For most of my Christian life, I’ve come to understand idolatry as something you love more than God, something that captures your heart more than God, or something you give your time and attention to most of all. Yet this week, I’ve been thinking about idolatry differently.
Idolatry is when I turn aside to false gods that promise to do what God says He will do. This person or thing circumvents, counterfeits, or even counteracts what God has said about His character.
For example, we know several clear and distinct names of God: God is our banner of victory (Jehovah Nissi), our shepherd to care for us (Jehovah-Raah), our healer (Jehovah Rapha), our provider (Jehovah Jirah), our sanctifier (Jehovah Mekoddishkem), and our peace (Jehovah Shalom).
I realized this week that idolatry takes root in the heart when I prevent God from being God in my life because I choose another avenue of victory, care, provision, healing, and peace. If I’m trusting in something or someone as the ultimate source of provision, I’m preempting God’s provision. If I’m taking responsibility for my own care–through various well-intentioned means–I might be thwarting God’s plan for my care.
It reminds me of the time my husband was traveling, and I asked for prayer for protection. I felt like my protector was gone. My friend reminded me that God was my Protector. It reminds me, too, of how I respond when I receive rejections from publishers. I imagine that book contract would be such a source of financial provision! Publishing isn’t my provision. God is my provision. Or when I raise the banner of achievement or fruitfulness as my victory, I must remember that God’s banner over me declares His love (anything I may write on that banner isn’t the truth about me) as my victory. Finally, what about trusting in my own obedience or ability to change? God is the sanctifier, not me.
When I am downcast and disturbed, I ask this question: Where have I turned aside to a false god that masquerades as promising something declared within the character of God? That’s a new question for me, and I’m so glad I asked it.