“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31, ESV) This verse blows me away every time I read it. It may not seem that significant at first but imagine, God had just created the world. Everything was perfect- literally. There was no sin lurking about, creation was whole and complete – a reflection of the overflowing glory of God¹. Nothing there was corrupt, broken or ugly.
Yet this world lasted only for short while, though being created in the image of God, man wanted to be God. Isn’t that what the serpent promised Eve? “ and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5) I used to blame Adam and Eve when I was younger, shaking my head at their actions. “Why couldn’t you just enjoy the whole world? It was a paradise, why couldn’t you just enjoy the gifts God had given you and stop wanting more?” Well the ‘me now’ has learned a lot since then. We always want more. We love creating idols for ourselves. John Calvin said it best: “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.”
My parents came from a religion where they literally bow down and worship man-made idols. In such instances it is so much easier to recognize that these idols are formed by human hands. That they are powerless, made out of substances that are used for multiple purposes. Isaiah 44 goes into great detail about this, revealing the flawed logic behind idol-worship. But today living in a 21st-century Europe we’d think people have learned by now. That we have learned by now.
As I was born after my parents had become saved, I could never identify or relate to passages in the Bible talking about idolatry. I used to think “Hey that doesn’t really apply to me, don’t worry Saint Paul, in the 21st century the human race has gotten wiser”. Boy, was I wrong. I was wrong about idolatry never applying to me for sure. I take the good gifts that God has given me in His loving kindness and what does my depraved heart do? It crafts them into these little idols, that I serve and they get bigger and bigger, until they become everything I seek after. And you know what- they ALWAYS fail. And when they do, I experience something so distraught and broken. Pastor Paul Levy in one of his sermons² said something like this ‘we become like the idols we serve – spiritually dead’.
God’s gifts are SO good. But my wicked heart turns a lot of these good things into idols that will never satisfy me. The good things we are given, we love making them our god thing³. But God is faithful. He is a good Father. His rod and His staff are a strange mercy indeed.⁴ I know that when I make these idols for myself, God in His love and mercy yanks those idols from my hands, hands that cling so tightly to them. And He destroys them.⁵
I’ve ‘lost’ a lot of idols in my life, something I’m only beginning to see now. And when I look back I finally grasp that God was and is being merciful to me. I see a God who loves me so much that He’d take anything away from me that makes me want to give it my devotion and love in a quantity that only He deserves and rightly so.
So from one idol-crafter to another- when God takes something away from you, you who are chosen and redeemed by Him, you may want to crawl into a hole and never come out of it- and trust me I have been there, know that God is there right with you. Whatever that thing may be- a relationship or a career or anything that has a higher priority than Him in your life, God loves you more than you may feel He does at that moment. The God of the Bible is a jealous, relentlessly pursuing God. Even when we are faithless, He is forever faithful, and this I know to be true.
¹Desiring God, John Piper
²Pastor Paul Levy’s sermon (Link coming soon)
³Romans 1-7 For You, Timothy Keller
⁴Audrey Assad’s “Lead Me On”
⁵The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Rosaria Butterfield