God and Other Objects of Worship
In the previous article we saw that the Bible asserts unequivocally that Jehovah-the God revealed in its pages, the one who brought Israel and the church into existence-is exalted above all gods, actually exists, and is the only real God. These assertions are supported and reinforced by biblical revelation concerning the worship of any god or object except the God of the Bible.
The Origin, Source, and Cause of False Worship
Scripture indicates that the worship of any god or object except Jehovah results from the following factors. First, some people worship strange gods, sacrifice to demons, and practice detestable false worship because they lightly esteem, forget, and forsake God while in great prosperity (Dt. 32:15-18).
Second, turning aside from following and serving God with all their heart can cause people to go after vain, useless, powerless objects of worship (1 Sam. 12:20-21).
Third, some Israelites made images, worshiped all the host of heaven, served Baal, used divinations and enchantments, sold themselves to do evil in God’s sight, and sacrificed their own children in fire after hardening themselves against and rejecting the commandments and statutes of the Mosaic Law that God gave to Israel (2 Ki. 17:13-17).
Fourth, people serve and worship false gods because they refuse to pay attention to God’s revealed truth and walk instead in the imaginations of their own hearts (Jer. 13:10).
Fifth, Gentiles resorted to making and worshiping images formed like humans and animals because they willfully suppressed the clear revelation of God’s existence and eternal power. They refused to glorify Him as God, were unthankful for His blessings, and changed the truth of God into a lie (Rom. 1:18-25).
Sixth, idolatrous worship is a result of people yielding to the evil inclinations of their fallen humanity (Gal. 5:19-21).
The Biblical Evaluation of Idols
Because idols are made by human hands, they are not God (Hos. 8:6) or true, living gods (Acts 19:26). Instead, they are “vanities” -unreal-not true or alive (Dt. 32:21; cf. 1 Cor. 8:4; Gal. 4:8). The priests of nations that do not worship the God of the Bible are priests “of them that are no gods” (2 Chr. 13:9). The fact that man-made images can be destroyed indicates they are not gods (2 Ki. 19:17-18; cf. Jer. 5:7; 16:20).
Furthermore, images and idols are abominations (2 Ki. 23:24).
Idols are totally useless. They have mouths that don’t speak, eyes that don’t see, ears that don’t hear, noses that don’t smell, hands that don’t handle, feet that don’t walk, and throats that don’t produce sounds (Ps. 115:4-7). They have to be fastened with nails and hammers so they won’t fall over. They have to be carried because they cannot move on their own. They cannot do evil or good (Jer. 10:3-5). They cannot cause rain (Jer. 14:22). They have no breath in them and are the work of errors. Nor did they make the heavens and the earth (Jer. 10:11, 14-15).
Sacrifices offered to idols are sacrifices to demons, not to God (Dt. 32:17; Ps. 106:37-38; 1 Cor. 10:20; Rev. 9:20).
Because man-made gods are totally lifeless objects incapable of doing anything, they are not what their makers and worshipers claim them to be, namely, true and living gods. They are falsehoods, contrary to reality (Jer. 10:14; Hab. 2:18-19).
The Fate of Other Gods
Because man-made gods are falsehoods, the true and living God who has clearly revealed His existence and is ultimate reality judges all other gods.
Jehovah judged all the gods of Egypt through ten plagues (Ex. 12:12; Num. 33:4). He promised to disturb, break, and burn the idols of Egypt and their houses (Isa. 19:1; Jer. 43:12-13); to cut off the graven and molten images from the house of Assyria’s gods (Nah. 1:14); and to “famish all the gods of the earth” (Zeph. 2:11).
Man-made gods are destined to perish from the earth and from under the heavens (Jer. 10:11, 15).
The Insanity of Idol Worship
Since man-made gods are falsehoods, contrary to reality, the craftsmen who make them and the worshipers who trust in them are like them in that they dwell in a realm of falsehood and unreality when they claim these objects are true and living (Ps. 115:4-8; 135:15-18).
Because man-made gods cannot foretell future events or do good or evil, Jehovah declares that they are nothing, and people who choose to worship them are abominations (Isa. 41:21-24).
It is nonsense for a person to claim that a lifeless idol made with his own hands is his father, the one who brought him into existence (Jer. 2:27-28). The fact that intelligent human beings could consider idols they made to be gods to be worshiped violates all laws of reason (Isa. 2:8-9).
Man-made objects will not save people who cry out to them for help (Jer. 11:12).
In the future, Gentiles will confess to Jehovah that their ancestors “inherited lies, vanity, and things in which there is no profit” because they made gods for themselves that were no gods (Jer. 16:19-20).
The Consequences of Worshiping Other Gods
Because the Israelites followed vanity (worshiped man-made objects), they themselves became vain (2 Ki. 17:15; Jer. 2:5). Thus Victor P. Hamilton wrote, “Two inexorable principles are illustrated here: (1) every man takes on to some degree the character and nature of the God he worships; (2) the characteristic of all false gods is that they destroy their worshippers.”1
The Israelites who forgot Jehovah and walked after, served, worshiped, or sacrificed to anything other than Him were certain to perish (Ex. 22:20; Dt. 8:19). Any man or woman who served and worshiped the sun, moon, or any of the host of heaven was to be stoned to death (Dt. 17:2-5). And any prophet who spoke in the name of other gods was to die (Dt. 18:20).
Idols estranged the Israelites from God (Ezek. 14:5; 44:10) and defiled and polluted them (Ezek. 20:7, 31). Idol worship prompted them to commit physical and spiritual adultery, offer their children as human sacrifices, defile and profane God’ sanctuary, profane His SabbatH and pollute the land (Ezek. 23:37-39; 36:18; Ps. 106:36, 38).
Israelite worship of foreign gods and the detestable practices of that worship provoked God’s jealousy and anger, so He judged Israel severely. God destroyed Israel’s idols, idolatrous altars, and high places of worship; slew worshipers and laid their dead bodies before their idols; laid waste Israel’s cities; desolated the land; removed the Israelites from their land; and scattered them among the nations (Lev. 26:28-33; Dt. 29:24-28; 32:15-26; Josh. 23:16; 1 Ki. 9:6-9; Jer. 19:3-13; 25:2-11; Ezek. 6:3-7, 13-14).
God also promised to judge ancient Babylon severe! y (J er. 50:35–46) because it was “the land of carved images” and the Babylonians were “mad over their idols” (v. 38). In fact, they got so carried away worshiping their idols that they raved like madmen devoid of reason.2
Idol makers will be confoundedby the images they make (Isa. 45:16; Jer. 10:14), and all people who serve graven images and boast about what those objects can do will be confounded (Ps. 97:7). The Hebrew word translated “confounded” means “‘to come to shame’ and stresses the sense of public disgrace” that comes to the makers and worshipers of idols through the failure of their images to do what they believe and claim they can do.3 Time demonstrates that their idols are lifeless falsehoods (Jer. 10:14).
Worshipers of man-made gods are “stupid creatures without knowledge”4 and foolish (Jer. 10:8, 14). They are stupid and without knowledge because they foolishly trust their idols to impart knowledge of ultimate reality to them. But because an idol is a lifeless “stock” of wood,5 it cannot impart knowledge. Thus, it is “a doctrine [literally, “a bond”6] of vanities” (Jer. 10:8). An idol binds its trusting worshiper to a state of ignorance concerning ultimate reality.
People who worship idols are unrighteous and will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9–10). They “shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone” together with the unbelieving, the abominable, murderers, whoremongers, sorcerers, and liars (Rev. 21:8). This will be their eternal destiny unless they turn from idols to the true and living God by trusting Jesus Christ, His Son, to be their Savior from sin (1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Th. 1:9–10).
The worship of idols joins the worshiper to demons, not to God (Lev. 17:7; Dt. 32:17; Ps. 106:37–38; 1 Cor. 10:20; Rev. 9:20).
Instruction Concerning Other Gods
Jehovah gave significant instruction to Israelites concerning other gods. He forbade them to have other gods in place of Him (Ex. 20:3) or to worship any other god (Ex. 34:14). They were not to make graven images to worship or serve (Ex. 20:4–5; 34:17) and were never to mention the name of other gods (Ex. 23:13) or swear by them (Josh. 23:7). God also forbade them to learn the idolatrous worship of the pagan Gentiles or to participate in their dismay at the signs of heaven (Jer. 10:2). The Israelites were to put away the gods their ancestors served in the past (Josh. 24:14).
Jesus Christ declared that only Jehovah is to be worshiped and served (Lk. 4:8).
The apostles and church elders commanded Gentiles who converted from pagan worship to abstain from participating in sacrificial meals eaten in worship of idols (Acts 15:20, 29). Jesus rebuked the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira for tolerating those who taught believers to participate in such meals (Rev. 2:14, 20).
The apostle Paul commanded Christians to flee idolatry (1 Cor. 10:14); the apostle Peter indicated that believers should no longer be involved with the “abominable idolatries” of their preconversion days (1 Pet. 4:3); and the apostle John commanded them to keep themselves from idols (1 Jn. 5:21).
Revelation 9:20 signifies that people should repent from worshiping demons and idols.
Biblical revelation strongly emphasizes that Jehovah, the God of the Bible, is the only true and living God. All other gods or objects of worship are false—not true and living gods. Therefore, the worship of any god or object except the God of the Bible is vain, contrary to reality, and loaded with dire consequences.
- Victor P. Hamilton, “hebel,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, Vol. 1, p. 204.
- F. Keil, The Prophecies of Jeremiah, Vol. II, in Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1960, p. 286.
- John N. Oswalt, “bosh,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, Vol. 1, p. 97.
- HelmerRingren, “ba’ar,” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1975, Vol. 2, p. 205.
- Ronald B. Allen, “es,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, Vol. 2, p. 688.
- Francis Brown, S. R. Driver, Charles A. Briggs, “moser,” A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975, p. 64.