May 11 I Friday
2 Kings 13-14
“While Paul was waiting for [Silas and Timothy] in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” —Acts 17:16
There is one thing you will find in just about every place in the world. Not all cities or countries have wealth, industry or the same level of technology, but they all have centres of worship. The first-century writer Petronius joked that in ancient Athens, it was easier to find a god than a man. Even today, despite secularism continually on the rise, there is usually a temple, mosque, shrine or church just around the corner. This is evidence of people trying to connect with something transcendent that will give meaning and direction to their lives.
Our need to worship exists because God has placed this desire within us. Solomon writes, “He has also set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11), which means God has placed innate longings for the eternal within us for the purpose of wooing us into His grace and presence. Augustine puts it simply: “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.”
This begs the question: What happens when we do not find God? What happens when we resist finding the answer to those longings deeply embedded in our hearts by God Himself? History shows that we look for alternatives and build substitutes in idols. For some religions, this means worshipping statues of wood, stone or precious metals that represent a deity in control of an aspect of life. There are gods for crops, power, prosperity, fertility, family and much more. People hope worshipping an idol will satisfy their inner longings, but idols only tease, frustrate and give a temporary sense of satisfaction.
We more often fall into the trap today as stated in Ezekiel 14:3 where people “have set up idols in their hearts.” This is a far more subtle perversion of the longings God places within us. Author and theologian Tim Keller describes modern idols as spiritual addictions—the material, psychological or emotional things we cannot live without that come to dominate our lives. They may appear innocent at first, seeming to serve our interests, but they soon master, control and drive us, becoming the prevailing force of our thoughts, desires and emotions.
Modern-day idols such as money, status, careers and sex cannot simply be removed. If we do not address the need that lies underneath, we may resist the pull of an idol for a time, but it will eventually come to control us again. As we understand our origin is in God Himself and begin to seek Him, He will replace our idols with Himself. In God alone do we find true and lasting contentment that ends the searching and gives new life in Him.
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, You and I both know the things I prioritize over You. Forgive me of my idolatry, and root out the idols in my life so they can be replaced with You. Thank You, Lord.