Ezekiel 6:1–8:18, Revelation 2:12–29, Job 33:1–7
Because Jesus died for all my sin, sliding into a lackadaisical attitude becomes a danger. When I read the OT prophets, God again reminds me of the seriousness of disobeying Him. If I should think that the God of the OT is mean and harsh, I am wrong. Sin is terrible, and if God was not merciful because of Jesus, this is the way He would deal with me.
The prophet Ezekiel was told to warn God’s people about their idolatry. He said, “. . . . Behold, I, even I, will bring a sword upon you, and I will destroy your high places. Your altars shall become desolate, and your incense altars shall be broken, and I will cast down your slain before your idols. And I will lay the dead bodies of the people of Israel before their idols, and I will scatter your bones around your altars. Wherever you dwell, the cities shall be waste and the high places ruined, so that your altars will be waste and ruined, your idols broken and destroyed, your incense altars cut down, and your works wiped out. And the slain shall fall in your midst, and you shall know that I am the Lord. Yet I will leave some of you alive. When you have among the nations some who escape the sword, and when you are scattered through the countries, then those of you who escape will remember me among the nations where they are carried captive, how I have been broken over their whoring heart that has departed from me and over their eyes that go whoring after their idols. And they will be loathsome in their own sight for the evils that they have committed, for all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord. I have not said in vain that I would do this evil to them.” (Ezekiel 6:1–10)
More descriptions of destruction follow, each ending with the same phrase: “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 7:1–4) I shudder. We live in a day when idolatry is common, even though Ezekiel said, “silver and gold are not able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord. They cannot satisfy their hunger or fill their stomachs with it.” Putting money first is only one idol; there are many more “stumbling blocks of iniquity.” (Ezekiel 7:19)
All of this makes me thankful to know God, to have accepted His gracious offer of forgiveness and mercy. I feel sorrow that many people not only ignore Him, but worship money, career, achievement, pleasure, and a host of other things. Yet I also need to be careful. Idolatry is relying on anything but God, putting my trust in something else, like friends, talents, money, etc.
Job’s young friend Elihu did it. He figured that Job was being judged by God and was wrong to declare his own righteousness, yet he said, “My words declare the uprightness of my heart, and what my lips know they speak sincerely.” (Job 33:3). He was doing the same thing!
Both declared that they were right with God but there is a difference between Job and Elihu. Both are sinners, but Job believed salvation is by faith and the proof of it is obedience, not prosperity. Elihu thought otherwise.
Because my life is going well, I cannot say this proves I’m right with God. Living in prosperity and being thankful for all that abundance could be tied to the worship of God’s blessings instead of God. This is idolatry.
In Revelation, John’s letters to the churches pointed to idolatry also. One letter said, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans.” (Revelation 2:13–17)
Another church was commended, but also warned: “But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.” (Revelation 2:19–21)
Both churches were told to repent, a warning that even those whom Christ has redeemed can fall into the sin of idolatry. In those days, idols were easier to identify than today, but I am totally convinced that if I am not adoring God and trusting Him with all my heart, I will find something or someone else to idolize in His place.