The Bible says God is a jealous God. Why is God jealous? What makes God jealous? I am currently reading through a Bible study about idols. I know, I know, we don’t have idols in America, in Western religion. False. Idols are everywhere. And I don’t mean little statues or physical things we worship; I’m talking about things that we allow to replace God in our hearts and lives. The biblical definition of an idol is “the thing loved or the person loved more than God, wanted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God” (“What Is Idolatry” by John Piper on desiringgod.org).
Why is it important to understand what an idol is and identify our own idols in our lives? I think first we have to understand God’s design and purpose for each of us. As image-bearers of God, we were created to worship. We were ultimately created to worship Him, but because of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, we have chosen to worship anything but God. Paul David Tripp said in his book Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands that “human beings by their very nature are worshipers. Worship is not something we do; it defines who we are. You cannot divide human beings into those who worship and those who don’t. Everybody worships; it’s just a matter of what, or whom, we serve.” He also said, “An idol of the heart is anything that rules me other than God. If God isn’t ruling my heart, someone or something else will. It is the way we were made” (Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul David Tripp). So what does this mean for you and for me? We were created to worship, but we have to decide if we are going to worship the Creator or the created.
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:25).
The Lord is teaching me that when I choose to worship something else other than Him, His heart breaks; it upsets Him; it makes Him jealous. God created me to worship Him, so when I worship something else (for me it’s the desire for a relationship, control, and comfort, among other things) His heart hurts. I’m doing something I wasn’t created for; I’m going against His design for my life. And when anyone goes against God’s design for life, things tend to fall apart. God created us for a reason, with a purpose, with an order, and when we step outside of that reason, purpose, and order, we mess things up.
Martin Luther said, “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God, your functional savior.” The Lord is graciously opening my eyes to the things my heart is clinging to that aren’t Him. The biggest idol in my life right now is the desire to be in a relationship, to get married. Being twenty-four and almost two years out of college, I can’t get on Facebook without seeing a new engagement. It’s easy for me to compare my life to their lives and wish I were happy, excited, and in love. I am choosing to idolize, to worship, a relationship over my relationship with God. But there is hope and redemption!
Because I am in Christ, I have hope and faith that the Lord knows what He is doing with me. He has a plan and a purpose for my life, and it is good. If it were good for me to be in a relationship right now, I would be, because God is good and His ways are good.
When I identify the things I am allowing to take the place of God in my heart, they lose their power. God’s love and grace and mercy are greater than my idols. He has the power to change hearts, and that includes mine.
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God…” –Exodus 20:3-5a