I want to share a passage we probably don’t often read, and likely can’t imagine how its applicable to us. Idolatry is a problem today, even it we think it died centuries ago.
My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles.
For a spirit of whoredom has led them astray, and they have left their God to play the whore. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar, and terebinth, because their shade is good. Therefore your daughters play the whore, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they play the whore, nor your brides when they commit adultery;
for the men themselves go aside with prostitutes and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,
and a people without understanding shall come to ruin. Hosea 4:12-14
When reading the Old Testament, it rapidly becomes clear that a) idolatry is a big deal to God and b) the Israelites were really bad at avoiding it (bad enough to break out the word whore!). We may be prone to brush past these verses, pointing out that there are few idols to burn offerings to in our communities. That would, however, miss the point. Idolatry happens any time we put things before God. In Biblical times this was often physical idols, statues to other gods. People often gravitated to idols more out of a desire to “fit in” than out of any faith/belief in the idol. Perhaps they wanted to be like the seemingly more prosperous people across the river, gain favor with an employer, or fit in with the “in crowd.” Whatever the reason, many in Israel constantly put idols before God.
Since I was none to subtle, you’ve likely already gotten my point. We may not be bowing and sacrificing before statues today, but we put plenty of things before God. We do it when we stiff our tithe, but buy the newest golf clubs. When we take a month or two from worshiping to camp, hunt, attend sporting events, etc. We do it when we take the advice of others, whether they be on radio, social media, or T.V., or our friends, over the advice of God.
Now, other than “because God says so,” why should we never put anyone, or anything, before God? Well, for one thing, God deserves to be number one. God has created us, saved us, and sustains us. It is God who has gifted us, loved us when we were unlovable, and forgiven us of innumerable sins. Who else is really worthy of following and worshiping? If you need a more practical reason, here it is: who really knows better: God or human beings? Truly think about that for a moment. Does the world’s way really work? Is the world capable of providing us anything permanent? That’s the problem when we chase after idols. We are chasing after imperfect and impermanent things. Instead, we need to ALWAYS be following the God who created us, saves us, and sustains us. The God who guarantees our eternal life in a perfect heaven.