John Barry on The Pain of Idolatry

Idolatry causes pain. If this truth were present in our minds each time we placed something before God, we would make different decisions. Micah’s account of the sins of Samaria makes this fact painfully and dramatically clear:

“So I [Yahweh] will make Samaria as a heap of rubble in the field, a place for planting a vineyard. And I will pour down her stones into the valley and uncover her foundations. Then all her idols will be broken in pieces, and all her prostitution wages will be burned in the fire, and all her idols I will make a desolation. For from the wage of a prostitute she gathered them, and to the wage of a prostitute they will return. On account of this I will lament and wail. I will go about barefoot and naked. I will make a lamentation like the jackals, and a mourning ceremony like the ostriches” (Mic 1:6–8).

Throughout this section, God and the prophet’s voices intermingle, a common occurrence in prophetic literature. This device creates a sense of empathy, both for God’s perspective on idolatry and for the people’s pain as the consequences of their idolatry bear down on them. Micah’s position is one we should emulate. When we understand what God feels, we begin to see the world from His perspective. When we feel what others feel, we’re able to meet their needs and learn to love them as fully and radically as God loves us.

Micah’s depiction of idolatry—how God views it and what it does to us—should be a wake-up call. When God takes second place in our lives, we inflict pain on Him, ourselves, and others. We shove Him out of His rightful place and thus move ourselves out of relationship with Him. But when He is the focus of our lives, we have an opportunity to empathize with others and to love them—and our idols dissipate like smoke.

How are you combating idolatry in your life? How are you showing love to people who love idols?

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Adapted from Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan by John D. Barry and Rebecca Van Noord.