Again the Israelites did what the Lord said was wrong. So for seven years the Lord handed them over to Midian.
The Israelites were God’s chosen people, but in this passage we see that He allowed them to go through suffering and pain because they did what the Lord said was wrong. What was their mistake? Let’s see.
This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I brought you out of Egypt, the land of slavery. I saved you from the Egyptians and from all those who were against you. I forced the Canaanites out of their land and gave it to you. Then I said to you, “I am the Lord your God. Live in the land of the Amorites, but do not worship their gods. But you did not obey me.”
The reason that the Lord handed his chosen people over to the Midianites was because they were worshipping the gods of the Amorites. Just like the Israelites, the Lord loves us. He loves us so much that He sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins and has saved us so that we would no longer be under slavery to the gods of this world. But are we making the choice to continue worshipping idols?
The song of the week gives a great definition of idols. Just read these lyrics a few times and let them soak in.
“Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can’t stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything to which I give all my love is an idol.”
Clearly, as Christians we need to be careful not to offer our extreme devotion to anything but God. But doing so isn’t always automatic. Life may have already taught you that idols come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, at least with the Israelites, their idols were easy to spot. They were actual images with physical alters dedicated to them. Our idols are more subtle. In fact, we often idolize—or worship—good things like making good grades, being the best at a sport, our friends or a variety of other things.
Here are some questions I found that can help us spot the idols in our lives.
1. What do I worry about the most?
2. What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?
3. What do I daydream about?
4. What do I make sure people know about me?
5. What do I blog, tweet, or post the most about on social networks?
6. What is my most prized possession?
7. What or who do I love the most?
8. What or who do I have to have in my life in order to feel significant and secure?
9. What am I buying most often?
10. If _______ was suddenly taken away from me, would I consider my life ruined or worthless?
11. What do I consider so important that it seems worth sacrificing time in prayer, reading my Bible, or serving others in order to participate?
If our answers reveal an object of worship other than God, we’ve got some work to do. What does the Bible ask us to do with idols? Get rid of them! If we want to escape modern idolatry, we have to find out the areas where it is happening in our lives and reject it completely. We have to realize that the desires that we have towards these obsessions come from Satan, and that in prioritizing them above God, we will never find contentment. Our hearts and minds have to be centered on God and His desires. Matthew 22:37 is what Jesus declared to be the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” When we truly love the Lord with everything that is in us, there will be no room in our lives for idolatry.
If we are unwilling to remove the idols in our lives, here’s a word of warning: God loves us just like He loved the children of Israel in this passage. He did not worry about protecting their reputation because they were His chosen people. He allowed them to be treated cruelly by the people surrounding them, allowed their sources of food and wealth to be destroyed, and even allowed them to get to the point of starvation.
God loves us too much to let us continue worshipping idols! What He cares about is our hearts. If we refuse to remove the idols from our lives, He will allow heartbreaking painful circumstances to drive us to do so. He’ll do whatever He needs to do to get our attention because He loves us too much to let us continue to be enslaved.