18 “What profit is an idol
when its maker has shaped it,
a metal image, a teacher of lies?
For its maker trusts in his own creation
when he makes speechless idols!
19 Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake;
to a silent stone, Arise!
Can this teach?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
and there is no breath at all in it. – Habakkuk 2:18-19
Ephesus was a city known for its worship of many Greek gods and goddesses. In fact, the Temple of Artemis (the ruins are still there today!) is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. When Paul preached the Gospel there and the people received the Holy Spirit and were baptized, it was an immediate threat to the idol/god-makers because the worship of an invisible God was going to put them out of business! In Acts 19, we read of Demetrius, who made silver shrines of the goddess Artemis, rallied together all the other god-makers, and convinced them that they needed to stop Paul and the “The Way” so that their businesses would not be jeopardized, and that Artemis would not be regarded as worthless.
God spoke through the prophet Habakkuk regarding the punishment of Judah for their constant involvement with false gods and idol worship. Israel and Judah had access to the One and only Living God, yet they had become easily distracted by the deception of gods that were made by the hands of other men.
The Greeks in Ephesus were deceived into believing that their handmade gods possessed real-supernatural powers. The Israelites were saved from Egypt, who also thought that their handmade gods possessed supernatural powers. When the Israelites were brought out of slavery to Egypt, God’s first command to them was “you shall not have any other gods before Me”.
As Christians, we were all brought out of slaver to our sin, which also involved the worship of false gods and idols. We are not all that far from Ephesus today! All around us are handmade gods and idols that beg for our attention and loyalty. I am reminded from an episode of the show The Simpsons, where the characters on billboards and store advertisement signs came alive due to the amount of attention people were giving to them. What was the secret to defeating them? Simply looking away. In this episode, all these inanimate objects immediately fell down lifeless as soon as people stopped paying attention to them.
I think this is a great illustration of the power (and the lack of power) that false gods and idols can have in our lives, all depending upon how much power we give them through our attention and loyalty.
Those who have been renewed by the power of Christ by faith in Him have literally turned their loyalty and attention away from all the lifeless gods and idols that we used to depend on as a source of live-giving spirit and fulfillment.
Money, TV, video games, hobbies, life experiences, alcohol, drugs, occupations, and food are all examples of creations of this world that are lifeless in and of themselves, but their value to us is fully dependent upon whatever value we are willing to give them.
God, the Creator of all things, is different. His value is not dependent upon us or how many people worship Him. No matter what, God is worthy of our worship! Those who deny that fact (thus denying Him) will come to realize their fatal error on the day they are judged for their sins and unrighteousness (Isaiah 45:22-24). Ignoring God does not simply make Him go away.
False gods are dependent upon us to give them life and purpose. With God, we are dependent upon Him to give us life and purpose!
Jesus said He came so that we may have life and have it fully! That life is promised to all those who put their faith and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins. As Christians, we rely upon the righteousness of Jesus to save us, not our own. We are unable to give ourselves eternal life, but it is Jesus who gives it freely to all those who come to Him.
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What are some ways you have shifted your focus from treasuring the things in this world to treasuring Christ and knowing Him?
How are you still tempted to give your attention and loyalty to things that are not truly life-giving?
What kinds of reminders can you think of during times of temptation that can help you resist giving into them again?