Tearing Down Idols of the Heart

And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?

—Ezekiel 14:2, 3

A group of elders from Israel came to Ezekiel for what reason we are not told. Apparently they had a request for God and wanted to plead that the prophet Ezekiel would carry their request to God’s throne for them. However, God spoke before the Scriptures tell us what their petition might have been.

God said, “these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face…” Then God asks Ezekiel why God should be obligated to listen to these men who think they have a better way to worship God than the way He has designed.

Idols and the 10 Commandments

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

—Exodus 20:3-6

Picture of Aztec Calendar. Was it an idol?

God’s first command in Exodus 20 was that God’s people should not have any gods before the one true God. God did not want to take second priority to anyone or anything. God does not want us worshiping false gods. Yet so often we do set up other gods with higher priority in our life the God of the Bible. Or, as many religions have done, we can be guilty of replacing God completely with our own ideas.

When we create our own view of God that is contrary to the Bible, then we have rejected the God of the Bible and established an idol in our heart that does not place Jehovah God in His right place. This is done any time we think, “I know what the Bible says, but I just can’t believe God would do…” We have probably all heard words like those. Sometimes we begin to believe them ourselves.

In the next couple of verses God says that He does not want us making graven images. He does not want us bowing down to them. He does not want us worshiping them.

Though we may not go out and carve an idol from a block of wood or stone, we can conveniently buy them in stores today. They have clever names like Ford, Panasonic and Apple. Anything that causes you to place God in second place or that we would prefer to worship on a Sunday morning instead of spending time with Him and His people have become the idols that God warned us against.

God Answers According to the Idols in Their Heart

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the Lord will answer him by myself: And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.

—Ezekiel 14:6-8

God tells Ezekiel that He will respond to the people. He says in verse 5 that the people have estranged themselves from God. They have walked away from Him. What obligation does He have to answer them?

But God says that He will answer. He response is that He will set His face against them. He will cut them off as they have cut Him off from their lives. He will be known as God.

And if you don’t agree with Him, then you are guilty of the point of making your own god. Don’t try and claim that you are worshiping the God of the Bible if you don’t want to agree with Him about what He says about Himself or the way He chooses to do things.

Tearing Down Idols in the Heart

God says to repent and return to Him. You can tear down these idols of the heart and return to God. He says that it is the elders who have estranged themselves from Him. They can return. They can repent.

You and I too can tear down the physical idols that we have in our lives and return to God. The god that we have built in our own minds and with our own beliefs can be destroyed as we look to the Bible and see what God has to teach about His own character.

Certainly God is not saying that owning a car or a computer is wrong. But when your stuff begins to own and control you, then you are setting up idols and stumblingblocks in your heart.

Besides the physical items which can become idols, there are many thoughts and character traits that the Bible speaks against which can become idols. Pride, lust, entertainment and religion are just a few of these.

Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations.

—Ezekiel 14:6

Statements of Christ on the Cross: Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit:

—Luke 23:46

Because the timeline of the events on the cross is a compilation of the various accounts by the four Gospel writers, it is uncertain whether this one or “it is finished” was the last statement of Christ on the cross. Either way, Christ has now come to the point where He addresses God as Father once again, and not as a God who has forsaken Him.

Jesus on the CrossThe word commend is an entrusting or depositing of one’s resources into the care of another. It carries with it the idea of a voluntary surrender of something to someone else. In the Bible it is more often translated “set before” as in to place food in front of someone for their use. Jesus was handing over His spirit to the Father’s complete control.

As the Son of God, Jesus had complete confidence in what lay before Him. There was no fear of death. He had even said before that no one could take His life from Him; He freely laid it down (John 10:18). In that same verse He says that He has the power to take it up His life again. His assurance in death was that He and His Father were in complete control of the events.

Statements of Christ on the Cross: It is finished

It is finished.

—John 19:30

Words with such finality, yet full of comfort.

Throughout the book of John Jesus says that His time is not complete yet (John 2:4; 7:6; etc.). He still has work to do. However, on the cross He says that His work is complete. He has finished what He came to do.

I also think back two chapters to the prayer of Jesus in John 17. Jesus said that the time had come for God to glorify the Son so that He could glorify the Father. Part of Jesus work was done. He said that He had completed the task that God had given Him. Obviously not everything was complete at that point because Jesus had not died. But each step of the way Jesus was completing the tasks God had given Him.

On the cross Jesus says that the work He was sent to do was complete. The sin debt had been paid. He had done His work of reconciling man to God. He fulfilled the law in His life and opened a way that we could have access to God through Him. What a glorious statement: It is finished!

While His work of redemption is complete, I am also thankful to know that He still has plans. We can read the Scriptures and see that He has a future planned for us and that because of His work on Calvary, we can have an eternal future with Him.

Praise God!

 

Statements of Christ on the Cross: I thirst.

I thirst.

—John 19:28

Two simple words that can mean so much. I have read how people want to spiritualize these words and what they mean. But, I think the simple answer is just as powerful.

The fact that Jesus was God in human flesh is fundamental to what Christians believe. This is yet another example of how Christ showed His humanity. He was hanging on a cross with real pain. As a man, Christ was thirsty.

WaterThese two words in John are preceded by the phrase, “After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith…” As the divine author of the Bible, Jesus knew the scriptures. He either said these words because He knew the scriptures. Or, as the inspiration behind the Bible, He had the Psalmist write his prophecy because He knew He would utter these words from the cross.

 They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

—Psalm 69:21

Statements of Christ on the Cross: He saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!

[This is part of a series of posts during Easter week looking at the seven statements of Christ on the cross.]

…he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother!

—John 19:26, 27

The scene at this point is shortly before Christ died. The Bible says that He saw His mother Mary standing near the cross. Besides just standing there, she must have been frantic. She knew what God had said about her son being the Messiah. Of all that she experienced during the life of Christ, she probably knew there was much more to what was going on than what she could see. This must have been the time she expected Jesus to leap off the cross and make His escape (if she indeed ever thought those things).

Her son did die. He was placed in a tomb. We know from the biblical account that three days later she was quite distraught. If Jesus was going to save himself, this was the time.

But now He hands over the care of His mother to John. In Christ’s final hours of suffering in human flesh He is concerned about others. He takes care of His mother.

It is great to know that we can trust Him who cares for us when our heart is hurting.