14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say (1 Corinthians 10:14–15, NKJV).
Many idols live in the hearts of men and women. Some are apparent, from the nearly 394-foot-tall Buddha in Japan, the 65-foot-tall Shiva in India, to the millions of shrines honoring local gods around the globe. Other idols are not as visible. Hidden in hearts, people carry these false gods like Israel took their little idols in the wilderness (Amos 5:25-26). Anything elevated to a place of honor and devotion above the only true God is an idol, a false god (Isa. 40:18-20; Jer. 10:1-11; Rom. 1:22-23). For example, greed for material possessions and power over others is a false god. Covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Wise people judge idols are “useless things” and turn away from them (Acts 14:15-17). The gospel calls us to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). Only the true God lives and forgives (Acts 17:22-31; 26:17-20). Carving idols of wood, stone, metal, or in the recesses of our hearts is futile and foolish (Isa. 44:9-20). Flee idolatry. The gospel plea is to repent of sin against the living God, put your faith in Him, and obey the word of His Son Jesus Christ. Salvation is only possible in Jesus (Acts 4:12).
1 Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. 2 After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. 3 Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth” (Hosea 6:1–3, NKJV).
The prophet Hosea set out God’s case against Israel and her sins against Him (Hosea 4:1). His people had betrayed His love and turned to her lovers (Hosea 2:2, 4-5; 4:11-12). What could Israel do to avoid punishment for her adulterous idolatry (Hosea 2:12-13)? “Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts (Hosea 2:2).” Only by returning to the Lord could the nation escape the outcome of her sins. But there was “no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Israel had “ceased obeying the Lord” and joined herself to the idols (Hosea 4:10, 17-19). Judgment was certain (Hosea 8:7-13). God continues to seek His lost sheep, calling His people to come back to Him when they fall into sin (Matt. 18:10-14). The Lord will revive the heart of the fallen when they “return to the Lord” with repentant, prayerful confession of their sins to Him (Acts 8:22-24; 1 John 1:9). The Lord’s hand can reach and restore the fallen who return to Him and forsake their sin (Isa. 59:1-2; Luke 15:11-24). He will revive and receive every soul that comes to Him (Matt. 11:28-30).
4 “Yet I am the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me. 5 I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6 When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:4–6, NKJV).
Yahweh saved Israel from Egyptian oppression and He sustained her in the wilderness. But instead of giving God thankful, obedient service, Israel forgot the Lord and turned to idols (Hosea 13:1-2). Worshiping Baal and the golden calves Jeroboam had set up, Israel added sin upon sin. What led to Israel’s apostasy warns us not to fall as she did (1 Cor. 10:6-12). Hosea 13:6 describes the sequence of Israel’s apostasy. (1) Israel became satisfied in her prosperity. They were “at ease” in their abundance and failed to humbly obey God and serve their brethren (Amos 6:1-7). The church of the Laodiceans provides a similar warning against spiritual apathy (Rev. 3:15-17). (2) Israel’s heart was filled with pride. Pride is an insidious enemy that elevates us above God in our minds. Pride is an undeniable step away from God and is abhorrent to God (Amos 6:8). The church in Sardis wrestled with pride’s self-righteous fruit (Rev. 3:1-2). (3) Israel forgot God in her self-sufficiency. Israel forgot that God was their savior and sustainer. Israel’s prosperity led to prideful sufficiency while ignoring God (Deut. 8:1-20; 32:15). The parable of the rich fool warns us not to trust riches but to lay up heavenly treasures (Luke 12:15-21). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
21 Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22 Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:21–22, NKJV)
The foretelling of events is a mark of the one true God (Isa. 41:22; 42:8-9; 46:10). In context, Isaiah explains the idols of men are nothing but carved pieces of wood; without knowledge and void of power to save those who pray to them (Isa. 45:20). By contrast, Israel’s God declares events before they occur, such as the rise, reign, and exploits of king Cyrus (Isa. 44:28-45:3, 13). God shows Himself to be just and a Savior by His word of wisdom and by the power that fulfills His declarations. He calls on all the earth to look to Him for salvation; He alone is God. The gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ, is God’s call of salvation that goes out to the ends of the earth (Mk. 16:15). Yet, eyes are still blind, and hearts remain hardened to the salvation God makes available. We try to save ourselves with our own wisdom, power, wealth, pleasure, and other false gods. We carry around these idols in our hearts, vainly thinking they are our salvation. These always fail (Matt. 16:26). There is only one true God. Faith that “God is” and that He “Is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” brings salvation from sin in His Son (Heb. 11:6; Acts 4:12).
18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may 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. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:18–21, NKJV)
God assures Christians of knowing we have eternal life in the Son of God (1 Jno. 5:11-13). We are confident of this wonderful blessing in Christ because we are born of God through His word (Jno. 1:12-13; 3:3, 5; 1 Pet. 1:23). John tells us some things we know as God’s children, which testify to God’s grace and our faith as His children. 1) We know whoever is born of God does not practice sin, but guards himself against the evil one (5:18). We do not say we “have no sin,” but that we practice righteousness (1 Jno. 1:8; 2:29; 3:6-10). 2) We know we are different from the world (5:19). We do not love the world and its lusts, but God and His will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). 3) We know the Son of God has given us an understanding (5:20). Jesus Christ is the Truth, and His word lights our path (Jno. 14:6; 1 Jno. 1:6-7). We have fellowship with the Father and the Son when we walk in (obey) apostolic truth (1 Jno. 1:2-3; 2:3-6; 3:24). Let us guard ourselves against false gods and their false concepts of salvation by faithfully following Jesus Christ (1 Jno. 5:21).
18 Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. 19 Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. (2 Chronicles 24:18–19, NKJV)
At first, Joash, the king of Judah, “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:2). Yet later, he listened to the leaders of Judah and fell away from the Lord (2 Chron. 24:15-17). Listening to the counsel of men rather than the prophets of God, Joash and Judah turned back to idol worship. Led by the king, they even killed the prophet, Zechariah, in the court of the temple, because he rebuked their sins (2 Chron. 24:20-21; Jesus referred to this in Matt. 23:34-36). Indeed, the prophets of God were “an example of suffering and patience” (Jas. 5:10). Now, God speaks to us “by His Son” through His apostles and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:1-2). The choice between listening to the will of men or to the word of God remains. Shall we join with those who cried, “Crucify Him!” and reject His word, or shall we stand with “the apostles of the Lord and Savior” who spoke Christ’s truth (2 Pet. 3:2)? Will you listen to the Lord or men? That depends on whether you want to fulfill the will of God or the devil (Jno. 8:43-44).
1 Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus says the Lord: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.” (Jeremiah 10:1–3, NKJV)
The principle behind this warning against idolatry given to Israel by God’s prophet continues to be relevant: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles.” Christians must not learn the ways of unbelievers who are not the people of God (1 Pet. 2:9-10). Yet, the currents of social conformity and worldly lusts persuade saints to become “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). The temptation to fashion ourselves according to this age is strong (Rom. 12:2). The Gentiles are those who are “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without Christ in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Do not learn to follow their false gods. Do not assimilate their futile customs that ingrain sin into their hearts. Stand apart, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). Do not learn the way of the Gentiles. Learn the way of God (Psa. 18:21, 30; Jno. 14:6).
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5, NKJV)
Before and during the days of Jeremiah, Jerusalem and Judah had trusted in powerless idols, shaped and fashioned after the will and imaginations of men, to sustain protect them and bless them. The idolatrous “altars and their wooden images” exposed their sins to God’s just and fiery punishment (Jer. 17:1-4). God made their sins and punishment very clear to them. It is always thus when one “trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” One is left to a barren wasteland, void of spiritual blessings when the heart departs from the Lord: “For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited” (Jer. 17:6). Many think they can survive without God, trusting in themselves and others. Instead of this, one should trust the Lord and follow His will: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” (Jer. 17:7). Doing so brings spiritual life, protection, and productivity, “like a tree planted by the waters…” (Jer. 17:8). When we trust in men instead of God we are living with a “this world” perspective. Trusting in God means we put our faith in the true God and look beyond this world. By faith, we live for eternal realms of glory (Heb. 11:13-16). Our hope is in the Lord.
1 These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things. (Deuteronomy 12:1–4, NKJV)
How we worship God is critically important to being accepted by God. Israel was commanded to destroy the false gods and their places of worship in the land of Canaan. They were forbidden to worship God “with such things” (v. 4). Christians cannot borrow items of unauthorized, false worship and expect God to be pleased. The true God only accepts true worship (“in spirit and truth,” John 4:23-24). Whether it is lighting candles, ritual ceremonies, using instrumental music, or many other such things, every attempt to minimize and discard the pattern of worship in the New Testament is an affront against God. This is a primary reason to carefully approach God with worship He approves, not worship devised by the wisdom and will of humanity.
34 They did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them, 35 But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, 38 And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, and played the harlot by their own deeds. (Psalm 106:34–39, NKJV)
When Israel entered the land of promise they were under commandment to destroy the nations of that land as the execution of God’s punishment against them (Leviticus 18:24-28). Because Israel was “a holy people to the Lord your God” they were not to marry them lest they learned and followed their terrible, idolatrous ways (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). Israel disobeyed the Lord and was influenced to join the nations in sinning against God and against their children. Christians are called out of the world, not to mingle with the world (1 Peter 2:9-10). Therefore, we must “abstain from fleshly lusts” and live differently than those who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5). We cannot follow Jesus on Sunday and follow the world the rest of the week without being polluted and defiled by the world. Do not be deceived (1 Corinthians 15:33-34). Instead of mingling with the world let us separate ourselves from its sins, fear God and live holy lives (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1; 1 Peter 1:15-16).