God's War on Our Idols (Exodus 7:14-10:29)

Far too often we miss our idolatry. We are often blind to the ways that cultural idols have crept into our lives. Sometimes we unwittingly welcome cultural idols 0into our lives without any resistance at all. John Calvin once wrote that the human heart is a perpetual idol factory. Timothy Keller in his book Gospel for Life gave this list of contemporary idols:

  • Power
  • Approval
  • Comfort
  • Control
  • Helping (“people need me”)
  • Dependence (“I can’t survive without you”)
  • Independence
  • Work
  • Achievement
  • Material
  • Religion
  • Individuality
  • Irreligion
  • Racial/Cultural
  • Inner ring (a desire for belonging)
  • Family
  • Relationship
  • Suffering (embracing unnecessary drama)
  • Ideology
  • Image

Keller then organizes them into four overarching categories: power, approval, comfort, and control. We may not worship a pantheon of idols who oversee the sky, the grass, and fertility, but idols are everywhere in our culture.

God Hates Idols

Idolatry can be simply defined as placing other gods before our God (Exodus 20:1–3). This definition may evoke visions of people bowing before statues or totem poles. As we delve deeper into the book of Exodus and Egypt’s culture, we learn that people indeed believed in sky gods or pestilence idols for protection. We even see people bowing in total submission to Pharaoh who was considered to be a keeper of order between heaven and earth. All of these instances illustrate idolatry, but the scope goes beyond them.

Tim Keller's list reveals that we tend to prioritize many things over the LORD, and such a course of action carries devastating consequences. A recurring theme in Exodus 7–10 is the declaration, "You shall know that I am the LORD" (Exo. 7:17; 8:10,22; 9:14,29; 10:2). Knowing the Lord inevitably drives us to set aside our idols and worship Him. Whenever we place something above God, it's evident that we lack a true understanding of Him. This displeases God because He despises idolatry.

As we read about the signs and wonders God worked in Exodus, we have to avoid the modern Western tendency to overlook our own idols as we mock at the idolatry of Egypt. Were God to show up and judge America today, He could bring plagues and pestilence that would shatter our idols as well. As we understand God’s war on Egypt’s idols, we need to realize that God wars against our idols as well. 

Idols and Desolation

At times, we find ourselves toying with idols. We pay lip service as we recognize these idols and our struggle against them. Yet, we allow them to persist. Although we recognize our battle with them, we hesitate to eliminate them completely. Sometimes God steps in, letting us experience the utter devastation that idols bring. To borrow from the Egyptian servants, there are moments when we are left ruined and obliterated due to these idols (Exo. 10:7).

How does this manifest in our everyday lives? We pursue power or control, only to realize that we can't even master ourselves. We bow down to the idol of relationships, only to face betrayal and abandonment. We invest our hopes and efforts into our work, only for someone else to outperform us and get the promotion. We fervently embrace a political or theological ideology only to bulldoze some of our most cherished relationships. The examples are too numerous to count, and we’ve all felt them.

If we're not careful, these idols can deceive us to the point of hardened hearts. Instead of being moved to repentance, we stubbornly cling to our sinful ways. We offer worldly sorry, uttering phrases like "just this once, forgive me" (Exo. 10:17). Deep inside, however, we harbor a reluctance to part ways with our idols. This is undoubtedly a sorrowful and unsettling predicament. It’s a reminder that being church people doesn’t mean we can’t be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb 3:12-13).

Jesus is greater than idols

The gospel's great news is that Jesus arrived and shattered our idols. We fail to realize that idols are cruel masters. They dangle promises of life, joy, hope, and peace, only to forsake us when we need them most. When we're in the heart of trouble our idols offer no assistance. They always fail to deliver on their promises. Just as Egypt's magicians and idols couldn't shield Pharaoh and his nation, our idols likewise cannot shield us from God’s just judgment on our sin.

But Jesus can. He did. He will. 

Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross to annihilate our idols. He became a plague on our behalf, sparing us from the plague of his wrath. He bore the curse so we wouldn't have to. After slaying our idols, he paraded them in a triumphant celebration (Col. 2:15). This is the power of our Savior. This is the work of our God!

Although Pharaoh never repented, we still have the chance to. If you're already in Christ, repentance has been granted to you through faith. God has equipped you with all you need to live a life of faith that continuously obliterates idols. In His strength, we can labor every day to worship Him instead of idols. This isn't reserved solely for the super-spiritual Christians either—it's for all of us. If you're in Christ, you are an idol slayer. You're demolishing the cultural idols hidden within your heart. By His grace!

Start demolishing the idols in your own heart before you focus on everyone else’s. Examine Tim Keller’s list and identify the idols you might be concealing. Add to that list any idols that may be lurking below the surface of your heart. Confess your sin and put it to death (Rom. 8:13). Don't play with idols—crush them! God is waging war against idolatry in our lives!

Photo by Wendelin Jacober: https://www.pexels.com/photo/wrecked-home-furnitures-interior-1411392/

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