It destroys jobs, kills relationships, and causes isolation and failure, and it succeeds in distancing us from God. It challenges God’s sovereignty and washes down the need for repentance. There are a few things that can fit into this category, but idolatry is the secret, yet socially-accepted, wedge that robs us of our blessings. No, I’m not talking about a TV show or small golden figure, and idol worship is not something that just happened in Old Testament times thousands of years ago. However, we can learn a great amount of lessons from the mistakes of someone else’s past. Idolatry has been the root evil that has plagued the nation of Israel since its beginning. Idol worship is never mentioned in the Bible in a positive manner, and God never viewed it as a good thing.
Let’s just go all the way back to the beginning and start there. In Genesis chapter 1, God mentions not only the creation of mankind, but, in verses 26 and 28, he gives mankind dominion. So, our birthright is to have dominion. Satan is threatened by the power we have over him and therefore has set his attention from day one to infect that dominion in order to weaken or destroy. His age-old, time-tested, and proven tactic is the idol. The nation of Israel very seldom stepped into the fullness of their inheritance, because, as quickly as they did, the enemy of their souls was knocking on their doors with enticements of idolatry. On numerous occasions, the Israelite people fell into idolatry, and, therefore God turned away from them. However, in the book of Nehemiah chapter 9 and verse 28, they went so far as to not only lose their dominion but God actually gave it to their enemy to use against them. The people had brought their idols into their relationship with God, and the people of God became enslaved by their own hand.
A young man in the Bible by the name of Esau allowed a simple bowl of soup to become the very thing the enemy would use to separate him from his birthright. In Genesis chapter 25, Esau allowed his physical hunger to dominate his spiritual hunger. He was exhausted and in his own words “about to die from starvation,” and his twin brother, Jacob, bartered him out of his birthright with a simple bowl of red stew. His very words as recorded in verse 32 concerning his dominion was, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Esau made his hunger, his idol. When it comes to the great sin of idolatry, it seems we will easily choose convenience and desire over devotion. Esau chased after the wrong hunger and it cost him his inheritance.
When my son was just a kid, he would always love the smell of a burning fire. He would call it “smoke smell.” The smell is what lingers after the fire is gone. You can smell it on someone’s clothes or in their hair. It’s evidence that they’ve been near the fire. When we get too close to the idols of the world, we run the risk of their aroma lingering in our lives. The aroma is what draws, and our aroma is what others are attracted to. No, I’m not talking about our choice of perfume or deodorant. I’m talking about our personalities and character. When the smell of idolatry is our aroma, then the message we’re sending is shallow and without substance. The problem for many of Israel’s people is the same problem today, and that is we’re spending too much of our time too close to the wrong fire. We have the wrong smoke smell on us. When Israel worshipped, they would sacrifice an animal and burn portions before the Lord. It’s what atoned for their sins and connected them to God. The fire of worship is what draws people. The sacrifice of praise is the aroma that can change lives. Your smoke smell is what people are drawn to, and your time in the presence of the Lord will solidify your inheritance and dominion.
There’s only one smoke smell that can change lives; the rest is idolatry. The definition of an idol is “anything that is more important to you than God.” Possessions, self-centeredness, greed, and pride are all aromas from the wrong fire. Don’t hear what I’m not saying; possessions are perfectly fine as long as they’re not an idol. People, children, and, yes, even church can become idols. One thing is certain concerning idolatry, and that is God would rather each of us be a door keeper in the house of the Lord than to dwell in the tents of the wicked because even doorkeepers have the aroma of worship on them.
How about we enter his gates together with thanksgiving and his courts with praise this Sunday morning and come away with the right smoke smell on us? I’ll see you at Christpoint Church, at 9:15 a.m. and 11 a.m., on the square in Sparta. We’re real people, living real lives, serving a real God. Welcome home.