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TO CHEW ON: "They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols nor with the detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people and I will be their God." Ezekiel 37:23
If you're at all familiar with the Old Testament you'll know how big the temptation to worship idols was for the Israelites and how often they capitulated to it. Here God makes the promise that when this exile finally comes to an end, they will be cured for good of their inclination toward idolatry.
We have only to observe how many Hebrew words there are for "idols"—Easton's Bible Dictionary lists 18—to realize how multi-faceted this problem was. The two expressions for idols here: "idols" and "detestable things" are gilluwl and shiqquuts. Besides meaning "idol" these words infer contempt, dung, refuse, filth and impurity. Another word for sin in our passage—"transgression" (pasha)—means "rebellion."
Their release from this ungodly worship, these impure practices and rebelliousness comes in two ways:
1. They are removed from the source of temptation: "but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places."
2. They are cleansed and set apart: "but I will … cleanse them" and from Ezekiel 37:28: "I the Lord will sanctify Israel" (sanctify means to set apart, declare holy).
What does this have to do with us? Plenty.
We may not bow down to god-images of gold, wood or stone, but how easily we give our allegiance to other things than God. In the powerful book and video series Gods at War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart, pastor Kelly Idelman exposes modern idols. What are these idols and how do we recognize them? From the book description:
"According to Idleman, idolatry isn't an issue it is the issue.
"By asking insightful questions, Idleman reveals which false gods each of us are allowing on the throne of our lives. What do you sacrifice for? What makes you mad? What do you worry about? Whose applause do you long for? We're all wired for worship, but we often end up valuing and honoring the idols of money, sex, food, romance, success and many others that keep us from the intimate relationship with God that we desire." (Emphasis added.)
Once we've recognized our false gods, we can begin to deal with them—and in the way God helped Israel do it:
1. Remove ourselves from the place of temptation. This brings to mind Jesus' words from the Lord's prayer: " 'Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil' " - Matthew 6:13.
2. Ask God to change us / cleanse us and cooperate with Him through the process. I love verses from the previous chapter of Ezekiel in this regard:
"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them - " Ezekiel 36:25, 26, 27.
PRAYER: Dear God, please make me sensitive to my own idols. Help me to avoid temptation and cooperate with You as You show me my sin and soften and change my heart by Your Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.