Faith / Life Lessons / Spiritual Bondage

The Nature of Idolatry

Hiking is one of my favorite pastimes.  I can often can be found on a local trailhead near my house, wandering up and down the rolling hills of hay fields that kiss the blue skyline, with wavering tones of milk, cream and gold.   The purple mountains in the distance are dusted in snow;  they seem to stand at attention, as the morning sun arouses the prairie dog from his burrow and the coyote from his den.  I wander along — daily astonished, at the beauty of God’s creation.

Photo:Ken Kistler
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I once met a very nice young man in the airport.  He told me he didn’t much care for religion, but preferred to just “be in nature” —  that was his church, he told me.  I agreed, that to be in nature is to experience a small sliver of God’s creative power and personality, but the danger is in worshiping something God created (nature) — in place of God.  Anything we worship other than God is a form of Idolatry.

No one knows this better than the Israelites, God’s chosen people, who wandered through the wilderness for 40 years.  Charles Whitaker explains:  Israel “feared other gods” (verse 7). “They built for themselves high places in all their cities . . . . They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree; and there they burned incense on all the high places, as the nations had done whom the LORD had carried away before them.” (verses 9-11). Further, they “followed idols, became idolaters, and . . . made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal” (verses 15-16).

Photo:Dawn Hudson
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You see, Israel began to put “other things” at the center of their lives.  Very subtly, this can happen to us as well.  Perhaps it’s not always nature but some other new thing.  “Fallen man tends to worship the creation rather than the Creator. To do this, man rejects the revelation of God in nature and worships the works of his own hands (Romans 1:18-23). Natural man worships the creation because he wants to control his own fate. He worships fertility gods so his cattle and crops will reproduce. In contrast, God calls upon His people to trust and obey Him, and He will give the land rain and make their crops and cattle prosper (see Deuteronomy 28),” (John Deffinbaugh).

Nature testify’s to God’s divine nature and glory. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20).  Worshiping nature or “other things” instead of God is like putting the cart before the horse.  Who is it that gave us the earth in all it’s array of beauty, anyway?

Photo:Jean Beaufort
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Here is an exert from Kelly Henderson:   Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 2:7 “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Who created you and me? (God) God created people differently than all the other living creatures. He spoke the other living creatures into existence. He created people in His image or likeness. He created the first man from the dust and breathed His breath giving him life. Who gives us the breath in our lungs? (God)”

Photo:Karen Arnold
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Putting anything before God is idolatry.  As Christians we must guard against allowing these subtle deceptions that can ensnare.  We marvel at nature and enjoy the beauty and bounty it provides — but we worship God alone.  I’ll leave you with the lyrics of a most beloved hymn Fairest Lord Jesus, written by Ger­man Je­su­its as Schön­ster Herr Je­su in the 17th Cen­tu­ry:

Fair are the meadows, Fairer still the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.

Fair is the sunshine, Fairer still the moonlight,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heav’n can boast.