Graven Images and Idols: The Scriptural Definition

Graven Images and Idols:
The Scriptural Definition

The Way Prepared

The Scriptures tell us that anyone who chooses to serve Yahuweh [the LORD], and to receive His blessings, must not make for themselves any graven image, nor enter in to any form of idolatry.

But in order to be obedient to the words of Scripture about any matter, we must first understand what the Scriptures say about that matter.

And so today, many are beginning to seek, and to ask some thoughtful questions.

Questions Many Are Asking Today

“What is a Graven Image?”

“What is an Idol?”

“What does it mean to ‘make’ a Graven Image, according to Scripture?”

“What is the danger of Idols to New Covenant Believers?”

“Is the issue of graven images and idols a ‘New Covenant’ issue?”

To answer these questions, we must disregard the many opinions, man-made doctrines and hearsay, and look only to the Scriptures.

Because human nature always tries to justify itself, man has twisted what the Scriptures actually say, by re-defining graven images and idols to accommodate his own actions. But Yahuweh has made it very clear to us. He has given us many examples in Scripture, to illustrate what a graven image is, and what an idol is.

It is not the purpose of this short writing to focus on the dangers, warnings, and details of how idols affect Born-Again Believers. This has been done in the article, Graven Images and Idols: What Your Pastor Never Told You About The Second Commandment. Instead, we will summarise the danger of these objects to New Covenant Believers, and then show some of the Scriptures that clearly detail Yahuweh’s definitions of graven images and idols.

Danger in Our Homes

One of the greatest dangers to Believers today is the action of bringing certain objects into the home. As we saw in the above-mentioned article, Scripture tells us specifically that any house that has within it an object that Yahuweh considers an ‘abomination’ will come under a curse:

Neither shalt thou bring an abomination <08441> into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing. (Deuteronomy 7:26)

When we disobey the clear Word of Scripture, and bring an abomination, a cursed object into our home or office, the above Scripture tells us we become a cursed thing like the object. The result is that we come under the same curse the object is under.

The effects of these curses are varied. These effects include many chronic troubles or accidents, chronic sicknesses, chronic disease, chronic nightmares or mental attacks, constant argument, continued disobedience or rebelliousness, fearfulness, anxiety, and many others. One symptom a Believer may notice is that when idols are present in the home or office, prayers may be difficult to speak, or there seems to be a lack of Yahuweh’s presence and peace in the home, or a lack of understanding and/or acceptance of Yahuweh’s Word.

The ultimate effect, however, can be seen in the example of Achan, who took an accursed thing and hid it in his tent. As a result, the entire camp of Israel was cursed, with the result that the entire congregation failed to overcome, or prevail, in the battle against Ai (Joshua 6:18-7:12).

As the apostle Paul tells us (1Corinthians 10:11), these things happened to Israel for our examples, and are written for our admonition in these last days.

Thus the example of Achan tells us that we too [our family; our whole congregation] shall also fail to overcome against Ai [“iniquity”] if we bring the accursed object into our tent, our house!

Why is this important? It is because those Believers who fail to overcome ‘iniquity’ by the time the Bridegroom returns, are they who will be told “I never knew you!” (Matt 7:23). For those of us who desire to be among the Bride Company, we must educate ourselves, so that we do not bring these accursed objects into our homes!

We recall that there is a long list of curses that come as a result of disobedience, starting in (Deuteronomy 28:15).

“But We are ‘New Covenant’ Believers,” many will protest. “We have been taught that idols and the curses in Deuteronomy are of no consequence to saved, Born-Again, New Covenant Believers.”

Yes, Yahushua Messiah has indeed redeemed us from the curse pronounced by the Torah [Law], having been made a curse for us (Galatians 3:13). But Messiah also tells us, after He has made us whole, the same words He spoke to the woman taken in adultery, and the same words He said to the man healed on the Sabbath day: “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11; John 5:14).

We have simply not understood what Yahushua meant, when He said, “Go, and sin [transgress the Torah] no more, lest a worse thing come to you” (1John 3:4; John 5:14). That is the subject of this writing — to see what the Scriptures actually say about graven images and idols — so that we may avoid the “worse thing” that comes to those who continue to disobey Torah.

Because most New Covenant Believers today are not aware of the dangers of graven images and idols, we will begin with some New Testament warnings. These Scripture passages reveal and highlight many of the potential dangers to Born-Again, New Covenant Believers. These New Testament passages reveal that the issue of ‘idols’ is indeed a New Covenant issue.

Idols as a New Covenant Issue

There are many, many warnings given to Believers throughout the New Testament. These warnings alert us to the many dangers that can actually prevent one from entering in to the Kingdom as part of the Bride-Company, and they are spelled out in detail in Scripture. The fact that these dangers apply to ‘New Covenant’ Believers can be easily seen, for they are specific warnings in the New Testament writings, and they are given to ‘saved’ or Born-again Believers.

Many Believers today, however, have thought that these New Testament warnings are for ‘unsaved’ people. And for this reason, multitudes of New Covenant Believers today continue to ignore these warnings, with the result that they will be found among the Foolish Virgins: They will not be ready when the Bridegroom comes — and they will not enter in with the Bride-Company (Matthew 25:10).

The Little Flock, however, will be found among the Wise Virgins: They will see these warnings in Scripture. They will search out, and discover these issues in detail, and will take heed to walk accordingly!

Let’s look at the following warnings, all given to Born-Again, New Covenant Believers:

Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. (1Corinthians 10:14)

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1John 5:21)

But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. (Revelation 2:14)

Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. (Revelation 2:20)

Notice the above warning of Paul in 1Corinthians 10:14, who very specifically warns the New Covenant Believers to flee from idolatry; and the warning of John in 1John 5:21, who warns the Believers to ‘keep yourselves from idols.’ Likewise notice the warning of Yahushua in the above Revelation passages, where Yahushua says He will have a “few things against” those who continue in sins related to idols.

We are also told in context of the passages in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, that these ‘idolatry’ issues can prevent one from overcoming. We are also told in Rev 21:7, that in order to receive our full inheritance, we must overcome all things. So if we want to overcome all things, we must know what to avoid, and what we must overcome. And this means we must understand — and overcome — the idolatry issues, including those of Revelation chapters 2 and 3!

With this in mind, we will begin with a Scriptural overview of the Believer’s proper response to graven images and idols.

New Covenant Life: Turning from Idols

There are many passages of Scripture that show the importance of beginning the process of removing idols from one’s life. Here is one passage:

“…how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God…” (1Thessalonians 1:9b)

Here we see that turning “to Yahuweh from idols” is for the purpose of serving Yahuweh. This verse shows a basic Scriptural principle: that Turning comes before Serving. So unless we fully turn from having these idols, we cannot serve Yahuweh.

Thus if we would truly turn from these objects, we must find out what they are from a Scriptural point of view. And, as we shall see in the Hebrew definitions, we need not physically ‘bow down’ to an object, for it to be considered a forbidden object, or idol.

Here is another passage, and it tells us something many today have not yet realised:

Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. (1Co 12:2)

Here we see that it is common for Gentiles to be carried away to idols. Notice in the above (1Co 12:2) passage Paul states that you ‘were’ (Lit. Greek can read “had been”) Gentiles. Does that mean they were no longer Gentiles?

Paul gives us the answer. He tells us we are no longer to live and walk as Gentiles (Eph 4:17). What Paul is saying, is that if we are going to walk in, and embrace the Way of Yahuweh, we must abandon the many idolatries the Gentiles hold dear!.

Next notice above that Paul states “As you were led.” Beloved, many of us as Gentile Believers are still ‘being led’ by spiritual leaders today who still live and walk as Gentiles. The result is seen in the above passage — that many are still being “carried away unto these dumb idols.” Many Pastors and spiritual Leaders today are simply ignorant of what the Scriptures actually say about the dangers of idols.

We as Believers, however, are cautioned that we must maintain honour and respect at all times toward our spiritual Leaders. They are still Yahuweh’s delegated authority in our lives, and as such, we must maintain submissive hearts toward them, for as long as we remain under their authority. There comes a time, however, that we are called to “come out of her, and depart” from these congregations, in order to break free from practicing idolatry and man-made doctrines (2Co 6:16-18; Rev 18:4).

The above Scripture passages, and many others, reveal some of the potential dangers to Born-Again, New Covenant Believers. With warnings like these, we would do well to find out exactly what Scripture tells us about idols. Let’s find out.

What is an Idol?

The key to proper understanding of the Scriptures is to find the agreement between the Torah and the Testimony (Isaiah 8:20), that is, to find the meaning that agrees with both Old Testament writings and New Testament writings.

To see what the Scriptures themselves say about proper interpretation and meaning of the Scriptures, the Reader is referred to the article, Seven Biblical Guidelines for Studying the Bible: Using Scripture to Interpret the Scriptures.

With this understanding, we can then look at the Old Testament Hebrew Words and their Meanings, to find the proper definitions of New Testament words and ideas. This agreement is especially true as we seek to understand what Scripture reveals about idols. The Reader is referred to the Hebrew words and definitions below in the References.[1]

As we look at these Hebrew word definitions, we notice that there are at least 14 Hebrew words translated directly into the English word ‘idol,’ each having its own definition. These 14 words originate from 8 other Hebrew words, making 22 words all together, revealing a great deal more than if we look at the single English word ‘idol.’ By looking at these Hebrew word definitions, we can actually see the full description of the nature of idols. We can also see their use, and the results of having them. Let’s look at a few of these definitions by groups.

As we look in the Reference below, here is what we see among the many Hebrew word definitions for the English word ‘idol’:

  • Some definitions reflect the nature of their use, such as to “revere as mighty, worship, and healing.”
  • Some definitions reflect a cause-and-effect relationship, such as “Do not do [Action 1], lest you do [Action 2],” — warning us that doing [Action 1] inevitably leads us to doing [Action 2].
  • Some definitions reflect the results of having them, such as “vexing, fear, trembling, pain, sorrow, and distress.” These appear to describe the long-term results these objects have on their owners.
  • Still other definitions reflect Yahuweh’s estimation of them, such as “worthless, good for nothing, things of nought, wallowing, filthy, detestable, and abominable.”

All these Hebrew definitions reveal some of the great depth of meaning of the various Hebrew words translated into the single English word ‘idol.’

As for the Greek words translated ‘idol,’ the Greek word definitions appear to show dependency on the definitions of the Hebrew words in Scripture. It appears that the New Testament writers must have assumed the Readers had understanding of the Hebrew terms and Torah words, because they used the Hebrew word understandings to communicate these New Covenant truths!

One Greek word translated idol has the meaning of ‘likeness,’ and is based on the Greek word “to know.” This reveals to us many related ideas, telling us that idolatry is similar to a man and woman ‘knowing’ one another, as seen in Genesis 4:1. Thus we see the connection between idols and fornication and adultery, where the use of an idol constitutes knowing someone other than Yahushua.

This same word meaning ‘likeness’ also has a meaning of knowing with the eyes, and with the senses, and not with the heart. This is how many today know Yahuweh’s Word, a result of walking by sight, and not by Faith. The end result of this living by the natural senses, and not by the Spirit, is that one becomes ‘carnal’ (depending on the fleshly senses). Paul tells us the reason for this carnality, however, is because the carnal person is not subject to — not yielded to obedience to — the Law [‘Torah’] (Romans 8:7). Paul’s insight, and his message to us today, signals an exhortation for us to return to simply walking by Faith, and of simple obedience to Torah.

Idols of Substitution

Let’s review a few Scripture passages:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

Yahuweh tells us we are to have no other ‘Mighty Ones’ before or in place of Him. His desire for us is that we not have any substitutes for Him, or His Word. Now let’s notice what is said next, to show examples of substitutes:

Thou shalt not make <06213> unto thee any graven image <06459>, or any likeness <08544> of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (Exodus 20:4)

Yahuweh gives us the commandment, and then desires to test us in this area. He watches to see whether man will receive Yahuweh’s Word, as it says; or whether man will create a substitute for His Word, by substituting man’s own words, definitions, and his own understanding — instead of following Yahuweh’s simple instructions. Just in case we do not understand this simple instruction, Yahuweh gives us a more detailed picture:

Lest ye corrupt <07843>(“destroy“) yourselves, and make <06213> you a graven image <06459>, the similitude <08544> of any figure <05566>, the likeness <08403> of male or female, The likeness <08403> of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness <08403> of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness <08403> of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness <08403> of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: (Deuteronomy 4:16-18)

Looking at these word definitions, we see that an idol is simply a likeness or image that man would use as a substitute for Yahuweh, or as a substitute for His Provision, or for His Word. When we choose the simplicity of His Word, and what it actually says, we are choosing Him. But when we choose some other religious idea or notion of what His Word says, we are choosing a substitute for His Word. Choosing a substitute for Yahuweh, or a substitute for His Word, His blessing or His provision, is the very essence of idolatry!

In like manner, when we covet, we are showing disdain for the daily Provision of Yahuweh. In so doing, we create a substitute of our own making, choosing our own provision instead of Yahuweh’s provision for us. We are thus told in (Colossians 3:5) that covetousness is idolatry. Now we know why this is true.

In New Testament usage, we see the term ‘things sacrificed unto idols’ used in two different examples. One use of the term (as seen in several places in 1Corinthians) references the physical ‘leftovers’ from food that had been part of a ‘sacrifice’ of (pagan in origin) religious rituals. Paul exhorts us to refrain from eating these leftovers, where eating them may cause our Brother to stumble.

The second New Testament use of the term ‘things sacrificed unto idols’ (as seen in Revelation 2:14, 20) refers to the ‘idol sacrifice,’ a man-made ‘substitute’ for the “true Food and true Drink” that is from Yahuweh. Scripture draws this analogy so as to give Yahuweh’s people instruction in what Yahuweh thinks of the modern-day, man-made substitute for Yahuweh’s true ‘Passover.’ When we substitute a man-made ritual in exchange for obeying the Truth of Yahuweh’s Word, we are creating an idol of substitution.

Let’s look further at how the ‘substitution of Yahuweh’s Word’ becomes an idol.

Idols of Substitution of Yahuweh’s Word

We have mentioned how substitution of Yahuweh with something else becomes an idol. Now let us notice a particular phrase that reveals how substitution of His Word is idolatry. Notice the following, spoken to King Saul:

“…rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as … idolatry <08655>. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” (1Samuel 15:23)

Notice that in this passage, Saul did what he thought best, and not what Yahuweh’s Word said. Saul’s stubbornness was his rejection of Yahuweh’s Word, which is as idolatry. Notice that Saul’s stubbornness in rejecting Yahuweh’s Word is considered idolatry, even though there was no ‘worship’ or ‘bowing down’ involved.

Incidentally, Yahuweh’s Word to Saul, in rejecting him as king, is His Word to us today. Do we want to rule and reign with Messiah? Then we had better not reject Yahuweh’s Word!

Saul, in his stubbornness, rejected Yahuweh’s Word, replacing what it actually said with a substitute of his own understanding, thus creating an idol of the heart. Now notice in the two following passages how we too can do the same, if we follow this same pattern of rejecting what the Word of Yahuweh actually says, in exchange for our own understanding of what it says:

Thou shalt not make <06213> unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (Exodus 20:4)

Here Yahuweh tells us not to make a particular shape of object. But as we see in the word definitions in the footnotes below, the many meanings of the Hebrew word translated ‘make,’ Strong’s number <06213>, include the ideas of “do, make, fashion, acquire, have, maintain, prepare,” and a number of additional meanings.

Now notice what Yahuweh tells us next:

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve <05647> them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. (Exodus 20:5)

And, as a result of many popular but incorrect Bible teachings today, many have been taught to say, “But I do not bow down to it, as verse 5 warns — so perhaps it is acceptable to ‘make, fashion, acquire, or have’ the object in my home or office.”

This is a grave error, to think that verse 5 supplies the ‘context’ for the meaning of verse 4. Instead, notice that Exodus 20:4 and Exodus 20:5 each has its own separate, stand-alone “Do not” commands, each containing the Hebrew word ‘lo.’ This information sheds new light onto these passages, and reveals to us a further depth of meaning.

Thus in verse 4, we are told not to “make, fashion, acquire, or have” the described object — and in verse 5 we are told not to bow down to them, even if they had been “made, fashioned, acquired, or had” by someone else.

Thus we see that verses 4 and 5 of Exodus 20 are each separate commands, each independent of the other for contextual meaning.

Nevertheless, many today will continue to ignore Yahuweh’s Word regarding the command, “do not make” the described object, and will substitute their ‘own understanding’ of what this command is saying. Notice Yahuweh’s warning, as He exhorts us:

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto [support; trust in] thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge [know; perceive; consider] him [The WORD], and he [The WORD] shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6; Luke 6:47; John 1:1,14).

When we trust in, and lean on our own understanding, rather than what the Word actually says, that understanding can become an idol. Instead, we are to “acknowledge (know; perceive; consider) Him [The WORD] in all our ways, and He [The WORD] will direct our paths. ).

Again, the familiar argument is, “But I am not bowing down to this object, so it must be OK to have it.” But this way of thinking is based on man’s own reasoning, and this is what King Saul did. This is why Yahuweh tells us that stubbornness as the sin of idolatry — when we stubbornly exalt our own understanding above what Yahuweh’s Word actually says.

So if we reject Yahuweh’s simple and clear Word to us in verse 4, and instead choose to follow our own understanding, thinking “But I do not bow down to it,” then we are doing exactly as King Saul did!

And so we repeat this all-important Biblical truth:To stubbornly rely on our own understanding, rather than what the Word actually says, is idolatry in Yahuweh’s eyes. We create an idol, when we substitute our ‘own understanding’ in place of what Yahuweh’s Word actually says.

Let’s now summarise what verses 4 and 5 of Exodus 20 actually say.

What verse 4 actually says is, “Do not make, acquire, or have” the described objects. Period!

And verse 5 actually says, “Do not bow down to, or serve the described objects. Period!

In simple terms, the Second Commandment is plainly telling us:

The Second Commandment:

  1. Neither make [have, etc.] the forbidden object (verse 4),
  2. Nor bow down to it, nor serve it (verse 5).

Now let’s look at another feature of these two passages, the cause-and effect relationship seen in these two verses.

Cause and Effect

Not only do Exodus 20:4 and Exodus 20:5 give us two separate, explicit commands, but they are a classic example of a Biblical “cause-and-effect” relationship. “Do not do [Action 1], because it will inevitably lead you to do [Action 2], which you are also forbidden to do.”

The not-so-obvious, hidden cause-and-effect relationship between verse 4 and verse 5 tells us that to make, acquire, or have a forbidden object, inevitably leads to a hidden attachment to them, a bowing down to them [hidden in our heart, not seen or perceived], and a hidden serving of them [hidden in our heart, not seen or perceived].

Yahuweh knew if we were to make or have these objects, we would become attached to them, and that is a form of worshipping them. Through our natural sentimentality toward an object, we can create an attachment to that object, creating an idolatry of the heart. This idolatry will only strengthen the stronghold of the enemy, bringing into our homes various torments — such as strife, discord, anger, rebellion, sicknesses, troubles, and unbelief.

This stronghold of idolatry is the inevitable outcome of this “cause-and-effect” relationship seen in these two verses of the Second Commandment.

Let’s look in detail at what happens as a result of disobedience of Exodus 20:4.

Disobedience Leads to Bondage

What follows Exodus 20:4 is a progression of what we see in verse 5: “You shall not bow down … to them, nor serve <05647> them.” Notice that the Hebrew word for ‘serve’ used here speaks of being led away, returning to bondage to another master [servitude; to be led to serve as subjects].[2] This passage shows a progression, where ‘bowing down’ to them inevitably leads to some form of spiritual servitude, some form of spiritual bondage.

We may claim that we are not physically bowing down, nor serving them. But simply having a forbidden object, or an idol of substitution, or some other idol of the heart, is the same as bowing down to that idol. And it inevitably leads to servitude, or bondage.

Let’s look at some further Scripture passages, to illustrate why this is true.

This same progression, of having a substitute that leads to servitude or bondage, is seen in Galatians 5:1:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)

In this passage, Believers today are exhorted to stand firm, to continue in the liberty of Messiah, and not to return to the heathen practices from which they came, before they became Followers of Messiah. Some of these practices include fleshly reliance on self-effort, following man-made teachings of redemption and Salvation, and continuing in sin — which the apostle John defines as “transgressing the Law” (1John 3:4).

When we continue in sin, and substitute man-made substitutes for the practice of Scriptural principles, and then use these Galatian-style attempts to justify ourselves — we end up closing the spigot of Father’s enablement, ‘turning off’ the supply of grace. The inevitable result is that we become “entangled again with the yoke of bondage,” which is a return to the bondage of self-effort.

Let’s look at another passage-pair to see this same cause-and-effect progression to bondage. First, notice what Yahuweh’s Commandment says:

Lest ye corrupt <07843>(“destroy”) yourselves, and make <06213> you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: (Deuteronomy 4:16-18)

In the above passage we see that making, acquiring or having the described image results in being ‘corrupted’ (“destroyed”). Now notice the next verse:

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven <05080> to worship them, and serve <05647> them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:19)

Again, we see in this passage the result of rejecting Yahuweh’s Word as stated in verses 16-18 leads to a progression which, if not stopped, will eventually result in lifting up ones eyes unto heaven to serve the creation, and then being driven, expelled, thrust away, and banished from Yahuweh altogether. This progression can be seen vividly in Israel’s history, as recounted by Stephen in the following passage:

And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness?” (Acts 7:41-42)

This cause-and-effect relationship is defined in Deuteronomy 4:19, and the outworking of its effects can be seen in Acts 7:41-42. The final result of this progression, of being driven away because of serving the creation, is made clear in the wording of Deuteronomy 4:19, where we see the word ‘driven,’ is the Hebrew word nadach, Strong’s number <05080> meaning “driven away.”[3]

When Yahuweh expels, thrusts away, and banishes His people, He sends them into bondage because of continued disobedience, just as the apostles Paul and Peter tell us:

Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants <1401> to obey, his servants <1401> ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

…for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage <1402>. (2Peter 2:19)

In the above Romans 6:16 passage, notice that the Greek word for servant, Strong’s number <1401>, meaning “bond-slave,” comes from the word <1210> meaning “to bind; put in bondage or obligation.” So we see that whomever [or whatever] we obey, to him [or it] we become a bond-slave.

Bondage and Captivity Today

Note that Romans 6:16 is a New Testament passage, and is directed to Believers, as followers of Messiah — confirming to us that these bondages still occur today, for the same reasons we see in Torah. When Yahuweh sends His people into bondage, He sends them into a form of captivity, which may be temporary or permanent, depending upon whether they are willing to repent, and convert [Strong’s numbers <1994> and <4762> meaning “turn around”], and begin to obey Yahuweh’s commandments in Torah.

The characteristics of the modern-day captivity of Yahuweh’s people can be seen prophetically in both the Babylonian and Assyrian captivities of Israel and Judah, which captivities give us much insight into how Yahuweh’s people go into captivity today. We cannot go into much detail here, except to say that the result of today’s captivity is that, like Samson (Judges 16:21) and Zedekiah (Jeremiah 39:7; 52:11), the eyes [the spiritual eyesight] of Yahuweh’s people are put out. They become blinded to spiritual truth!

And if those Born-again Believers persist in walking in the unrighteousness of disobedience to Torah, showing that they do not love the Truth of Yahuweh’s Word, Yahuweh Himself will begin to send them a ‘strong delusion’ so that they will believe a lie (2Thess 2:11): they will become deceived by their spiritual Leaders, who convince them of the lie that they should not obey Yahuweh’s Commandments in Torah!

For those Believers in bondage to the modern-day captivities of Assyria and Babylon, the only way to come out of captivity is by diligently seeking Yahuweh in His Word, and by repenting, by turning around, and walking in Righteousness, becoming obedient to Messiah’s Commandments in Torah.

Meanwhile, back at the 2Peter 2:19 passage, we see confirmation of this bondage <1402>, in that the Greek word for bondage, Strong’s number <1402>, comes from Strong’s number <1401>, as used in the Romans 6:16 passage.

So we see that obeying our ‘own understanding’ of Deuteronomy 4:16-18, even if we think we are obeying the Scriptures, will result in being driven away into bondage and captivity, as seen in Deuteronomy 4:19.

This cause-and-effect example in Deuteronomy 4:16-19 vividly illustrates the seriousness of Peter’s warnings given in 2Peter chapter 2, regarding teachers that teach error. The false teachers and their followers continue to practice the idolatry of substituting their own understanding for the Truth of the Scriptures.

And as a result of their continued disobedience to what the Scriptures actually say, both they and their followers will be driven away, and led into bondage and captivity.

Let us now summarise what we have seen about idols thus far.

Is it an Idol — or an Idol?

Throughout the Scriptures in general, there are many forms of idols and idolatry. We have seen a few examples of these. We might summarise by saying that idols in Scripture appear to fall within two broad categories:

1) De facto Idols — Idols of the heart (gold, silver, money, cars, movie stars, etc.) These idols are based on man’s use of them. They include such objects as the teraphim <08655> — objects that were used as a ‘mighty-one’ to bring healing, and objects used to bring good luck or fortune. In this category an idol is defined by man’s response to, and affection for the object, which becomes a substitute for the True Mighty One, hence it is a worship-substitute for Yahuweh.

Other examples of idols of the heart are ‘my will’ instead of Yahuweh’s will; my own understanding, my own ambitions, my own strength, my own self-reliance, and many others of mans own making, all of which become substitutes for Yahuweh, His Word, and His will. Idols of the heart can be seen to exist in (Ezekiel 14:3,4,7).

2) De jure Idols — Idols by Legal Definition (how Scripture defines an object). An object in this category is called an idol based on Yahuweh’s definition, regardless of man’s response to that object. This is an important understanding. We need not bow down to an object, for it to be an idol by Yahuweh’s definition. An object may be an idol, simply by Yahuweh’s definition — even if one does not revere it, or bow down to it. An object may be an idol, even if one is not aware of any idolatry. Forbidden objects such as graven images fall into this category.

So wherever we see idols or idolatry in Scripture, it may be in either or both of these two categories, to which the Scripture applies. It is important that we see and understand that we need not bow down to an object, to be involved in idolatry. There are many examples of idols and idolatry in everyday life, in which man does not actually bow down to the object, but these are idols nevertheless.

We will not go into detail in this writing, but the myriads of man-made religious traditions that originally began as pagan customs fall into these categories. Some of these include such items as x-mas trees, birthday cakes and candles, halloween candy, easter candy, and many others. The reader would do well to search out these man-made religious fossilized customs.

Let us now look at what Scriptures say about graven images.

What is a Graven Image?

Again we see the importance of the Hebrew Words and their Meanings as we look at ‘graven images.’ The various Hebrew words translated ‘graven images’ along with their definitions, are given below in the References.[4]

As we look at these Hebrew word definitions for ‘graven images,’ we can summarise them as follows:

Definition: Graven Images in Scripture

  • An object or shape that is fabricated, or poured out, or cast, such as with bronze, silver, or gold.
  • An object, the use of which is considered by Yahuweh as a ‘drink offering’ or libation, which is something poured out as an offering to another — in essence a substitute for Yahuweh.
  • An object that is fabricated, or cut or hewn into a specific, forbidden ‘shape’ or likeness. There are many modern fabrication techniques and processes that could be used to produce such an object or shape, so it is important not to limit the fabrication to only two processes of cutting and hewing.

So we see that ‘graven images’ are objects that are ‘graven’ — that is, fabricated into a particular likeness or shape that is forbidden in Scripture.

From archaeological discoveries, as well as from Scriptural descriptions, it appears that fabrication of these forbidden objects, or shapes, could have been by any number of processes, such as moulding and shaping, as with clay, or cutting, as with an axe or knife, to produce a particular likeness or shape. Some modern processes used to produce shapes include not only cutting, but turning on a lathe, stamping, moulding, compressing, inflating of an empty shape, and filling of a sewn or fabricated shape.

Let’s see what Scripture reveals as to what kind of shapes are considered ‘graven images’ and are thus forbidden under the Scriptural definition.

What is a Forbidden Likeness or Shape?

We now look at one specific definition of ‘graven image’ as given by Yahuweh in the Scripture. We must be careful to examine the Scriptures with an open and honest heart. Let us avoid the trap of trying to justify our actions by attempting to re-define Bible words and meanings. Yahuweh is very specific about His definition:

Thou shalt not make <06213> unto thee any graven image <06459>, or any likeness <08544> of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: (Exodus 20:4)

Lest ye corrupt <07843>(“destroy“) yourselves, and make <06213> you a graven image <06459>, the similitude <08544> of any figure <05566>, the likeness <08403> of male or female, The likeness <08403> of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness <08403> of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness <08403> of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness <08403> of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: (Deuteronomy 4:16-18)

Here, we see the details about these forbidden objects. Yahuweh tells us these forbidden shapes are male or female ‘likenesses’ of any living thing, whether beast, bird, or fish. Notice the nature of the completed shape is to be examined against the Scriptural definitions, and is not in any way related to the object’s past, present, or future use. The Hebrew word definitions for the highlighted words can be seen below in the References.[5]

In these passages, Yahuweh’s definition of a ‘graven image’ is simply ‘an image or likeness’ of any living creature. Scripture further reveals in (Romans 1:23), that these images include the likeness or image of a human.

The simplicity of what this Scripture passage says is not what is commonly taught or understood. Most would define a ‘graven image’ as something to which man would physically ‘bow down,’ or ‘worship.’ However, if we examine the passages with honesty, it is clear that Yahuweh defines a ‘graven image’ as simply an image or likeness of a living creature, no more, no less.

Notice that in order for an object to be considered forbidden or off-limits, there are three requirements that must be met:

Forbidden Objects in Scripture:

  1. The image must be graven;
  2. The image must be a similitude, figure, or likeness;
  3. The image or likeness must be that of a male or female of a living being on the earth, in the air or heavens, or in the waters.

Now notice in the above Scripture passage in Deuteronomy 4:16-18, that unlike the definition of an idol, Yahuweh’s definition of a graven image is not dependent on a man’s response to that object. In the Deuteronomy 4:16-18 passage, Yahuweh makes no distinction between an object that is worshipped, and one that is not worshipped.

But there is an additional bit of information given in this passage: Yahuweh tells us that the ones who will ‘destroy’ themselves are those who ‘make’ <06213> these objects. Notice however, that in both passages, the forbidden action is hidden within the definition of the word ‘make’ — the Hebrew word ‘asah’ <06213>. Thus the key to our understanding these Scripture passages is in understanding the Hebrew word ‘asah’ <06213>.

This is a key definition, so let’s look at it.

You Shall Not Make — the Key to Understanding Forbidden Graven Images

We are told, “You shall not ‘make’ <06213> any of these forbidden objects.” This is a plain and simple directive. It seems simple enough to understand. However, man will often overlook the simplicity of Yahuweh’s Word and create his own interpretation. It takes an honest heart to see clearly the simplicity of this directive.

If we look up the Hebrew word translated ‘make,’ we see a single Hebrew word that is translated into more than 50 different English words, with more than 50 different meanings, depending on context![6]

From these many Hebrew word definitions, we now see that the prohibition of these objects is not simply against ‘making’ — but also against acquiring, having, using, maintaining, showing, selling, or giving it away.

What do these definitions of ‘asah’ tell us? What does this say about having toys, art objects, and other objects in the shape of fish, birds, horses, eagles, turtles, frogs, owls, angels, and multitudes of other objects and ‘collections’ commonly found in the home or office?

Many would say, “But we don’t bow down to it.”

Yahuweh’s Word would say, “Do not even have it in your home!”

In order for us to see how an idol is hated by Yahuweh, let’s try to understand how Yahuweh sees things for a moment.

Yahuweh has told us in many Scripture passages that He is jealous over His people. This jealousy has everything to do with idolatry, because the idol becomes a substitute for Him.

Now tell me something. If you are a husband, what would you think if your wife placed a picture of an old boyfriend on the mantle or dresser? She does not ‘bow down’ to the picture, so why should you be jealous? What would you do?

If you are a wife, what would you think, if your husband had a female work associate’s photograph on the wall in his work area? He does not ‘bow down’ to it, so why would you be jealous? What would you do about it?

Now realise that Yahuweh’s jealousy is burning when we simply ‘have’ an object that He has forbidden us to have. Simply ‘having’ forbidden objects is like having the picture of someone else on your spouse’s wall, while your spouse is in covenant relationship with you. Simply having the forbidden object reveals the substitute we have created in our mind.

And so we see how our ‘own understanding’ of what an idol is, can become exalted above what Yahuweh has defined it as being. By making this substitution of ‘what I think,’ for ‘what Yahuweh has said,’ we are thus bowing down in our heart, and serving the object, simply by our having it!

Is it a Graven Image — or an Idol?

Now let’s look at some of the Scriptures in which we find both words — graven image and idol:

Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 26:1)

And when he had broken down the altars and the groves, and had beaten the graven images into powder, and cut down all the idols throughout all the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem. (2Chronicles 34:7)

Confounded (“confounded, ashamed, confused”) be all they that serve graven images, that boast themselves of idols: worship him (Yahuweh), all ye gods. (Psalms 97:7)

I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I showed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them. (Isaiah 48:5)

What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols? (Habakkuk 2:18)

A careful examination of the above verses clearly reveals a connection between a graven image and an idol. Based on our study thus far, it is safe to summarise by saying, ‘Not all idols are Graven Images, (meaning some idols are ‘idols of the heart’); but all Graven images (objects having the shape or likeness of any living being) are idols.’

Let us now look briefly at one issue in Scripture that many have wondered about, an issue that has been a stumbling-block for many — the issue of Images Commanded by Yahuweh. Let’s remove this stumbling-block!

Images Commanded by Yahuweh

Many Bible Scholars will ask, “But what about the Brasen Serpent in the wilderness?” “What about the carved cherubim over the Mercy Seat?” “And what of the twelve cast brasen oxen under the sea?” “And what of the lions, oxen, and cherubim on the borders between the ledges of the bases for the 10 lavers?”

These are all very good, and thoughtful questions, that are being asked by many today. Because men have seen in Scripture where Yahuweh ordered these things to be made, men have reasoned that it must be acceptable for man to make these same images, and others. By reasoning in this fashion, men have substituted their own understanding, and have refused to walk in the simplicity of Yahuweh’s Word. Wherever Yahuweh gave a specific, one-time command to make these images and likenesses of living creatures, in each instance these specific items became living parables, whose hidden truths were to be revealed to His people at a later time.

In the case of the Brasen Serpent, for example, there are multiple prophetic pictures for our instruction. One of these is the truth that the curse put on the people was transferred to the serpent (Gen 3:14); and that Yahushua became a curse for us, when He was lifted up on a tree, that we might exchange our curse for His righteousness and healing (John 3:14; Gal 3:13; Deut 21:23). We also see another truth illustrated in the Brasen serpent — the truth that the cursed object, when kept in ones possession, leads to idolatry, as we see in (2Kings 18:4).

These examples we see in Scripture are NOT intended by Yahuweh to be an excuse for our disobedience. Rather, they are a test by Yahuweh. He desires to see whom we lean on whether we will hear and obey His Word, in its simplicity or whether we instead lean on our own understanding, as an idolatrous replacement of His Word.

How to Avoid the Curse

Most New Covenant Believers have been taught that these Scripture Truths we have just examined, somehow do not apply to us today. Even that notion of ‘not applying’ today in itself violates Scripture! Every bit of the Word of Yahuweh will remain forever (Deut 29:29; Psalms 119:160; Isaiah 40:8; 1Pet 1:23; 1Pet 1:25)!

The first step in avoiding the curse is to simply search the Scriptures for yourself, and then to believe (act upon) the words of Yahuweh. Do not listen to those that would tell us this eternal word is not for you today.

We are ‘believing’ Yahuweh only when we take His word as Truth, with child-like faith, so that we act upon it, as a “DO-er” of His Word.

Remember too that every curse has a cause:

As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come. (Proverbs 26:2)

Here we see the curse does not come without a cause. If there is a curse in the house, there is a cause, or reason it is there. Our job is to find out why it came, and take the necessary step to get rid of the cause. Most likely the curse came as a result of an object someone has brought into the house.

Believers having graven images in their homes will eventually become ‘snared’ (to catch in a trap or noose, as taking a prey) if they do not remove these objects:

The graven images <06456> of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take <03947> it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination <08441> to the LORD thy God. (Deuteronomy 7:25)

Neither shalt thou bring an abomination <08441> into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it: but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing. (Deuteronomy 7:26)

Cursed be the man that maketh <06213> any graven <06459> or molten image <04541>an abomination <08441> unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27:15)

In the above passages, we see in (Deut 7:25) that the graven image <06456>, along with the gold and silver from it, is an abomination <08441>. Yahuweh is telling us that graven images are abominations. We are also told not to take <03947> [“fetch, receive, take, accept, or buy”][7] these objects, or their materials, lest we become caught in a snare.

So when we come to (Deut 7:26), we understand quickly that the reason we do not bring the graven images into our home, is because these items are ‘cursed things,’ and they are under Yahuweh’s curse. And if we bring them in, we will come under the same curse.

Notice above in the above verse (Deut. 27:15), that the graven image <06459> and the molten image <04541> are both called abominations <08441>. Because the abomination leads to the curse, and because the graven image is an abomination, we see again how the graven images brought into the home can result in the curse.

The above verse (Deut. 27:15) should be seen as a strong warning against having ‘graven images’ — objects of any living creature, male or female. Yahuweh says cursed are those who ‘do, make, fashion, acquire, gather, show, use, maintain, give, deal, prepare’ any of these objects, and puts them in a covert, sheltered, covered place (such as in a ‘curio’ cabinet to display them, or as a ‘shrine’ to revere them).

Here is how we can avoid coming under a curse from an accursed object:

To avoid the curse from an accursed object:

  1. Do not acquire it;
  2. Do not have it;
  3. Do not bring it into your house or building!

There are other types of curses that are beyond the scope of this writing. Some can actually prevent the Believer from receiving his crown, his place of ruling and reigning with Messiah (Rev 3:11).

But for now, let us remember that Messiah has become a curse for us, in our place, and has taken upon Himself the curse that was upon us. We were pronounced guilty by the Law (“Torah”) and deserved death, but Yahushua has redeemed us from that curse, and has given us His life instead (Gal 3:13). However, Yahushua tells us, “Go, and sin no more” — that is, “Go, and transgress the Law no more” (1John 3:4; John 5:14; 8:11).

Conclusions

We have seen the Scriptural definitions of Graven Images, Idols, and Abominations. We have seen that each of these words has a different meaning, and the Hebrew definitions give us a great deal of information as to their nature, and the effects these objects have on Yahuweh’s people.

We have seen in detail what graven images are — fashioned or fabricated shapes or objects in the likeness of any living creature, male or female. We have seen that an object, by Yahuweh’s definition, may be an idol, whether man is aware of the idolatry or not.

We have seen that in order for an object to be considered forbidden or off-limits, that there are three requirements that must be met:

Summary: Forbidden Objects in Scripture

  1. The image must be graven;
  2. The image must be a similitude, figure, or likeness;
  3. The image or likeness must be that of a male or female of a living being on the earth, in the air or heavens, or in the waters.

We have seen that the result of breaking the commandment is a process that, if not stopped, will eventually lead back to bondage, and banishment away from Yahuweh.

We have seen that the key to understanding these commandments is to notice not only making these objects is prohibited, but simply having them is also a violation, and will result in those in the house coming under the same curse the object is under.

We have seen that those who break these commandments come under the same curse that the object is under.

Disobedience results in a curse, for which cause Yahushua will have a ‘few things against’ those who continue in this sin.

We have seen the way to avoid the curse is to believe the words of Yahuweh — to become a “DO-er” of His Word! Repentance is essential if we now understand that there are objects in our home that are abominations and cursed items.

Our action of repentance is to discard or destroy these forbidden objects!

Beloved, now you know these things:

“If ye know these things,
happy are ye if ye do them.”
(John 13:17)

Comments and Questions:

•Is a cross a graven image?
•Is a picture a graven image?
•Is a photo a graven image?

For these answers and more, see helpful Comments at:

Comments and Questions
Notes from the Wilderness Blog

Further Insight: For pictures of graven images & idols most Believers have in their homes (unknowingly), see the article How to Follow the Second Commandment at Following Yahushua Website.

For an in-depth look at how Scripture defines Graven Images and Idols, proceed to Graven Images and Idols: the Scriptural Definition.

To gain a Scriptural understanding of how Born-Again Believers, as well as entire households can remain under a curse, see How to Break Generational Curses.

Related Articles:

  • Seven Biblical Guidelines for Studying the Bible: Using Scripture to Interpret the Scriptures  New! – What is the source of our current understanding of the Bible? The pure Truths of Scripture are of highest importance — how we understand the Scriptures will affect our eternal condition! To avoid being deceived by man-made doctrines, we must not rely on Preachers, Teachers, Bible notes or commentaries. Instead we must study and understand the Bible for ourselves — not looking through the lenses of tradition or man-made Bible study methods — but relying only on what the Bible actually says about how to study and understand the Scriptures! Here are 7 Biblical Guidelines that show us the way!
  • What Your Pastor Never Told You About The 2nd Commandment – New Testament warnings against idols and idolatry; how Believers today are unknowingly bringing curses into their homes. A brief overview of how these items affect Believers today, for our warning and preparation
  • Eating Things Sacrificed to Idols: A Warning to the Bride – The Scriptures warn of a popular Religious Tradition among most Believers today.
  • The Ten Commandments – Also called The Ten Words, these Scripture passages are shown in both Hebrew and English, enabling us to see for ourselves what these Commandments actually say. When we as New Covenant Believers understand whose words they are, we can better know how to respond to them
  • The Wise and Foolish Virgins – Yahushua tells us why many today are not prepared
  • The Wedding of the King’s Son (A Parable) – A parable, revealing the astonishing – and magnificent – nature of the New Covenant
  • Oil for the Light – Scripture reveals what the Oil for the Lamps is, and what it is NOT, for our warning today
  • The Bride Makes Herself Ready – Reveals when and where we are made ready for the Bridegroom.
  • Esther: The Bride Makes Herself Ready – an in-depth look at Esther’s preparation for our example and warning.
  • Main Menu – More Articles on how we are to prepare for our Bridegroom

References

[1] Idols – Hebrew Words and Definitions

  • <0367> ‘eymah’ =17 (n)(f) [terror, dread, fear; idols]
  • <0408> ‘al’ =12 (neg adv) [none; nothing]
  • <0410> ‘el’ =245 (n)(m) [mighty one; false-gods; demons; the one true Mighty One, Yahuweh; mighty things in nature; mighty men; strength, power; idols]
  • <0457> ‘eliyl’ =20 (adj) [worthless; good for nothing; things of nought] (from <0408>)
  • <01544> ‘gilluwl’ =48 (n)(m) [idol; image] (from <01556>)
  • <01556> ‘galal’=18 (v) [to roll; to wallow; to be rolled]
  • <02535> ‘chamma’ =6 (n)(f) [the sun; heat of the sun]
  • <02553> ‘chamman’ =8 (n)(m) [incense altar; sun-pillar; idol; image] (from <02535>)
  • <04656> ‘miphletseth’ =4 (n)(f) [idol; horrid thing, horrible thing] (from <06426>)
  • <05566> ‘cemel’ =5 (n)(m) [to resemble; an image, figure, statue, or idol]
  • <06087> ‘atsab’ =17 (v) [to hurt, be in pain; to vex, grieve, torture; to be vexed, grieved, tortured; to make, form, copy, fashion, shape, stretch into shape.]
  • <06089> ‘etseb’ =7 (n)(m) [pain, hurt, offense; toil, labour, hardship; creation; object] (from <06087>)
  • <06090> ‘otseb’ =4 (n)(m) [pain; sorrow; wicked; an idol] (from <06089>)
  • <06091> ‘atsab’ =17 (n)(m) [an idol; image] (from <06087>)
  • <06426> ‘palats’ =1 (v) [to shudder; tremble]
  • <06696> ‘tsuwr’ =38 (v) [to besiege, lay siege, distress, bind, assault, make adversary, show hostility, be as adversary, treat as foe; to form, fashion, or delineate]
  • <06735> ‘tsiyr’ =12 (n)(m) [pain, sorrow, distress; envoy or messenger] (from <06696>)
  • <06736> ‘tsiyr’ =2 (n)(m) [image or idol] (same as <06735>)
  • <08251> ‘shiqquwts’ =28 (n)(m) [detestable thing; abominable thing; an idol] (from <08262>)
  • <08262> ‘shaqats’ =7 (v) [to detest; count or consider filthy; to make abominable or detestable]
  • <08655> ‘t@raphiym’ =15 (n)(m) [idol; idolatry; image; a family idol] (from <07495>)
  • <07495> ‘rapha’ =67 (v) [to heal; to cure; to be healed; to be a healer, physician]

Idols – Greek Words and Definitions

  • <1491> ‘eidos’ =5 (n) [external or outward appearance; form, kind; shape] (from <1492>)
  • <1492> ‘eidos’ =666 (v) [to perceive with the eyes, or the senses; to know; to see, notice, discern, discover]
  • <1493> ‘eidoleion’ =1 (n) [idol’s temple; temple consecrated to idols] (from <1497>)
  • <1494> ‘eidolothuton’ =10 (adj) [things sacrificed to idols; flesh left over from heathen sacrifices] (from <1497>, <2380>)
  • <1495> ‘eidololatreia’ =4 (n)(f) [the worship of false gods; idolatry; of the formal sacrificial feats held in honour of false gods of avarice, as a worship of Mammon; in the plural, the vices springing from idolatry and peculiar to it] (from <1497>, <2999>)
  • <1496> ‘eidololatres’ =7 (n)(m) [a worshipper of false gods, an idolater; used of any one as participant in any way in the worship of the heathen, esp. one who attends their sacrificial feasts and eats of the remains of offered victims; a covetous man as a worshipper of Mammon] (from <1497>, <3000>)
  • <1497> ‘eidolon’ =11 (n) [an image; likeness; form whether real or imaginary; a false god] (from <1491>)
  • <2712> ‘kataeidolos’ =1 (adj) [full of idols] (from <2596>, <1497>)
  • <2999> ‘latreia’ =5 (n)(f) [service rendered for hire; any service or ministration: the service of God; the service and worship of God according to the requirements of the Levitical law; to perform sacred services] (from <3000>)
  • <3000> ‘latreuo’ =21 (v) [to serve for hire; to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used alike of slaves and freemen; in the NT, to render religious service or homage, to worship to perform sacred services, to offer gifts, to worship God in the observance of the rites instituted for his worship; of priests, to officiate, to discharge the sacred office] (from ‘latris’- a hired menial)

[4] Graven Images – Hebrew Words and Definitions

  • <04541> ‘maccekah’ = 28 (n)(f) [a pouring, libation, molten metal, cast image, drink offering; libation (with covenant sacrifice); molten metal, molten image, molten gods; web, covering, veil, woven stuff] (from <05258>)
  • <05258> ‘nacak’ = 25 (v) [to pour out, pour, offer, cast; to pour out; to cast metal images; to anoint (a king); to be anointed; to pour out (as a libation); to pour out libations; to be poured out; to set, install; to be installed]
  • <05262> ‘necek’ = 64 (n)(m) [drink offering, libation, molten image, something poured out] (from <05258>)
  • <06456> ‘p@ciyl’ = 23 (n)(f) [graven images; carved images; idols] (from <06458>)
  • <06458> ‘pacal’ = 6 (v) [to cut or hew into shape; hew out, quarry]
  • <06459> ‘pecel’ = 31 (n)(m) [idol; image; graven image; carved image] (from <06458>)

Abominations – Hebrew Words and Definitions

  • <0887> ‘ba’ash’ =17 (v) [to become abomination; to stink; to make or become odious; to abhor]
  • <02194> ‘za’am’ =12 (v) [to be abominable; to be indignant or have indignation; to denounce; to be abhorrent]
  • <06292> ‘pigguwl’ =4 (n)(m) [abomination; foul thing; unclean thing; stinking thing; used for unclean sacrificial flesh]
  • <08251> ‘shiqquwts’ =28 (n)(m) [abomination; detestable thing; abominable thing; an idol] (from <08262>)
  • <08262> ‘shaqats’ =7 (v) [ to make abominable; to detest; count or consider filthy]
  • <08263> ‘sheqets’ =11 (n)(m) [abomination; detestable thing; unclean thing; an idol] (from <08262>)
  • <08441> ‘tow’ebah’ =117 (n)(f) [abomination; disgusting thing; unclean thing; wicked thing] (from <08581>)
  • <08581> ‘ta’ab’ =22 (v) [abominable; to abhor; to be abominable; to do abominably; to loathe; detest; to make-, do-, to cause to become-] – (Ahab did abominably <08581> in following idols-1Ki 21:26.)
  • <111> ‘athemitos’ =2 (adj) [abominable; prohibited by law; unlawful; abominable]
  • <946> ‘bdelugma’ =6 (n)[abomination; foul or detestable thing; pertaining to an idol] (from <948>)
  • <947> ‘bdeluktos’ =1 (adj) [abominable; abominable; detestable]
  • <948> ‘bdelusso’ =2 (v) [to make abominable; to render foul; cause to be abhorred; to abhor, detest]

Similitude, Likeness, and Figure – Hebrew Words and Definitions

  • <08403> ‘tabniyth’ = 20 (n)(f) [pattern, likeness, form, construction, similitude, figure] (from <01129>)
  • <01129>’banah’ = 376 (v) [to build, build up, establish]
  • <08544>’t@muwnah’ = 10 (n)(f) [form, image, likeness, similitude, representation, semblance] (from <04327>)
  • <04327>’miyn’ = 6 (n)(m) [from an unused root meaning to portion out; kind, as species of animals.]

[5] Miscellaneous Hebrew Word Definitions

[6] 06213 `asah {aw-saw’} a primitive root; TWOT – 1708,1709; v
AV — do 1333, make 653, wrought 52, deal 52, commit 49, offer 49, execute 48, keep 48, shew 43, prepare 37, work 29, do so 21, perform 18, get 14, dress 13, maker 13, maintain 7, misc 154; 2633

1) to do, fashion, accomplish, make

1a) (Qal)

1a1) to do, work, make, produce

1a1a) to do

1a1b) to work

1a1c) to deal (with)

1a1d) to act, act with effect, effect

1a2) to make

1a2a) to make

1a2b) to produce

1a2c) to prepare

1a2d) to make (an offering)

1a2e) to attend to, put in order

1a2f) to observe, celebrate

1a2g) to acquire (property)

1a2h) to appoint, ordain, institute

1a2i) to bring about

1a2j) to use

1a2k) to spend, pass

1b) (Niphal)

1b1) to be done

1b2) to be made

1b3) to be produced

1b4) to be offered

1b5) to be observed

1b6) to be used

1c) (Pual) to be made

2) (Piel) to press, squeeze

[2] 05647 `abad {aw-bad’} a primitive root; TWOT – 1553; v
AV – serve 227, do 15, till 9, servant 5, work 5, worshippers 5, service 4, dress 2, labour 2, ear 2, misc 14; 290

1) to work, serve

1a) (Qal)

1a1) to labour, work, do work

1a2) to work for another, serve another by labour

1a3) to serve as subjects

1a4) to serve (God)

1a5) to serve (with Levitical service)

1b) (Niphal)

1b1) to be worked, be tilled (of land)

1b2) to make oneself a servant

1c) (Pual) to be worked

1d) (Hiphil)

1d1) to compel to labour or work, cause to labour, cause to serve

1d2) to cause to serve as subjects

1e) (Hophal) to be led or enticed to serve

[3] 05080 nadach {naw-dakh’} a primitive root; TWOT – 1304; v
AV – drive 18, drive out 6, …away 6, outcasts 5, cast out 3, banished 2, bring 1, go astray 1, chased 1, compelled 1, down 1, expelled 1, misc 6; 52

1) to impel, thrust, drive away, banish

1a) (Qal)

1a1) to impel

1a2) to thrust away, banish

1b) (Niphal)

1b1) to be impelled

1b2) to be thrust out, be banished

1b2a) banished, outcast (participle)

1b3) to be driven away

1b4) to be thrust away, thrust aside

1c) (Pual) to be thrust into

1c1) thrust (participle)

1d) (Hiphil)

1d1) to thrust, move, impel

1d2) to thrust out, banish

1d3) to thrust away, thrust aside

1e) (Hophal) to be chased, be hunted

1e1) chased, hunted (participle)

[7] 03947 laqach {law-kakh’}  a primitive root; TWOT – 1124; v
AV – take 747, receive 61, take away 51, fetch 31, bring 25, get 6, take out 6, carry away 5, married 4, buy 3, misc 26; 965

1) to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, receive, acquire, buy, bring, marry, take a wife, snatch, take away

1a) (Qal)

1a1) to take, take in the hand

1a2) to take and carry along

1a3) to take from, take out of, take, carry away, take away

1a4) to take to or for a person, procure, get, take possession of, select, choose, take in marriage, receive, accept

1a5) to take up or upon, put upon

1a6) to fetch

1a7) to take, lead, conduct

1a8) to take, capture, seize

1a9) to take, carry off

1a10) to take (vengeance)

1b) (Niphal)

1b1) to be captured

1b2) to be taken away, be removed

1b3) to be taken, brought unto

1c) (Pual)

1c1) to be taken from or out of

1c2) to be stolen from

1c3) to be taken captive

1c4) to be taken away, be removed

1d) (Hophal)

1d1) to be taken unto, be brought unto

1d2) to be taken out of

1d3) to be taken away

1e) (Hithpael)

1e1) to take hold of oneself

1e2) to flash about (of lightning)Home | Main Menu | Links | Sitemap“If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief,
and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” (Rev 3:3)

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What is an idol?

Recently I have encounter an interesting thought of what makes an ordinary thing become an idol? According to Webster it is defined as:

Definition of idol

1an object of extreme devotiona movie idolalso IDEAL sense 2

2a representation or symbol of an object of worshipbroadly a false god

3aa likeness of something

bobsolete PRETENDERIMPOSTOR

4a false conception FALLACY

5a form or appearance visible but without substancean enchanted phantom, a lifeless idol— P. B. Shelley

Further the Easton dictionary of biblical terms state:

Dictionaries – Easton’s Bible Dictionary – Idolatry

Idolatry [N] [T] [S]

image-worship or divine honour paid to any created object. Paul describes the origin of idolatry in Romans 1:21-25 : men forsook God, and sank into ignorance and moral corruption ( 1:28 ).

The forms of idolatry are,

·  Fetishism, or the worship of trees, rivers, hills, stones, etc.

·  Nature worship, the worship of the sun, moon, and stars, as the supposed powers of nature.

·  Hero worship, the worship of deceased ancestors, or of heroes.

In Scripture, idolatry is regarded as of heathen origin, and as being imported among the Hebrews through contact with heathen nations. The first allusion to idolatry is in the account of Rachel stealing her father’s teraphim ( Genesis 31:19 ), which were the relics of the worship of other gods by Laban’s progenitors “on the other side of the river in old time” ( Joshua 24:2 ). During their long residence in Egypt the Hebrews fell into idolatry, and it was long before they were delivered from it ( Joshua 24:14 ; Ezekiel 20:7 ). Many a token of God’s displeasure fell upon them because of this sin.

I know that I stepped on many toes about now and I yet to scratch the surface. If we are to get closer to our God then we have to know how He views this subject, wouldn’t you agree? Where do we see this first mentioned in the scripture?

In Exodus 20 let us examine what it says:

“You have no other mighty ones against My face. “You do not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of that which is in the heavens above, or which is in the earth beneath, or which is in the waters under the earth, you do not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, YHVH your Elohim am a jealous visiting the crookedness of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and guard My commands.

Exodus 20:3-6 (The Scriptures 1998)

Lets compare this to the KJV and see what it says:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:3-6

They are virtually the same, so what do these words mean?

The word for image is:

H6459

פּסל

pesel

peh’-sel

From H6458; an idol: – carved (graven) image.

This is a three dimensional craved thing.

The word that is translated as likeness is from:

H8544

תּמנה    תּמוּנה

temûnâh  temûnâh

tem-oo-naw’, tem-oo-naw’

From H4327; something portioned (that is, fashioned) out, as a shape, that is, (indefinitely) phantom, or (specifically) embodiment, or (figuratively) manifestation (of favor): – image, likeness, similitude.

This is something that can be molded or fashioned. It is something that can be gazed at either something or someone that is to marveled at or worshipped.

According to Why Am I (YMI)  https://ymi.today/2016/06/5-signs-that-something-is-an-idol-in-your-life/

They identify 5 signs you have an idol in your life:

5 SIGNS THAT SOMETHING IS AN IDOL IN YOUR LIFE

Jun 7, 2016/4 Comments/in TOPICSWorld /by Contributor

Written By Grace Debora, Indonesia

Iwas swept up by the Korean wave and became an avid follower of K-Pop in 2009. Back then, I was obsessed with the 12-member boy band, Super Junior. Every break time, my friends and I would gather and talk excitedly about our favorite members, gush over YouTube videos we had watched the night before, or share facts we dug up about them.

Pop culture has become an entrenched and essential part of the lives of young people today. Who hasn’t heard of the queen of pop, Taylor Swift, the popular British boy band, One Direction, or heartthrob Song Joong-ki of the recent K-drama hit, Descendants of the Sun? With the accessibility of information, it’s easy to find ourselves obsessing about our favorite “idols” and getting wrapped up in what’s going on in their lives. In my case, this pattern went on for about a year until God pulled me back and showed me that my life focus had shifted.

Today, the term “idol” is used flippantly to refer to celebrities or whoever we revere or hero-worship. But in the Scriptures, “idol” refers to foreign gods or anything that replace God in our life. In fact, the first commandment God gave to the Israelites was, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Amid a culture of idolatry, God explicitly commanded His people to worship Him alone.

And He demands the same of us today. But first, we need to identify what “idols” we have in our lives. For me, these were the signs that showed something else had replaced God in my life:

1. Time

The amount of time we spend on something reveals how important it is to us. When I was obsessed about Super Junior, I would spend all my time after school downloading and watching videos of them, and reading up about them.

2. Energy and resources

Along with time, we might find ourselves pouring our energy and resources willingly into cultivating our interests. I remember spending a lot of money on Super Junior’s albums, concerts, merchandise, and even on programs organized by the international fan club. Emotions-wise, I was so invested that I sometimes got mad at others who would bad-mouth my favorite artists—to the point that I found myself despising them.

3. Phone content

What we browse online, listen to, or view on our playlists or our social media accounts indicates what we’re preoccupied with. Back then, all the pictures on my phone were of Super Junior, my playlist had almost every song from every album they released and my social media accounts were flooded with updates by the fan clubs or the stars themselves. I followed many K-pop news sites and even signed up for an account in a foreign language so that I could follow their updates.

4. State of affairs

When God is not first and foremost in our lives, our lives show. Life becomes disorderly and things take a turn for the worst. During those moments where I lived and breathed Super Junior, I was sleep-deprived, haphazard in my school assignments, and lackluster in my service in church. Even though I followed a Bible reading plan, my mind was far away from His Word.  

5. Community

“Birds of a feather flock together.” That was evident in my life. All my friends were those who liked the same idol group and we did similar things together. At first, our conversation seemed lively and our friendship fun, but in reality, it brought me nowhere.

I started to limit my involvement in church, and did not bother to get to know others outside my group of friends who loved Super Junior. I also did not find it necessary to mingle with other friends—I thought my group of friends was the best. Later on, I found out that some friends stopped hanging out with us because they had felt left out.

Although God used friends, sermons, and devotions to sound the alarm in my life, I ignored the warning signs until one particular sermon forced me to question who I am and what I live for. That’s when it struck me that I had been wasting my life. Guilt and regret overwhelmed me when I came face to face with the reality that God was not the one I was worshipping; I had made Super Junior an idol.

So I repented. I deleted all the videos, threw away all the merchandise I had collected, and basically, removed all things related to Super Junior. It was hard at first—but that feeling only lasted for a week. The hardest part was not being able to keep up with the conversations. I tried changing the topic. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Nonetheless, I thank God that He helped me retain my friends. Moreover, God brought back the close friends I thought I had lost!

Idols may come in many different forms. It may be our work, social media, drama serials, or even our church ministry—anything that causes us to lose our focus and personal time with God. In college, I was addicted to watching movies. But thankfully, God made that known to me and enabled me to change.

God will not allow His children to remain in their sins. He wants us to live according to His plan and will. Therefore, He will use various ways to bring us back to Him. And if we recognize that God is prompting us to return to Him, let’s hurry back and return. Let’s put Him first and foremost in our lives.

Photo credit: mduangdara via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

So as you can see idols can take the shape in many ways. There are many ways this can manifest when confronted here’s another article which shows what can happen when confronting idolatry:

Getting to the Heart of Conflict

rw360.org/getting-to-the-heart-of-conflict

What Causes Fights and Quarrels?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could simply renounce their bad habits and decide to respond to conflict in a gracious and constructive way? But it is not that easy. In order to break free from the pattern they have fallen into, they need to understand why they react to conflict the way they do.

Jesus provides us with clear guidance on this issue. During His earthly ministry, a young man approached the Lord and asked Him to settle an inheritance dispute with his brother. “Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:13-15).

This passage reveals a common human pattern. When faced with conflict, we tend to focus passionately on what our opponent has done wrong or should do to make things right. In contrast, God always calls us to focus on what is going on in our own hearts when we are at odds with others. Why? Because our heart is the wellspring of all our thoughts, words, and actions, and therefore the source of our conflicts. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

The heart’s central role in conflict is vividly described in James 4:1-3. If you understand this passage, you will have found a key to preventing and resolving conflict.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

This passage describes the root cause of destructive conflict: Conflicts arise from unmet desires in our hearts. When we feel we cannot be satisfied unless we have something we want or think we need, the desire turns into a demand. If someone fails to meet that desire, we condemn him in our heart and quarrel and fight to get our way. In short, conflict arises when desires grow into demands and we judge and punish those who get in our way. Let us look at this progression one step at a time.

The Progression of an Idol1

I Desire

Conflict always begins with some kind of desire. Some desires are inherently wrong, such as vengeance, lust, or greed. But many desires are not wrong in and of themselves. For example, there is nothing innately wrong about desiring things like peace and quiet, a clean home, a new computer, professional success, an intimate relationship with your spouse, or respectful children.

If a good desire, such as wanting an intimate relationship with your spouse, is not being met, it is perfectly legitimate to talk about it with your spouse. As you talk, you may discover ways that both of you can help to fulfill each other in mutually beneficial ways. If not, it may be appropriate to seek help from your pastor or a Christian counselor who can assist you in understanding your differences and strengthening your marriage.

But what if your spouse persistently fails to meet a particular desire and is unwilling to discuss it further with you or anyone else? This is where you stand at a crossroad. On the one hand, you can trust God and seek your fulfillment in Him (Psalm 73:25). You can ask Him to help you to continue to grow and mature no matter what your spouse does (James 1:2-4). And you can continue to love your spouse and pray for God’s sanctifying work in his or her life (1 John 4:19-21; Luke 6:27-28). If you follow this course, God promises to bless you and use your difficult situation to conform you to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8:28-29).

On the other hand, you can dwell on your disappointment and allow it to control your life. At the very least, this will result in self-pity and bitterness toward your spouse. At worst, it can destroy your marriage. Let us look at how this downward spiral evolves.

 I Demand

Unmet desires have the potential of working themselves deeper and deeper into our hearts. This is especially true when we come to see a desire as something we need or deserve, and therefore must have in order to be happy or fulfilled. There are many ways to justify or legitimize a desire.

  • “I work hard all week. Don’t I deserve a little peace and quiet when I come home?”
  • “I worked two jobs to put you through school; I deserve your respect and appreciation.”
  • “I spend hours managing the family budget; I really need a new computer.”
  • “The Bible says we should save up to cover unexpected problems; we need to tighten our budget so we can put more into savings.”
  • “God has given me a gift for developing new businesses, and He calls me to work hard to support our family. I deserve to have more of your support.”
  • “Scripture says a husband and wife should be completely united in love. I need to have more intimacy with you.”
  • “I only want what God commands: children who have learned to respect their parents and use their God-given gifts to the fullest.”

There is an element of validity in each of these statements. The trouble is that if our desire is not met, these attitudes can lead to a vicious cycle. The more we want something, the more we think of it as something we need and deserve. And the more we think we are entitled to it, the more convinced we are that we cannot be happy and secure without it.

When we see our object of desire as being essential to our fulfillment and well-being, it moves from being a desire to a demand. “I wish I could have this” evolves into “I must have this!” This is where trouble sets in. Even if the initial desire was not inherently wrong, it has grown so strong that it begins to control our thoughts and behavior. In biblical terms, it has become an “idol.”

Most of us think of an idol as a statue of wood, stone, or metal worshiped by pagan people. But the concept is much broader and far more personal than that. An idol is anything apart from God that we depend on to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. In biblical terms it is something other than God that we set our heart on (Luke 12:29), that motivates us (1 Corinthians 4:5), that masters and rules us (Psalm 119:133; Ephesians 5:5), or that we trust, fear, or serve (Isaiah 42:17; Matthew 6:24; Luke 12:4-5). In short, it is something we love and pursue in place of God (see Philippians 3:19).

Given its controlling effect on our lives, an idol can also be referred to as a “false god” or a “functional god.” As Martin Luther wrote, “To whatever we look for any good thing and for refuge in every need, that is what is meant by ‘god.’ To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in him from the heart…. To whatever you give your heart and entrust your being, that, I say, is really your god.”2

Even sincere Christians struggle with idolatry. We may believe in God and say we want to serve Him only, but at times we allow other influences to rule us. In this sense we are no different from the ancient Israelites: “Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their fathers did” (2 Kings 17:41).

It is important to emphasize the fact that idols can arise from good desires as well as wicked desires. It is often not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too much. For example, it is not unreasonable for a man to want a passionate sexual relationship with his wife, or for a wife to want open and honest communication with her husband, or for either of them to want a steadily growing savings account. These are good desires, but if they turn into demands that must be met in order for either spouse to be satisfied and fulfilled, they result in bitterness, resentment, or self-pity that can destroy a marriage.

How can you discern when a good desire might be turning into a sinful demand? You can begin by prayerfully asking yourself “X-ray” questions that reveal the true condition of your heart.

  • What am I preoccupied with? What is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night?
  • How would I complete this statement: “If only _____________, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and secure”?
  • What do I want to preserve or avoid?
  • Where do I put my trust?
  • What do I fear?
  • When a certain desire is not met, do I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or depression?

Is there something I desire so much that I am willing to disappoint or hurt others in order to have it?

As you search your heart for idols, you will often encounter multiple layers of concealment, disguise, and justification. As mentioned earlier, one of the most subtle cloaking devices is to argue that we want only what God Himself commands.

For example, a mother may desire that her children be respectful and obedient to her, kind to one another, and diligent in developing their gifts and talents. And she can back up each goal with a specific scripture that shows that God Himself desires such behavior.

When they do not fulfill these goals, even after her repeated encouragement or correction, she may feel frustrated, angry, or resentful. She needs to ask, “Why am I feeling this way? Is it a righteous anger that they are not living up to God’s standards? Or is it a selfish anger that they are not giving me the smooth, comfortable, and convenient day I want?”

In most cases, it will be a mixture of both. Part of her truly wants to see her children love and obey God in every way, both for His glory and for their good. But another part of her is motivated by a desire for her own comfort and convenience. Which desire is really controlling her heart and reactions?

If the God-centered desire is dominating the mother’s heart, her response to disobedient children should be characterized by God’s discipline toward her. “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). As she imitates God, her response will line up with corrective guidelines found in Galatians 6:1: “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” In other words, although her discipline may be direct and firm, it will be wrapped in gentleness and love, and leave no residue of resentment or unforgiveness.

On the other hand, if her desire for comfort and convenience has become an idol, her reaction to her children will be much different. It will be characterized by smoldering anger as well as harsh and unnecessarily hurtful words or discipline. She may feel bitterness or resentment that her desires have been frustrated. And even after disciplining her children, she may maintain a lingering coolness toward them that extends their punishment and warns them not to cross her again. If this latter group of attitudes and actions frequently characterizes her response, it is a sign that her desire for godly children has probably evolved into an idolatrous demand.

I Judge

Another sign of idolatry is the inclination to judge other people. When they fail to satisfy our desires and live up to our expectations, we criticize and condemn in our hearts if not with our words. As Dave Powlison writes:

We judge others—criticize, nit-pick, nag, attack, condemn— because we literally play God. This is heinous.[The Bible says]”There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you to judge your neighbor?” Who are you when you judge? None other than a God wannabe. In this, we become like the Devil himself (no surprise that the Devil is mentioned in James 3:15 and 4:7). We act exactly like the adversary who seeks to usurp God’s throne and who acts as the accuser of the brethren. When you and I fight, our minds become filled with accusations: your wrongs and my rights preoccupy me. We play the self-righteous judge in the mini-kingdoms we establish.3

This insight should leave us shaking in our boots! When we judge others and condemn them in our hearts for not meeting our desires, we are imitating the Devil (see James 3:15; 4:7). We have doubled our idolatry problem: Not only have we let an idolatrous desire rule our hearts, but we have also set ourselves up as judging minigods. This is a formula for excruciating conflict.

This is not to say that it is inherently wrong to evaluate or even judge others within certain limits. Scripture teaches that we should observe and evaluate others’ behavior so that we can respond and minister to them in appropriate ways, which may even involve loving confrontation (see Matthew 7:1-5; 18:15; Galatians 6:1).

We cross the line, however, when we begin to sinfully judge others, which is characterized by a feeling of superiority, indignation, condemnation, bitterness, or resentment. Sinful judging often involves speculating on others’ motives. Most of all, it reveals the absence of a genuine love and concern toward them. When these attitudes are present, our judging has crossed the line and we are playing God.

The closer we are to others, the more we expect of them and the more likely we are to judge them when they fail to meet our expectations. For example, we may look at our spouse and think, “If you really love me, you above all people will help meet this need.” We think of our children and say, “After all I’ve done for you, you owe this to me.”

We can place similar expectations on relatives, close friends, or members of our church. Expectations are not inherently bad. It is good to hope for the best in others and reasonable to anticipate receiving understanding and support from those who are closest to us.

But if we are not careful, these expectations can become conditions and standards that we use to judge others. Instead of giving people room for independence, disagreement, or failure, we rigidly impose our expectations on them. In effect, we expect them to give allegiance to our idols. When they refuse to do so, we condemn them in our hearts and with our words, and our conflicts with them take on a heightened intensity.

I Punish

Idols always demand sacrifices. When others fail to satisfy our demands and expectations, our idols demand that they should suffer. Whether deliberately or unconsciously, we will find ways to hurt or punish people so they will give in to our desires.

This punishment can take many forms. Sometimes we react in overt anger, lashing out with hurtful words to inflict pain on those who fail to meet our expectations. When we do so, we are essentially placing others on the altar of our idol and sacrificing them, not with a pagan knife, but with the sharp edge of our tongue. Only when they give in to our desire and give us what we want will we stop inflicting pain upon them.

But we punish those who don’t bow to our idols in numerous other ways as well. Our children may use pouting, stomping, or dirty looks to hurt us for not meeting their desires. Adults and children alike may impose guilt or shame on others by walking around with pained or crushed looks on their faces. Some people even resort to physical violence or sexual abuse to punish and control others.

As we grow in faith and awareness of our sin, most of us recognize and reject overt and obviously sinful means of punishing others. But our idols do not give up their influence easily, and they often lead us to develop more subtle means of punishing those who do not serve them.

Withdrawal from a relationship is a common way to hurt others. This may include a subtle coolness toward the other person, withholding affection or physical contact, being sad or gloomy, refusing to look someone in the eye, or even abandoning the relationship altogether.

Sending subtle, unpleasant cues over a long period of time is an age-old method of inflicting punishment. For example, a friend of mine mentioned to me that his wife was not pleased with the fact that he was giving so much time to a particular ministry. He closed by saying, “And as we all know, when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!” He laughed as he said it, but his comment made me think of the proverb, “A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day” (Proverbs 27:15). A woman has a unique ability to set the tone in a home. If she is not careful, she can pervert that gift and use it to create an unpleasant or uncomfortable atmosphere that tells her family, “Either get in line with what I want, or you will suffer.” Such behavior is an act of unbelief: Instead of relying on God’s means of grace to sanctify her family, she depends on her own tools of punishment to manipulate them into change. Of course, a man can do the same thing; by being perpetually critical and unhappy, he too can make everyone in the family miserable until they give in to his idols. The usual result of such behavior is a superficial, splintered family.

Inflicting pain on others is one of the surest signs that an idol is ruling our hearts (see James 4:1-3). When we catch ourselves punishing others in any way, whether deliberately and overtly or unconsciously and subtly, it is a warning that something other than God is ruling our hearts.

The Cure for an Idolatrous Heart

An idol, as we have seen, is any desire that has grown into a consuming demand that rules our heart; it is something we think we must have to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. To put it another way, it is something we love, fear, or trust.

Love, fear, trust—these are words of worship! Jesus commands us to love God, fear God, and trust God and God alone (Matthew 22:37; Luke 12:4-5; John 14:1). Any time we long for something apart from God, fear something more than God, or trust in something other than God to make us happy, fulfilled, or secure, we are engaging in the worship of false gods. As a result, we deserve the judgment and wrath of the true God.

Deliverance from Judgment

There is only one way out of this bondage and judgment: It is to look to God Himself, who loves to deliver people from their idols. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3).

God has provided the cure for our idolatry by sending His Son to experience the punishment that we deserve because of our sin. Through Jesus Christ we can become righteous in God’s sight and find freedom from sin and idolatry. “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

To receive this forgiveness and freedom, we must acknowledge our sin, repent of it, and put our trust in Jesus Christ (see Acts 3:19; Psalm 32:5). When we do, we are no longer under God’s judgment. Instead, He brings us into His family, makes us His children and heirs, and enables us to live a godly life (Galatians 4:4-7). This is the good news of the gospel—forgiveness and eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Deliverance from Specific Idols

Yet there is more good news. God wants to deliver us not only from our general problem with sin and idolatry, but also from the specific, day-to-day idols that consume us, control us, and cause conflict with those around us.

This deliverance is not done in blanket fashion, with all our idols being swept away in one great spiritual experience. Instead, God calls us to identify and confess our idols one by one, and then to cooperate with Him as He steadily removes them bit by bit from our hearts.

God conveys His grace to help us in this identification and deliverance process via three vehicles: His Bible, His Spirit, and His church. The Bible is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). As you diligently study and meditate on the Bible and sit under regular, sound preaching, God will use His Word like a spotlight and a scalpel in your heart. It will reveal your idolatrous desires and show you how to love and worship God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

The Holy Spirit aids our deliverance from idols by helping us to understand the Bible, to identify our sin, and to pursue a godly life (1 Corinthians 2:10-15; Philippians 2:13). Therefore, we should pray on a daily basis for the Spirit to guide, convict, and strengthen us in our walk with Christ.

Finally, God has surrounded us with brothers and sisters in Christ who can teach us, lovingly confront us about our idols, and provide encouragement and guidance in our spiritual growth (Galatians 6:1; Romans 15:14). This requires that we commit ourselves to consistent involvement in a solid, biblical church and seek regular fellowship and accountability from spiritually mature believers.

Through these three vehicles of grace, God will help you examine your life and progressively expose and deliver you from the idols that rule your heart. This process involves several key steps.

  • Prayerfully ask yourself the “X-ray” questions listed previously, which will help you discern the desires that have come to rule your heart.
  • Keep track of your discoveries in a journal so that you can identify patterns and steadily go after specific idols.
  • Pray daily that God would rob your idols of their influence in your life by making you miserable whenever you give in to them.
  • Describe your idols to your spouse and an accountability partner, and ask them to pray for you and lovingly confront you when they see signs that the idol is still controlling you.
  • Realize that idols are masters of change and disguise. As soon as you gain a victory over a particular sinful desire, your idol is likely to reappear in a related form, with a redirected desire and more subtle means of attracting your attention.
  • If you are dealing with an idol that is difficult to identify or conquer, go to your pastor or some other spiritually mature advisor, and seek his or her counsel and support.

Most of all, ask God to replace your idols with a growing love for Him and a consuming desire to worship Him and Him alone (more on this below).

If someone told you that you had a deadly cancer that would take your life if you did not get treatment, you would probably spare no effort or expense in pursuing the most rigorous treatment available. Well, you do have cancer, a cancer of the soul. It is called sin and idolatry. But there is a cure. It is called the gospel of Jesus Christ, and it is administered through the Word, the Spirit, and the church. The more rigorously you avail yourself of these means of grace, the greater effect they will have in delivering you from the idols that plague your soul.

Replace Idol Worship with Worship of the True God

In his excellent book Future Grace, John Piper teaches that “sin is what you do when you are not fully satisfied in God.”4 The same may be said about idolatry: It is what we do when we are not fully satisfied in God. In other words, if we are not fulfilled and secure in God, we will inevitably seek other sources of happiness and security.

Therefore, if you want to squeeze the idols out of your heart and leave no room for them to return, make it your top priority to aggressively pursue an all-consuming worship for the living God. Ask Him to teach you how to love, fear, and trust Him more than anything in this world. Replacing idol worship with worship of the true God involves several steps:

Repent before God. When we repent and confess our sins and idols, believing in our forgiveness through Christ, we also confess our faith in Christ. Repentance and confession of our faith in the true God is true worship (1 John 1:8-10). “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17; see also Isaiah 66:2b).

  • Fear God. Stand in awe of the true God when you are tempted to fear others or are afraid of losing something precious. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of

[all wisdom]

” (Proverbs 1:7). “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared” (Psalm 130:3-4). Love God. Desire the One who forgives us and provides everything we need instead of looking to other things that cannot save you. “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ ” (Matthew 22:37). “Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:10). “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). Trust God. Rely on the One who sacrificed His Son for you and has proven Himself to be absolutely dependable in every situation. “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man” (Psalm 118:8). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4). Delight in God. Find your greatest joy in thinking about God, meditating on His works, talking to others about Him, praising Him, and giving Him thanks. “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long” (Psalm 71:8). “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

As these passages indicate, God has designed a wonderful cycle for those who want to worship Him above all things. As you love, praise, give thanks, and delight yourself in God, He will fulfill your desires with the best thing in the world: more of Himself! And as you learn to delight more and more in Him, you will feel less need to find happiness, fulfillment, and security in the things of this world. By God’s grace, the influence of idolatry and conflict in your family can be steadily diminished, and you and your family can enjoy the intimacy and security that come from worshiping the one true God.

Endnotes

1 I owe Paul Tripp, David Powlison, and Ed Welch of the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (www.CCEF.org) a great debt for the many insights they have given to me on this topic through their books and seminars.

2 F. Samuel Janzow, Luther’s Large Catechism: A Contemporary Translation with Study Questions (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1978), p. 13.

3 Journal of Biblical Counseling 16, no. 1, fall 1997.

4 John Piper, Future Grace (Sisters, Ore: Multnomah), page 9.

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Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict © 2004 by Ken Sande. All Rights Reserved. See Chapter 5 for more information on getting to the heart of conflict. Download Chapter 1 for free at this link.

So now we identified what idolatry is, what must we do to repent from it? In Ezekiel 14 starting in 4 it reads;

“Therefore speak to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus said the Master YHVH, “Everyone of the house of Yisra’who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts the stumbling-block of his crookedness before his face, and shall come to the prophet – I YHVH shall answer him who comes, according to his many idols, in order to lay hold of the house of Yisra’by their heart, for they have become estranged from Me by their idols, all of them.” ’ “Therefore say to the house of Yisra’‘Thus said the Master YHVH, “Repent, and turn back from your idols, and turn back your faces from all your abominations. “For anyone of the house of Yisra’or of the strangers who sojourn in Yisra’who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts the stumbling-block of his crookedness before his face, and shall come to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I YHVH shall answer him Myself. “And I shall set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I shall cut him off from the midst of My people. And you shall know that I am YHVH. “And if the prophet is deceived, and shall speak a word, I YHVH have deceived that prophet, and shall stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from the midst of My people Yisra’“And they shall bear their crookedness, the crookedness of the prophet is the same as the crookedness of the inquirer, so that the house of Yisra’no longer strays from Me, nor be made unclean any more with all their transgressions. And they shall be My people and I be their Elohim,” declares the Master YHVH.’ ” Ezekiel 14:4-11 The Scriptures 1998+

So in all of this we must not put anything or anyone in a position that we set them in heart as an idol. As with all things we must approach this with much prayer and seek YHVH  that He will reveal what is in our heart. And when He reveals it to us repent and turn back to Him in humbleness and make sure we are putting Him first and foremost in all that we do.