23)

Nehebu-Kau- a protective god

Osiris- god of death and resurrection

Ra- god/father of every pharoah

Shed- god of protection from trouble

Shezmu- god who kills

Werethekau- goddess who protects pharoah

I samuel 5-6 (6:6) esv

Why should you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? After he had dealt severely with them, did they not send the people away, and they departed?

return

Dagon- Agricultural god of grain who bore Baal

my notes

I kings 18 (18:27-29, 38) esv

And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, "Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened."

And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

return

Baal- "Lord", replacing El (God), the god of storms and rain, (Mount Carmel was his sacred dwelling place)

my notes