Judges 17:6 sums up the problem, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did whatever seemed right to him.”
Not that long ago, the US would use the term “wild west.” Depending on the historian, the “wild west” lasted around 10-40 years. On the other hand, what was going on in Israel was over hundreds of years. Many generations learned to do things their way, and not God’s.
Samuel was, in most respects, the last judge. Samuel may have been one of the few judges that lamented and was angry over the choice of the Israelites to have a king. While God understood that they were rejecting God as king, at the same time the Israelites seemed to recognize the pattern of the judges wasn’t working for them either.
Despite all the burdens that having a king would bring, they perceived an advantage…stability. A human king and the succession would seem to provide a greater stability than the judge system. They weren’t wrong, but they were focusing on the wrong thing.
Even while complaining about Samuel’s sons doing their own thing, they were seeking their own thing. They could not see that their actions were the same.
Much later, after all of that, the kings of Israel and Judah (the tribes had separated by the time of Ezekiel) had done far worse than the time of judges. In addition, they took the people with them on their journey away from God.
Ezekiel was just before the total fall of Israel and its subsequent disappearance from history.* Despite his words, and the words of others before and alongside him, the leaders (let alone the people) did not listen to the words from God.
They chose to continue to go their own way. And yet, they approached Ezekiel to get something from God. God was pretty clear. They were estranged from God because of their idols.
All the bad stuff that was coming would go away with repentant hearts that were determined not to repent.
The question for us is are we like the mother who made an idol of silver coins, or are we the elders who despised her and yet put idols up in their hearts? There are far too many things that can become idols. In fact, in this unsettled time, it seems that there are even more idols today then there were last year.
Who of us will acknowledge our idol worship? That’s an extremely hard question to deal with. We often use the phrasing of an idol being something that you put before God, but that may actually be too narrow of a focus.
Many of us don’t believe we put something before God in our lives, yet most of us do something that we put before God. What your idol may be could very well be different than another person’s. That is also what makes it hard.
Only by have a deep abiding relationship with God, and pursuing it, do we begin to see the idols that we have.
Lord, you told about graven images and idols of the heart. Help us to break those idols so that our relationship with you is pure. Amen.
1) By changing the focus of what might be an idol, what thing or activity comes to mind?
2) What do you think are the primary root issues that people “put up” idols?
3) Do you think unsettled times or easy times “create” more idols?
*The Kingdom of Israel, or the Northern Kingdom consisted of 9 of the 12 tribes (the Levite tribe isn’t counted in either Northern or Southern Kingdoms). The Kingdom of Judah, or the Southern Kingdom, was primary of Judah, but also included the remnants of Simeon and Benjamin (Paul was of Benjamin lineage). The Levites were mixed into both kingdoms, and it gets hard to neatly define how many tribes and of how much were in each kingdom.