Assemble yourselves and come together, draw near, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge—those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me.
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”
Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; all who were incensed against him shall come to him and be ashamed. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory.
Isaiah 45:20-25 (NRSV)
In Western culture a wooden, man-made idol is seldom seen as having any other power other than that of an aesthetic appeal. We can appreciate the craftsmanship and the artwork involved in the manufacture of such idols, but generally we don’t regard such things as being divine or deserving of worship.
Our idolatries are much more subtle and perhaps more insidious. The first commandment of God is “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) That sounds easy enough until we are put on the spot.
Who (or what) do we run to in times of trouble? Who (or what) do we rely upon for our provision?
Do we think money will buy our way out of problems? How many times have we thought, “If only I had enough money I wouldn’t have to worry about this or that problem?”
Do we think our own intelligence or our connections with other people will see us through trials?
It has been said that the root of all sin (sin being anything that goes against God’s will) is pride- trusting in our way instead of looking for God’s way. There is another old expression that states, “Pride goes before a fall.”
Nebuchadnezzar was a powerful king of Babylon who had convinced himself that he was omnipotent (all powerful) and in control of everything. God had different ideas, and found it necessary to let Nebuchadnezzar know who was really in charge:
All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and the king said, “Is this not magnificent Babylon, which I have built as a royal capital by my mighty power and for my glorious majesty?” While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven: “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: The kingdom has departed from you! You shall be driven away from human society, and your dwelling shall be with the animals of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like oxen, and seven times shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals and gives it to whom he will.” Immediately the sentence was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven away from human society, ate grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails became like birds’ claws. – Daniel 4:28-33 (NRSV)
As much as we would like to believe the idolatry of Western society at times, especially the myth that each of us is “captain of our own souls,” in truth, God is the one in control. It took Nebuchadnezzar a rather harsh lesson to understand the sovereignty of God, but ultimately he got the message.
When that period was over, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me.
I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored the one who lives forever. For his sovereignty is an everlasting sovereignty, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does what he wills with the host of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can stay his hand or say to him, “What are you doing?”
At that time my reason returned to me; and my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom. My counselors and my lords sought me out, I was re-established over my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are truth, and his ways are justice; and he is able to bring low those who walk in pride. Daniel 4:34-37 (NRSV)
Intelligence, financial resources, friends in high places, and even political power are not necessarily bad things. However, everything we are and everything we have are gifts from God. God expects us to put the gifts He has given us to good use, however, when we value the gift in higher esteem than the Giver, we lose our foundation and perspective. When we put God first, He brings the rest of our lives into balance.
Are we putting our trust in the One True God?