Idols in the heart
Do not give the devil an opportunity. – Ephesians 4:27
4 Tell them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin, and then they go to a prophet asking for a message. So I, the LORD, will give them the kind of answer their great idolatry deserves.”
5 “I will do this to capture the minds and hearts of all my people who have turned from me to worship their detestable idols.”
6 Therefore, tell the people of Israel, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins.”
What is dual citizenship? Dual citizenship – or dual nationality – means being a citizen of two countries simultaneously and sharing the rights and responsibilities of the citizens in each. People with dual citizenship can have two passports one for each country.
Children of the King have “dual citizenship” as well. They are citizens of the world, their place of birth and origin. But they are also citizens of the kingdom of God. And they have a dual allegiance. Regrettably, many of them keep one foot in each kingdom, swaying back and forth as their needs or whims dictate. They say that their allegiance is to the Father. But in fact, their submission is sporadic, inconsistent, and unreliable. A friend once quipped, “I am submissive, very submissive whenever I want to be.”
These folks have allegiance to the Father but also to the idols that they have internalized.
What is idolatry? Well, the obvious answer is worshiping physical idols which are created by human hands. They are tangible representations, graven images of imagined mythical gods. Examples from the Scriptures and the ancient Roman-Graco world are Ra, Isis, Baal, Astarte, Marduk, Zeus, Athena, or household idols.
The first and second commandments speak to this very issue.
3 You must not have any other god but me.
4 You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.
5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.
Children of the King might say to themselves, “I have never worshiped an idol. Idolatry is not my problem.” But in addition to physical objects, and there is another kind of idolatry, idols of the heart.
Ezekiel 14:4 The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin.
Although we are children of the King, we are guilty of internal idolatry. We set up idols in our hearts. We craft our idols, fashioning them with our own “hands.” Then place them into our hearts. As we internalize them, we set up obstacles to our intimacy with the Father. If we feel estranged from the Father, perhaps we have put an idol in that special place in our hearts where He alone belongs. The same would be true of the rightful intimacy intended for our mates or other loved ones. Perhaps we have displaced our affection by devoting ourselves to idols of our own making.
The Hebrew word that Ezekiel uses for idols is gillulim. Of the 48 occurrences of this word in the Old Testament, all but 9 appear in Ezekiel. The term gillulim is a disdainful word and may originally have meant “dung pellets” (Vine) or “dung-idols” (NIDOTTE). Fill in the blanks.
Ezekiel draws a tragic and vile word picture. His wording is colorful but caustic, even shocking. The children of Israel were seduced by the worst of all idols, the idols of their minds. Their hearts were divided and any and all apostate practices were on the table. Their internal idols captured their hearts, minds, and emotions. They were given over to “idolmindedness.” “Their sin is an inner idolatry, a mental idolatry, rather Than an external idolatry. . .. It is a state of mind that is at cross-purposes with the will and being of God. It is out of the heart/mind that evil comes” (Victor P. Hamilton,).
REFLECT & PRAY
“Anything that we put before God as our focus or center of attention becomes our idol. We don’t have to set Up idols of wood and stone at a physical shrine in order to engage in idolatry. If there is anything that we honor above God, we have already made it an idol in our hearts” (Stanley).
Father I have crafted idols with my own hands and placed them in my heart. I have repeatedly put things before You that I should not. Encourage and help me to uproot them by taking my thoughts and emotions captive in obedience to You.
Internalized idols come in many forms and guises. Ordinary things can be idolatrous. They become idols because of human preference, desire, and imagination. Obvious things come to mind such as the pursuit of power, prestige, wealth, success in sports or our career, or physical gratification. But other less obvious things are idols too: pets, children, wrong thinking, and negative emotions. Ultimately, idolatry is a battle for the mind and the heart.
For this reason we are to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4).
When our hearts are divided, our minds are under assault, and our emotions are negative, it is a time for serious self-examination. We must test ourselves to see if we are really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). When we give ourselves over to anti-God thoughts and negative emotions, we are on the brink of spiraling out of control. We are putting out the welcome mat for the enemy. We are inviting unauthorized intrusion to our innermost being.
26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,
27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. (NAS)
27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. (NLT)
27 Neither give place to the devil. (KJV)
It is as though there is a location within our souls where the enemy can establish a foothold. From there he can launch an assault to entice us away from pure and simple devotion to the Father. Uncontrolled anger is identified as one potential trigger.
Ask yourself some soul-searching questions. Do negative emotions or false beliefs control your life? Do they have priority over your pure and devoted worship to God?
What is your highest priority, what motivates your life? What do you put before intimacy with God?
Bob Dylan put it well,
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody