“Idol Hands” Bible Study Notes (2-15-09)


Idol Hands



And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 John 5:20-21




John Calvin, “just like water gushing forth with violence from a copious spring, … how prone our nature is to idolatry.”


FCF: Even the saved can be tempted to idolatry.


Definition of Idolatry:

So what exactly is idolatry? Simply and practically, an idol is that to which we look when our focus is taken away from the true and living God.  Idolatry is when that thing is shown more affection than God. The best example of this, and most timely in the Biblical storyline is in the book of Exodus in chapter 32. Moses has been up on the mountain receiving the Law from YHWH Himself. The Ten Commandments are given to Moses, written in stone, by the Lord’s own hand. Meanwhile, at the same time, the Israelites grumble that Moses has been gone too long and they want gods to worship NOW! So Aaron has them gather up all the gold they have, they throw it into a fire and they make a giant calf. So Aaron arouses the Israelites to get drunk and party to worship this idol and say it brought them out of Egypt. The Israelites who have been saved from slavery by the Lord now turn the focus of their worship and adoration to and idol! Briefly, Moses goes down, sees all the hullabaloo and angrily smashes the stone tablets of Law written by the Lord’s own hand at the base of the mountain. Funny, the second commandment Moses was given? Exodus 20:4-6 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”


In fact, idolatry, it turns out, is not just worshiping little dumb (speechless) silver and gold statues that cannot see and cannot eat and cannot hear and cannot smell and cannot feel and cannot walk (Jer 10:5, Hab 2:18,19, Dt 4:28, Ps 115:7). As we read through Scripture we find that idolatry includes covetousness (Col 3:5), worshiping what God made (Ro 1:23), the stars and the heavens (2 Ki 23:5), even angels (Col 2:18) and dead people (1 Sam 28:14-15). In our modern times we have such added idols as celebrities, politicians, and nationalism. Throughout it all there is also the great idol that has existed since the fall, the idol of self.


Examples of Idolatry:

Yet you still object! If one is saved, surely idolatry must not be an issue. How I wish that were so. The temptation to idolatry still exists and many biblical figures fell prey to the prowling lion  of idolatry. The people of Israel are and elect people. God chose them specifically and called them. He grew the nation, saved them from slavery, and preserved them in the wilderness. He caused them to defeat their foes and He them a land. So what happens? The same old thing. They turn to idols. They turn to a golden calf, they turn to the gods of the land in which they live. They demand a king when they have a perfectly good King already. Yet after all the ways the Lord shows Himself, the keep slipping into idolatry to the point where they will even sacrifice their infant children to a pagan god (Jer 19:4-5). Each time they take the focus of the invisible God and focus upon visible worthless things.

We see David commit many sins in his life. Adultery, lust, murder, lies, coveting, and that’s just ONE episode!  Another episode shows David’s nationalism. He calls for a census of Israel to determine the fighting force they have. (See 2 Sam 24 and 1 Chron 21.) In doing so he focuses trust in his nation and men than to protect him than he does focus on God to do so. Trust and confidence belong to God alone, yet David puts it in his army.

Samson is an example of self being an idol. Samson’s story is found in the book of judges. God calls him from his mother’s womb to be a Nazirite. That’s a special vow where he cannot have strong drink or any grape products, he cannot have contact with dead things, and he cannot shave or cut his hair (see Num 6). Now, Samson broke every one of these caveats of the Nazirite vow. He drank (Ju 14:10), he touched dead things (Ju 14:6-9, 15:15), and lastly had his head shaved (Ju 16:17-19). This last one is key, he focuses on his hair as his source of supernatural strength and not the Lord!


How to Keep From Idolatry:

If God’s chosen people went way off, David wandered and so did Samson… How does one keep from idolatry? To do so it is imperative we have a right understanding of God, a right understanding of man, and a right understanding of what God has done for man.


First, let us focus on God and see Him clearly. Some attributes of God to focus upon that will keep us from idols is how God is creator, He is omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, and invisible. God is the Creator (Gen 1:1). He made everything (Heb 11:3, Col 1:16). This being so, we know it is impossible for creation to equal the creator. It is always drastically less. I may take as many pictures of myself as I wish, yet they will never be me. I may sculpt a statue of myself and color it just so but it still will not equal me. The sum of all of Rembrandt’s works will not equal Rembrandt. The full collection of Mozart will never equal Mozart. The total of Spurgeon’s writings could never equal Spurgeon.  The sum total collection of all of creation could never, ever come close to a representation of God. In fact, The Lord gives us the creation to look at, enjoy, and know He is real, not to worship. (Ro 1:18-23). God is also omnipresent. That’s a fancy way of saying God is every where. We read Jer 23:23-24, and Psalm 139, and Eph 1:23 showing a triune omnipresence! We have this need to have some form of stimulus to prove existence or proximity. Yet God clearly states in His Word that He is everywhere and there is no place we can go that is away from Him, even death! If we keep this fact in our minds and hearts we will have no need for physical symbols which tempt us to idolatry, but the promise itself will be sufficient. All of God is in all places always. The Lord is omnipotent. That’s another fancy word which means that God is all powerful. We read Gen 17:1, Rev 1:8, Ro 15:19 showing a triune omnipotence. Another big word we can focus on is omniscient. That means God knows everything. Is 46:8-11, Jn 2:23-25 (and 21:17), and 1 Cor 2:10-11 show us a triune omniscience. God is also invisible or, rather, blessedly unvisible to us (Ex 33:20). How can one make an image of something that cannot and ought not to be seen? Also, God is just. He cannot stand evil, sin, wrongdoing. If this is so, God must punish sin. And he does.

With that microscopic bit of God down, we move to how we must rightly understand man.


*Right understanding of Man.

The first and foremost thing we must understand is that man, humans, you, and I are created beings. God made us, and even in his likeness (Gen 1:27). That automatically makes us less than and subject to God. We are less than God because no creation is equal to or greater than its creator. We are subject to God because, by right, He can do with us as He sees fit (Ro 9:20-21).

Another important thing to remember is that man is, by nature, utterly sinful. Back in Genesis we see the first man, Adam, sin and throw the entire universe into chaos. And from that, death enters the world so from then on “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Gen 6:5). Every human person you see written about in the pages of Scripture you see is a liar, a thief, sexually perverse, an idolater, a murderer, and so on. That has not changed. Examine yourself for a moment to see if you have ever sinned by lying, thieving, some for of sexual perversion like lusting or pornography, and so on. It took one sin to throw the universe into chaos. How many have you committed today?

What’s more is man is God-hating. There are no atheists, just people who really, really, hate God. Even Richard Dawkins’ little bus billboard says, “There is probably no god.” One must admire those strong convictions. The reason we hate God is because we do not want to admit any of the truths about Him or us. If God is creator, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, and invisible then we are in deep trouble. If He made us we must submit to him. If he is everywhere then he can see what we are doing and would also know all of our thoughts if he knows everything. If he is invisible we cannot see him where he is. And lastly, if he is all-powerful and he is just then we are in real trouble because we have done wrong against him and he must punish that. Further we know the punishment for sin is death. (Ro 6:23) These truths are too horrible to bear, so man must make a god who is none of those characteristics we described earlier. Man makes an idol. A safe god, a kind god, a god who will let you get away with everything and no one else with nothing. Or better, to make everyone happy a god who sits back and says, “As long as it turns out well in the end.” Created man makes a created god. But God has done something for man! Something great.


*Right understanding of what God has done for Man.

Now that we understand some of God and man, let’s see what God has done for man. So if God is creator, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, invisible, and just. And man is created, sinful and god-hating. We were made for God’s glory. Here is how God gets glory from us and breaks us of idolatry. God himself takes the punishment for our idolatry and gives us Himself to worship.

What does that mean? Well, about two thousand years ago a child was born to a virgin. This child was no ordinary child. Rather, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Col 1:15) But more than just the image, He is God himself! God become man, fully each. We know him as Jesus. And this Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience. He also died a death of perfect obedience.  The death he died was horrible and cruel and the death we deserve to face for the due penalty of our sins. This death was willing on behalf of Jesus, God the Son, and authored by God the Father. It pleased God to do this! (Is 53:10). This death, Jesus died for all those who would repent of their sins and trust in Jesus for salvation from those sins. God, when he saves us, gives us a new nature. Such a nature allows us to begin to understand who he is and to prevent us from turning to idols.



When we focus upon who God is who we are and were, and what he has done for us, we will be empowered to not only keep ourselves from idols, but to worship the one who makes, the one who saves, and the one who keeps.



One Response to ““Idol Hands” Bible Study Notes (2-15-09)”

  1. Mario Bernardi Says:

    This would put most sermons on a Sunday morning to shame. Well done! Just one little critique…where’s the call to repent and trust the savior? You neglected to make the call; “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

    Perhaps I am too hard on you here. I understand that this is a place for your study notes and such, but people from all over the world will stumble upon this. And I have to admit, I have never done this thorough of a job collaborating scripture myself. I have little room to talk. You have a great systematic way of covering all bases and then drawing a conclusion. I just might become a fan of your blog. I am too ashamed to place a link to mine yet, as I still need to update it. However, here is a link to the blog that my wife keeps for our family. http://www.thebernardifamily.blogspot.com.

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