The Danger of Idol Worship

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Parashat Va’etchanan (To Implore or Beg)
D’varim (Deuteronomy) 3:23–7:11
Haftarah: Isaiah 40:1–26

In our Parashah and Haftarah this week, there are some very severe warnings regarding idol worship. Before I continue, I believe that a key verse in directing us to avoid idol worship is found in Deuteronomy 4:9:

Only be careful for yourself and watch over your soul diligently, so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.

It is so important to remind ourselves daily of what we were saved from. However, it is as important to remind ourselves what we are saved for. As forgetful people, we can take our eyes off the LORD, and very quickly forget the miracles we have seen Him do in our lives, causing our hearts to turn from Him. One of the ways we can resist forgetting all He has done is by telling His story and His truth not only to our children, but also to those around us. I would add that “telling” goes beyond words into how we apply His word to our daily lives. 

It is so vital to guard our hearts and souls by keeping our eyes on the LORD. When we take them off Him, we can very easily fall into idol worship. While there may be obvious things that we consider to be idols, I would like to suggest that anything that replaces the LORD’s presence in our lives can become an idol. That can include ourselves, our teachers, leaders, congregations and anything else that may become more important than God Himself in our lives.

In Deuteronomy 4:15-20, after the great reminder of the encounter on Mt. Horeb we read:

So be very careful yourselves, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a carved image for yourselves in the form of any figure, a representation of male or female, a representation of any animal that is on the earth, a representation of any winged bird that flies in the sky, a representation of anything that crawls on the ground, or a representation of any fish that is in the water below the earth. And be careful not to raise your eyes to heaven and look at the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the heavenly lights, and allow yourself to be drawn away and worship them and serve them, things which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people of His own inheritance, as today.

We are reminded again and again that God brought Israel from out of Egypt, for us to be His people, and for Him to be our God. We are called to be a sacred people unto Him (Deuteronomy 7:6) not for us to say that we are His people and do whatever we want, but rather that we will be free to honor and obey Him.

At times we take God’s grace for granted and we forget what Deuteronomy 4:24 says:

For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.

In Isaiah 40:12-26, we read another great reminder of who the Creator is and the only One we are to keep our eyes focused on. We also read another warning against idol worship and of the importance of being reminded that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the One and only true God:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and measured the heavens with a span, and calculated the dust of the earth with a measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? and who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, and informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its animals enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.

To whom then will you liken God? or what likeness will you compare with Him? As for the idol, a craftsman casts it, a goldsmith plates it with gold, and a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
He who is too impoverished for such an offering selects a tree that does not rot; He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman to prepare an idol that will not totter.

 Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
and spreads them out like a tent to live in. It is He who reduces rulers to nothing, who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, scarcely have they been sown, scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, but He merely blows on them, and they wither, and the storm carries them away like stubble.

“To whom then will you compare Me
that I would be his equal?” says the Holy One. Raise your eyes on high
and see who has created these stars, the One who brings out their multitude by number,
He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.

Is there an area in your life that you may have unintentionally taken your eyes off the Lord? Perhaps you’ve unknowingly made something an idol and need to repent of it? The wonderful news is that God gives us the freedom to return to Him, regardless of the reason. We can come to Him in reverence and love, not out of obligation, but because He first loved us!

Shabbat Shalom,
Moran


Check out previous blogs on this parashah!

Did you know? — Lone Soldier

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