Idols in the heart 2
By Ivan Ho 21 Oct 2016
Then some elders of Israel came to me and sat down before me. And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts and have put right before their faces the stumbling block of their iniquity. Should I be consulted by them at all?
Ezekiel 14:1-3 NASB
Ezekiel 14 tells us that certain elders, who were experienced men amongst the Israelites, came to Ezekiel the prophet to consult him to get his prophetic insights from God. In other words, these men wanted to get a word from the Lord through Ezekiel, who was regarded as a true prophet or a spokesman for God.
As soon as these elders sat down with Ezekiel, however, the Lord revealed to him their heart conditions, that they had set up idols in their hearts!
Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord God , “Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols.”‘
Ezekiel 14:4-5 NASB
What does it mean when someone sets up his idols in his heart and how does it affect his relationship with God?
First, an idol is whatever takes the place of God in a person’s heart. An idol can be a girlfriend, a boyfriend, a spouse, the love of money, a job, a hobby or whatever occupies the mind and heart of someone so much that his or her heart is no longer totally devoted to God. He may still have a heart for God but his heart is divided. It’s like he sets up multiple altars in his heart which he worships different gods that he idolises.
When a person’s heart has been given to idolatry, he is in a precariously dangerous position unless he repents.
When someone sets idols in his heart, certain things have taken place in his heart.
1. Alienation from God
When a person has idols in his heart, God is no longer in friendly terms with him or her. Once someone sets his heart on idols, he alienates himself from God, or God withdraws Himself from that person. I didn’t make this up, God Himself said it:
“I the Lord will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols, in order to lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel who are estranged from Me through all their idols.”
According to Strong’s concordance, the word ‘estranged‘ (Hebrew: zûr) means strange or strangers, hence the person with idols in his heart becomes a stranger to God.
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, when a person is estranged from his family or friends, he is no longer friendly with them.
Have you known people with whom you used to be friendly but somehow turned into total strangers as if you never knew them before? That’s what happens with a person’s relationship with God when idols are set in his heart.
God may not abandon the believer but at the same time, He is no longer friendly with him either as long as idols remain in his heart. God never tolerates the presence of idols. He is not One who tolerates the presence of multiple gods in a person’s heart.
2. Inability to hear God clearly
A believer who carries idols in his or her heart is not in the right heart condition to seek consultation from God. Even if God speaks to him, he has lost his power to hear His voice clearly because inside his heart, there are other voices also speaking. When a man’s heart is divided, the default voice that he listens to is usually not God’s word, but his own voice which is drawn towards his idols. Because of the idols in his heart, his frequency towards God is jammed. His will, his thoughts and his emotions are preoccupied with his own idols. He attends church but his full attention is not with God, because he is all the while thinking about the things or people that occupy his heart. Unless that person deals with the idols within him, he is no longer totally focused on God and therefore not in a right mindset to hear from Him.
3. Deceptions in the heart
Because the person with idols in his heart cannot hear God clearly, he is often being deceived.
When God says no but the idol within his heart say yes, whose voice does he follow? Often, the person is drawn towards the voice in his own heart which is being preoccupied with idols. When he wakes up, the idols in him is speaking. When he goes to work, his mind is drawn towards his idols.
When he attends church where there is a strong presence of the Spirit of God, the deceptive voice within him may be suppressed. But as soon as he steps outside of God’s manifest presence, he is tuned in to the voice within his heart again. The deception is that he may think that God is still speaking when it was actually his own voice speaking to him.
Even when he has heard the word of God being preached, the voices in his own heart is louder and is contending with the word of God being sown. Instead of obeying the voice of God, he is being deceived into following his own voice within and thinking it was God.
A person with idols in his heart is easily deceived because his ears only want to hear what he wants to hear instead of what God is actually saying.
4. Stumbling block to others
When a person sets up idols in his heart, he becomes a stumbling block to the people around him.
When Eve was deceived by the devil, she also led her husband into the same sin. A person carrying idols in his heart invariably becomes a preacher of a false gospel. What God says yes to, the false preacher says no. What God says no to, he says “why not?”
The beginning of the religion of secular humanism began with Eve who was led to believe that she could become smarter than God, and Adam became her first follower.
When someone’s heart is contaminated, he would easily become a channel to bring negative influences to those around him. That’s why God called the elders of Israel who came to Ezekiel “stumbling blocks of iniquity” due to the idols in their hearts. Because of their seniority and position amongst the Israelites, their power of influence was even greater.
5. A divided soul
When a man has idols set in his heart, he does not trust God totally. A heart full of idols also mean that the person is unfaithful and not 100 percent committed to the Lord. Christ wants to take centre stage in an individual’s life. But when a man sets his heart on idols, his soul is divided between God and his idols. He may be praying or reading the bible but he is texting his girlfriend at the same time. He cannot give full attention to God because his heart and mind is divided.
6. Tendency to walk in the flesh
When a man’s heart is not fully committed to God, he is often led by his flesh instead of being led by the Spirit of God. God’s word instructs us to walk by faith and not by sight. But when idols are set in a person’s heart, he cannot hear God clearly due to the multiple voices inside his heart. And because he can’t hear God, he also cannot walk by faith, for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The contrary to walking by faith/ walking in the Spirit is walking in the flesh. There are no two ways about it.
7. Prone to wrong decisions
Wrong decisions are those decisions we make that are contrary to God’s words or outside of His will. Since a man with a divided soul does not trust God with all his heart, he tends to lean upon his own understanding in his decision making. In fact, his idols are making the decisions for him. A person whose idols have replaced God in his heart is often led by his idols rather than by God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB
Since a man is unwilling to trust God with all his heart due to his idols, he can hardly make the right decisions in line with God’s word and His will for his life. His decisions are often wrong and his paths are crooked.
8. Fights within the soul
A man who is half hearted towards God due to the presence of idols in his heart often experiences internal conflicts and fights within his own soul. Sometimes his soul leans towards God but other times he is captivated by the idols within. So there is a war going on within all the time. Sometimes he makes godly decisions but other times the idols within his heart cause him to make decisions according to the ways of the world.
The fight is not between God and the devil, but the fight occurs within his own soul. Unless the man removes the idols in his heart, he will not be able to experience lasting peace and rest in his soul.
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.
James 4:1-3 NKJV
9. Unwillingness to let go
When an idol is set in your heart, you find it very difficult, if not impossible, to let go of that thing or person, even if God tells you to do so.
Take a job for example: I know from talking to a friend of mine that he was bound to his job. He knew he wanted to attend church regularly and spend more time with God, but the fact that he felt he relied on the income from the job to sustain his living expenses that he would not give up his job that occupied most of his time 6 days a week. Even on Sundays being his only days off, he had to catch up with all the things he was unable to do due to the time he had to spend in his job, that he had to forgo church. He was unwilling to let go of his job and trust that God will provide for him through another means.
Almost without exception, when a person is unwilling to let go of something or someone, it is an issue of trust, ie not trusting God having a perfect plan beyond what he is holding on to.
10. A heart in bondage
When an idol finds entrance into a person’s heart, one of the most obvious symptoms in his life is that he is no longer free to make decisions apart from the idol, let alone being free to choose to do God’s will. When that phenomenon occurs, the person is captivated by the idol. He or she is under bondage because he is no longer free to choose God’s will for his life. More often than not, demonic spirits are involved (2 Timothy 2:26).
Take a relationship with a boyfriend/ girlfriend, for example. The victim whose heart becomes captivated by the other person so much that he is no longer free to be his own person. Everyday he wakes up, he is on the phone talking to the other person. Everywhere he goes, whether he is on the road, at work, at home, he is all the while checking his phone, talking to, texting the other person. Even when he is at church, his mind is not focused on God but preoccupied with thoughts about the “lover of his soul”. As soon as the service ends, his immediate thoughts are not with what God is saying, but to check any text messages from his girlfriend. He eats, sleeps and worships his girlfriend who has set up an altar in his heart. He is “in love” with his girlfriend so much that he is willing to give up anything for her, including his time with God. He becomes like a living sacrifice to his girlfriend with whom he is not even married to!
By the way, I am not talking from my experience, but I know these things happen when people think they are in a loving relationship. In reality, they are under bondage, no longer free to do God’s will because the other person has taken over his/ her heart instead of God!
By contrast, if two persons are in a godly relationship, it tends to strengthen each other’s relationship with God. The love of the other person draws them closer to God, not cause them to move further away from Him.
If you are a believer and you examine the above 10 symptoms, and most of them apply to you, you know that idol(s) has been set in your heart and you need to be set free by the grace of God!
and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:26 NASB