19 May, 2024

June 11 | Application (‘Accept No Substitutes for God’)

by | 5 June, 2023 | 1 comment

By David Faust 

The Egyptians worshipped the sun god Ra. The Canaanites worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth. The Greeks honored so many deities they even erected a statue to “An Unknown God” in case they missed one. The silversmiths’ union in Ephesus sold silver statues of the goddess Artemis, so they became upset when Paul’s preaching about the true God interfered with their business model.  

But pagans aren’t the only ones who worship idols. God’s covenant people sometimes make the same mistake. That’s why the first of the Ten Commandments warns, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3) and John cautions believers, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).  

While Moses received God’s commandments on Mount Sinai, the Hebrews were melting down their jewelry to make a golden calf. Later, God instructed Moses to put a bronze serpent on a pole, and those who looked toward it in faith were healed from poisonous snake bites. At first the bronze snake was a good thing—a gift from God. But the Israelites turned it into an idol and centuries later King Hezekiah had to destroy it (2 Kings 18:4). 


Today’s spiritual substitutes are subtle and sophisticated. The author Tim Keller points out that idols don’t always look bad on the surface, but often they are “good things turned into ultimate things—things that constitute our most fundamental significance and security.”  

Keller wrote in Counterfeit Gods, “An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God. . . . Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should you lose it your life would feel hardly worth living.”  

Work is good, but not if it crowds out God. Food is a blessing, but Scripture warns about people whose “god is their stomach” (Philippians 3:19). It’s fine to enjoy sports and social media, but how much time, money, and emotional energy do these activities deserve? Sexuality is a gift to be enjoyed in marriage, but in Jeremiah’s day the culture had become so preoccupied with sex and accustomed to moral laxity that people forgot how to blush and behaved like “well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife” (Jeremiah 5:8; 6:15).  

It’s good to have healthy self-esteem, but not to elevate our own ideas above God’s wisdom. We should appreciate nature and care for the environment, but never worship created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). It’s fine to earn, save, and spend, but Jesus warned, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24) and Paul called greed a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5). 


The true God is like a reliable spring of clean, refreshing water. God-substitutes are like “broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13). A spring gives and gives; a cistern merely collects rainwater, which eventually becomes stagnant. False gods can’t satisfy thirsty souls.  

Here’s another analogy: “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, their idols cannot speak” (Jeremiah 10:5). False gods are flimsy, like scarecrows made from wood and straw. They don’t last; they must be propped up; they are mindless and powerless.  

But the true God—our Creator, Father, and Redeemer—is unrivaled. Let’s recognize God’s rightful place and pray, “No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power” (Jeremiah 10:6).  

Personal Challenge: What false god threatens your love for the true God? 

1 Comment

  1. Edward J Carl

    As always, your insights are inspiring. Thx,Ed

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