Idolatry is not just an old problem. Neither is it exclusively a new problem. Idol worship has been a constant problem since the fall. We tend to think of idolatry as only existing in ancient days when men and women would bow down before statues made of stone and wood. While that does qualify as idolatry, that alone is not idolatry. Paul warns us that covetousness is also idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
You may never have bowed before a wooden statue on a mountain, but I’m guessing you have coveted something that did not belong to you. Anytime we exalt a person or thing above God we are guilty of this age-old sin.
Here’s the thing about idols and gods…. they’re hungry. You have to feed your idols. If you don’t feed your idols they will disappear. They will starve to death and waste away. This is as true for the ancient idolators who would offer sacrifices, even their own children to their gods, as it is for those who worship their house, or their spouse, or whatever today. These gods demand to be fed, and by feeding them with sacrifices, time, treasure, etc., we only serve to keep them alive.
American’s go-to-gods would have to be money, power, sex, and possessions. We feed our idols by giving them top priority and place in the grand ordering of our lives. We worship them with our mouths, our time, our affections, and our energy.
Starving Our gods
One of the judgments that has stood out to me in the book of Zephaniah is one that God levels against the Moabites and the Ammonites. These are two of Israel’s ancient enemies, and the Lord promises them this:
The Lord will be awesome against them; for he will famish all the gods of the earth, and to him shall bow down, each in its place, all the lands of the nations. –Zephaniah 2:11, ESV
The imagery is striking. God will “famish”, or starve all the gods of the nations. This was a promise of judgment against Moab and Ammon, but it certainly applies to all idolaters everywhere. God will not share His glory with anyone or anything else (Isaiah 42:8). The Lord will put the gods of all peoples on a involuntary hunger strike.
The imagery is even more striking once we realize that the best way to starve the gods of the people is to remove the people who are feeding them.
The clear warning to all contemporary idolators is to starve our own gods before God will remove their food source (i.e., us). One of the best motivators to starve our gods is to become enraptured with the One True God. As we grow in our knowledge and love of God, we recognize that He alone is worthy to be worshiped. Jesus is the treasure out in the field. Once we realize how truly valuable He is, we will think nothing of going and selling all we own just so that we can buy that field (Matthew 13:44). I came across a quote from John Calvin that frames it nicely. He said, “I gave up all for Christ, and what have I found? I have found everything in Christ”. The worth of Christ far surpasses any idol man can manufacture.
The God Who Does Not Eat
The One True God does not need to be sustained by us. He is not waiting in heaven for us to feed Him. He says as much in Psalm 50:
9 I will not accept a bull from your houseor goats from your folds.10 For every beast of the forest is mine,the cattle on a thousand hills.11 I know all the birds of the hills,and all that moves in the field is mine.