"Son of man, these leaders have set up idols in their hearts. They have embraced things that will make them fall into sin. Why should I listen to their request." Ezekiel 14:3 (NLT)
This passage causes us to rethink our understanding of idols, doesn't it? Previously, in Scripture idols were material objects. The first use of a household god, or idol, is found in Genesis 31:19 when Rachel stole Laban's household gods. In verse 34, Rachel hides them in her saddle. Deuteronomy 29:17-18, says, "You have seen their detestable things, their idols of wood and stone, of silver and gold, which were among them." These idols were physical possessions.
But in Ezekiel 14:3 the LORD says the leaders of Israel have taken them into their heart. These men may have the physical object at home, but God is not speaking of a material item. The Hebrew idea of the word translated as "heart" is the source of life in the inner man. From the heart came a man's thoughts, feelings, and volition. God is saying these leaders, by setting up idols in their heart, have made false gods the basis for their ideas, opinions, and will instead of Him. Jeremiah 17:10 says, "I the LORD search the heart and test the mind." So He knows each of our hearts.
Can't you understand God's question, "Why should I listen to their request?" After all, He told the Israelites, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3) and "Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might" (Deuteronomy 6:5).
When we read the Bible and think of idols only as physical or material objects, it is easy to convince ourselves we have nothing to worry about because we are not idolaters. We don't worship anything like that! But the understanding of idols of the heart being anything we have embraced as the basis of our thoughts, emotions, and will changes that understanding.
If like me, you have difficulty determining the idols of your heart, Jesus gives us a helpful verse. In Luke 6:45 He says, "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks." This test for idols, which can be quite stealthy, is to pay close attention to what flows out of your mouth. What do you talk about the most? If you have trouble answering that question, ask someone close to you because I promise they will know.
Another verse to use as a test is Ephesians 5:5, "For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Colossians 3:5 says the same thing. Don't you find it of interest that the first commandment "Thou shall have no other god's before me" and the last commandment "You shall not covet...." address the same issue—idolatry? God promises He will meet our every need if we seek Him and His kingdom before everything else. What do you want, and are willing to do almost anything to get? Quite likely an idol.
Both Paul and John warn us against idolatry. Please know they are not speaking of physical objects. "Therefore, my beloved, flee idolatry" (1 Corinthians 10:14) "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." (1 John 5:21)
Lord God, You are very clear, there is no ambiguity in Your Word concerning the place You deserve. There is no God but You. Everything and everyone else is incapable of fulfilling Your position. Lord Jesus, it is to You that every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess You as LORD, to the glory of God the Father. Holy Spirit, please give us eyes to see anything we place before Jesus in our lives. Cause us to see what we are embracing that will cause us to sin. Strengthen our will to put to death what is earthly within us.