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Summary: Idolatry has been the threat to the people of God from earliest days. God calls us to destroy the idols of the heart and worship Him, the True and Living God.

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“Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,

and they cannot speak;

they have to be carried,

for they cannot walk.

Do not be afraid of them,

for they cannot do evil,

neither is it in them to do good.” [1]

Churches in the western world are pathetic caricatures of the once radiant Bride of Christ. Denominations struggle to be relevant to the world. Sermons are crafted to appeal to the masses—truth is toned down and spiritual pabulum is spooned out so that no one is offended. Whereas the Faith once shaped public opinion, the modern pulpit frantically tries to see where the parade is heading. Throughout the last century, Christianity has been perceived as drag on important social “progress.” Biblical views are routinely dismissed as dated, irrelevant and powerless to shape public discourse. Instead, public life is now dominated by idolatry—man-made ideologies that have moved society further and further from God and His standards.

At the time Jeremiah prophesied, Judah also appeared to be on the wrong side of social change. A once powerful nation, she was now vulnerable to the military and cultural superiority of the Babylonian empire. Because of this, it was tempting for Judah to believe that God had failed her, to believe that the pagan gods of the nations really wielded the power in the world.

Into this seemingly hopeless situation, Jeremiah spoke a word of great comfort—it was the idols of the nations that were pathetic and powerless [VERSE FIVE]. Though the idols appeared strong and triumphant, in reality they were nothing but carved and decorated logs cut from the forest, secured to keep them from tottering in a stiff breeze [VERSES THREE AND FOUR]. VERSE FIVE of the text mocks the idols for their impotence. How could anything be called a “god” that could neither speak nor even move without being carried? “Do not be afraid them,” God concludes, for they are like comical scarecrows, unable to do anything at all, whether good or bad.

In this day, idolatry is just as rampant. It is not often in the West that one will find people bowing to carved statues as did these nations. Nevertheless, modern society nurtures or invents its own idolatries—man-made “religions” or “isms,” whether pluralism, socialism, Communism, egotism, postmodernism, relativism, nihilism, Buddhism, naturalism or materialism.

Even among the churches, idolatry raises its head as a gospel of pop-psychology and social wellbeing or in the reliance on management and marketing techniques over the truth of Scripture. These ideologies dominate public and ecclesiastical discourse today and by all accounts appear to be in the cultural ascendancy. Appearances, however, are often deceiving. The God of the Bible seems to take particular glory in allowing His rivals to reach full strength before He humiliates or destroys them. In the end, all these ideologies will prove impotent against the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. The true Faith appears to be a feckless minority, soon to be vanquished from the world. The Lord Jesus, however, promises that He will build His church, and no power in hell can prevail against Him.

Christians should be emboldened by this truth to resist idolatry both in the church and in the world. The idolatries of the surrounding world may seem invincible, but the churches must proclaim that in the end, they are powerless before the speaking and living God of the Bible. [2]

MODERN IDOLS — I’m s political junky, I confess. I do pay attention to political events, for no other reason than knowledge that the spiritual inclinations of those who guide the affairs of state determine the strength of a nation. Mighty armies that do not keep a nation safe, though national defence must not be ignored. I am confident that the Psalmist was correct when he cautioned:

“The war horse is a false hope for salvation,

and by its great might it cannot rescue.”

[PSALM 33:17]

Again, we ignore divine wisdom when we dismiss the Word of God that instructs:

“His delight is not in the strength of the horse,

nor his pleasure in the legs of a man,

but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who hope in his steadfast love.”

[PSALM 147:10, 11]

I am unalterably convinced of the veracity of the benediction pronounced in PSALM 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

Because of my interest in matters political, I watched with interest the conventions of the two major American political parties, which conventions concluded only recently. One of the conventions greeted those attending with a video announcing that all citizens belonged to the government. Subtly, virtually unnoticed by the populace, the producers of that film introduced the fiction that people are owned by government, rather than acknowledging that the people hold government responsible. In effect, the film elevates government to the position of an idol. The messages presented during the remainder of the week stressed the fiction that government exists to create dependency, rather than facilitating independence. The political powers strove mightily to introduce the concept that people could have free things from government; however, people must realise that they may have either free things, or they may have freedom, they cannot have both. Either government is a servant of the people, or government will become an idol.

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