An idol is anything you place above God. More specifically, anything you love more than God.
It’s the thing you dream about, fixate on, want to have. It’s the thing that captivates you.
The movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark, depicted this perfectly.
Agents of Nazi Germany are attempting to locate and control the biblical ark of the covenant. In the movie, the ark represents a direct connection to God and thus power over others. That’s the first idol – the insatiable lust for power – and it is personified by the German character, Major Arnold Toht.
The second idol – the desire for eternal life and to to control God on our terms – is personified by the Frenchman, Dr. René Belloq. Belloq is helping the Germans to acquire the lost ark, but for his own purposes.
There are some fairly intense verses of judgment in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, chapter 16, where the Lord says, “And I will give you into their hands, and they shall throw down your vaulted chamber and break down your lofty places. They shall strip you of your clothes and take your beautiful jewels and leave you naked and bare. They shall bring up a crowd against you, and they shall stone you and cut you to pieces with their swords.”
This is hard stuff to read. The context of the verses is that the Lord rescued a discarded baby, Israel. He fed her, clothed her and took care of her. When she was old enough, she gave her heart and body to lovers, who, in turn, ravished her and left her bare and homeless. Israel’s heart was set on serving the gods (idols) of the nations that surrounded her. Those nations then burned Israel to the ground. This is a metaphor for God’s call to us – to love him deeply. The Lord is merciful in warning us; the things that captivate our hearts enslave us and then ravish (destroy) us.
You see this vividly in Raiders. At the end of the movie, the German Toht and the Frenchman Beloq open the ark. Light streams out. Belloq says, “It’s beautiful!”
Isn’t this what serving idols first feels like? A burst of light, inherent beauty? But soon the light fades. The beautiful turns ugly.
For those standing at the ark, their idols led to judgement and destruction. The Nazis are consumed by fire. Belloq explodes. Majot Toht’s face melts off.
As artists who share in the human experience, we need to discern what idols we’re nurturing in our hearts. This is something we constantly have to wrestle with. It’s worth the struggle.
As Christians, we have a promise, also from the book of Ezekiel, in chapter 36: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.”