I have performed the wedding ceremonies of dozens and dozens of couples over my nearly thirty years as a pastor. Some were high school sweethearts who chose to get married at a younger age, some decided to wait a little longer and get married later in life, and some were couples who were getting married for a second time. My one requirement for marrying a couple is that they go through pre-marital counseling, either with a professional counselor or me.
When I start counseling, the first question I ask the couple is, "Why do you want to get married?" What do you imagine the response is? I believe everyone answers the question generally the same way, "We love each other, and we want to spend the rest of our lives together." It's rather fun to see their excitement, giddiness, love, and affection for one another.
The wedding day
The excitement and anticipation leading up to the wedding day are stressful and life-giving. But when the wedding day comes, there is love in the air. I watch the groom as he sees his future wife walk down the aisle. I note when the two join hands at the beginning of the ceremony that there is a bond between the two that is unbreakable. I listen as they recite their vows of devotion, commitment, and unfailing love for one another, and in my heart of hearts, I pray they mean every word they repeat. Then, when I tell the husband he may kiss his wife, the congregation often erupts with applause, and the newly married couple exits the ceremony hand in hand, smiling from ear to ear, ready to begin their new life together. There is nothing that can come between them at this moment.
The unfortunate demise
Unfortunately, for some, the love and affection for one another go away; they begin to annoy one another, argue constantly, or shut themselves off when difficulty comes. Some find themselves "falling out of love" with their spouse, or the commitment to their partner is no more. Instead, their affection is for something or someone else, resulting in divorce
Jeremiah 2:1 – 8
We see this happening in the pages of Jeremiah chapter 2. I love the title Dr. Philip Ryken gives to his commentary on Jeremiah chapter 2, "God files for Divorce." It sounds a bit abrasive, but this is what happens in many respects.
Vs. 1 - 3: God remembers the love Israel used to have for Him. They were committed to Him through thick and thin. It was truly a marriage covenant they had. Israel loved God, and they were committed to Him, and they proved this by following God wherever He led, even in the wilderness years. The picture God paints is that Israel was a devoted wife, and God was a faithful husband. He did not fail to keep any of his wedding vows. He loved Israel. Yahweh treated her with honor and respect. God provided for Israel. The Lord protected her and made her holy. Israel was indeed the apple of His eye. She was his beloved wife.
Vs. 4 – 8: The honeymoon is over, and it's time to face the facts. God was not unfaithful to Israel. God did not break up with His people—Israel broke up with Him. They walked out on the marriage. They used to love him, but that's over now. Nothing that God did to provoke this "break up." It was Israel who chose to have affairs with worthless idols. They committed spiritual adultery, and these are grounds for God to divorce his people.
When we read throughout the Bible, Israel had issues with faithfulness to God, but He did not issue remaining faithful to them in their unfaithfulness. So, Israel had an idolatry problem, and this was a problem.
What do you think of when I mention idolatry? How do modern humans view idolatry? We may respond in one of three ways.
What Are Idols?
Exodus 20:4 – 5
Here God introduces us to the sin of idolatry. In this passage, He commands the Israelites not to make any images or statues (whether on earth, below the earth, or in the heavens), nor should they bow down and worship them. So, are idols only statues or images, or are they more? What entails an idol? Are they only things like profit, power, and people? The truth is everything in our lives, and this world has the potential to be an idol! Tim Keller says, "A counterfeit god (idol) is anything so central and essential in your life that, should you lose it, your life would be hardly worth living. An idol has so much controlling position in your heart that you spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought." Professor Tom Shippey writes, "(Idols are when we) take the hearts fondest desires and magnify them to idolatrous proportions."
Is all idolatry wrong?
As Christians, I think we know and believe that God does not tolerate idolatry. We see throughout scripture that God will not take a second seat to anyone or anything; Exodus 20:5 says, "You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. " The problem we have is that we have a lot of idols in our lives and in this world.
What is idol worship?
Whenever we depend on or look to anything more than God for our source of joy, security, and salvation, then it/they have become idols in our lives.
Do believers have idols?
Tim Keller, "Anything can be an idol, and everything has been an idol."
Idols of the Heart
Ezekiel 14:1 - 6
Vs.: 1 – 3: A group of leaders came before the prophet Ezekiel to inquire of the Lord. The Lord informs Ezekiel that these men have erected idols in their hearts. When the Israelites lived in captivity, they had taken a fondness for the foreign gods in the areas where they lived. Therefore, they had placed their affection in their hearts for these gods. The problem was that they did not believe in the one true God; the problem was they also had affection for other gods. But, moreover, they had divided loyalties. Therefore, God tells Ezekiel these men cannot seek him if they have these idols of the heart.
Vs. 4 – 6: God tells them to repent, cast away their idols, and return to the true God. These idols of the heart are dangerous, crafty idols. Why is this so? They are subtle and give people a false sense of significance, security, and fulfillment. So often, believers have taken on idols of the heart, and we may not even recognize them. We need to recognize the idols we have placed in our hearts. Once we have identified them, we need to do as Ezekiel commands the leaders… we need to deal with them by repenting our sins, giving them over to God, and restoring Him as the one true God in our lives.
As I conclude this morning, I invite you to ask yourself do you have idols of the heart in your life? Is there anything taking precedence in your life over God? If so, I want to encourage you not to beat yourself up. There is hope. Even though we may be unfaithful to God by placing idols in our lives, He remains faithful. Romans 5:8 says, "But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God's sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God's condemnation." So, I leave you with these words of encouragement from Dr. Philip Ryken, "Christians sometimes get the idea that being faithful to God's covenant is simply a matter of obeying God's Law. This is because we are legalists at heart. But God never intended our relationship with him to be mere obedience of the will. God wants our hearts as well as our wills."
My hope and prayer are that you will be able to identify idols in your life and seek to replace them with the genuine, fulfilling, and joyful worship of the only one worthy of praise.
 Philip Graham Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations: From Sorrow to Hope, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 38.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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