Idolatry: The Secret Sin of the Heart
The notion of the retributive irony has to do with being punished by means of your own sin. Can believers suffer this kind of retributive irony? I want to address two things in this article. First of all, let’s focus a little bit more on another example of being punished by means of our own sin—the notion of idol worship. Psalm 115 (and its parallel in Psalm 135) says, “The idols of the nations are silver and gold. They have eyes, but they can’t see; they have ears, but they can’t hear; they have mouths, but they cannot speak. Those who make them will become like them, even those who worship them.”
The idea in these verses is that the nations are building these idols that look like people or animals. They have eyes, but they can’t see; ears, but they can’t hear. This concept is true spiritually, not just physically. Despite popular believe in the ancient world—that is, the idea that if you worship idols it will bring you blessing—the truth is that it will only bring you death. Behind the idols, it’s not just nothing, it’s spiritual death and demons!
Deuteronomy 29:4 says, “So you will begin to have eyes but not seeing and ears but not hearing.” In this passage, Moses is referring to spiritual eyes that aren’t seeing and spiritual ears that aren’t hearing. That’s what the Prophet Isaiah also refers to in Isaiah 6:9-10, which says, “This people, they have eyes but they can’t see and ears but they can’t hear.”
Generation after generation, Israel has been recalcitrant and they have not repented to the prophetic warnings (of Isaiah and others before him). “Stop the idolatry and trust in me,” the Lord says.
And since they refuse to listen, God says, “You love your idols? I’m going to hand you over to them. You’re going to have eyes but can’t see, and ears but can’t hear. Not in the sense that you’re going to become petrified stone like the idols, but you’re going to become as spiritually lifeless and inanimate as the idols. You like them? Okay, you’re going to become just like them.”
When we’re committed to something else that doesn’t have the Spirit of God, we become as spiritually inanimate as that thing to which we are committed. The other question I want to pose is, “Can believers be affected by this?” I wouldn’t say that Christians are ever under the judgment of God after they believe, because Christ has taken that judgment. But there are disciplinary measures that God puts us through when we begin to wander from the path to which we’ve been called. We can be idol worshippers, and we can sustain damage as a result—all of us. In fact, I would say a principle of sanctification is that we won’t be fully sanctified until we die, or see the Lord when He comes back.
The principle of sanctification is that all of us, to one degree or another, are idol worshippers. Calvin said the heart is an idol factory—and that’s true to one degree or another. There are subtle ways that we can worship and be committed to other things instead of the Lord. And when we’re committed to something else that doesn’t have the Spirit of God, we become as spiritually inanimate as that thing to which we are committed.
Maybe it’s a girlfriend, maybe it’s a boyfriend, maybe it’s a job, money, a hobby, or sports. Whatever you’re committed to, if you’re committed to that more than the Lord, then you’re going to become (at least to some degree, depending on the degree of your commitment) spiritually lifeless and inanimate. The Lord needs to break through if you’re a believer. How does the Lord do that? Through His Word. It’s a living Word, and it can break through to us by the Holy Spirit, and shock us back into the reality of our relationship with the Lord—as His sons and daughters.