Summary: Challenges the congregation to look at their idols of success, greed and entertainment.
An American Idol?
I have deliberately chosen the name of a popular TV show for the sermon title. The winners on that show do go on to become idols for many young people. I don’t want us to think about rock stars tonight, but of idols in a deeper sense.
The Roots of Idolatry
In verse 13 we see the roots of idolatry. St. Augustine pointed out "Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped." Micah fulfilled that definition.
Micah wanted to do something that would guarantee God’s blessing, and an idol and a priest would do it. He wanted, and we all want, a god that can be controlled.
This young Levite in the story was a wandering opportunist and Micah was ready to take advantage of him. The Levite may have been too young to be a priest according to Jewish law, but he was looking for a job. Micah asked the Levite to be a father and priest to his family, but look what happened in verse 11: "He lived in Micah’s house, and Micah treated him like one of his own sons." Micah has retained control of the situation.
The people of Israel had a difficult time with idols. You notice Micah was recognizing Yahweh as well as his graven image. I think part of the problem was the understanding Micah and the Israelites had of God. Yahweh was a national God. The Tabernacle was in Shiloh and the Ark containing the stones of the 10 Commandments was in the Tabernacle. To worship Yahweh one had to go to Shiloh. They did not understand God could be worshipped anywhere. How could you worship Yahweh if you weren’t in Shiloh? Household gods were an every day substitute for Yahweh.
This is not as strange as it sounds. A person can be born into a very serious Christian family who at the same time worship money or success. One can be a child in a rather morally strict family where people are living secret or double moral lives. A man can be a deacon in a church and sexually abuse his children.
One of the purposes of God in creation was to create a people for himself; a people that he could have an intimate, personal relationship with.
Idolatry is wrong because it puts value on something, or someone--anything--in a way that hinders or rivals the love and trust we owe to God. Real idolatry is a matter of what we love and treasure in our hearts that is other-than God.
An American Idol?
We sometimes look at idol worship as something found only in the Old Testament or in Buddhism or a remote primitive tribe. Idol worship has no relevance to life in Bolivar, MO. We don’t have idols here! I am not so sure of that. Do Americans have idols?
You don’t have to worship a graven image physically to be guilty of idolatry. Ezekiel 14:3 warns us against "setting up . . . idols in the heart". America has a huge pantheon of idols. Riches, hero worship, pleasure, human praise, and the worship of self are too common. Ezekiel 14: 6 goes on to tell us, "Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols . . ." Writing in his first epistle, John warns us: Children, you must stay away from idols. (1 John 5:21)
What idols was John writing about? The Jews had certainly learned their lesson during the captivity, so he is not addressing a Jewish problem. Some gentile believers came from a religious background that included graven images, but I don’t think he was overly concerned with graven images as we think of idols. John was thinking of something less obvious than an image of some kind. John perhaps was thinking of idolatry that can take many forms:
An idol can be made by giving our devotion to the Bible, or to a set of beliefs, instead of directing our devotion to God. The Rev. C.D. Mallar preached a sermon before the Georgia Baptist Convention at Columbus, Georgia on April 22, 1859 titled "Denominational Idolatry Reproved".
In that sermon, Rev. Mallar said, "we cannot value too highly our denominational principles: but, . . . we may unconsciously give them a prominence unauthorized by the word of God. In our denominational zeal we may . . . create an impression on our own minds that we are better Christians than we really are . . . "
An idol can be a very strong attachment to one’s country that equates the country with the kingdom of God. Recently Congress rejected a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the desecration of the American flag. The title of the legislation was this: A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States authorizing Congress to prohibit the physical desecration of the flag of the United States.