This morning as I was reading in the book of Jonah something jumped off the page at me.
Verse 2:8 says; “Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy.”
I immediately stopped reading and thought to myself, “Do I regard any worthless idols?” Mercy, defined as compassion, or as God’s loving kindness and graciousness, is not something I want to forsake so I had to seriously consider this.
Many think of idols as carved images but that is only part of the definition. The other part of the definition according to Websters is “a person or thing which is greatly loved, admired, or revered”.
What floored me today as I read this verse is not so much what it says, but what it doesn’t say.
It doesn’t say ;
“Those who regard worthless idols BEFORE God…”
It doesn’t say,
“Those who regard worthless idols INSTEAD of God….”
It simply says
“Those who regard worthless idols..”
Basically this means, those who regard them AT ALL.
And the more I thought about it I had to admit, yes, I do regard worthless idols. And I’m pretty sure we all do.
So, just what are the idols in our lives? I looked up some definitions for idols and found these;
“blind devotion to something”
“making a good thing an ultimate thing”
In a practical sense then, anything or anyone which takes place of God in our hearts, or takes our passion from God, is an idol.
We can make idols out of relationships when we think we need one to complete us. We can make idols out of things (material items, education, etc. etc.) when we believe having them would make us happy. We can make idols out of ourselves when we try to handle situations in our own strength. We can make idols out of bad habits when we lean on them in times of difficulty. We can make idols out of our families when we make them of more importance than God.
However, not all these things in and of themselves are bad. We were created as relational people. Healthy relationships and family are good for us. How then do we determine if something is an idol?
In Ezekiel 14:4 in addition to warning about idols, God adds “…what causes him to stumble into iniquity.” Looking at it in this sense, our family, our relationships, our desires, our stuff can all become idols if any of them cause us to sin. If there is anything in your life which is causing you to sin, it may very likely be an idol and it may be time for some soul searching and surrendering. What are the things you have blind devotion for?
God’s mercy is abundant. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on any of it. He has been a loving and merciful God to me every single day, even when I have failed Him, just like He did for Jonah, just like He’ll do for you.
Jonah failed God. Jonah pursued his own agenda and yet God still saved him. The amazing thing about this statement from Jonah “Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own mercy” is that it was spoken in prayer from inside the belly of a fish. Jonah could speak these words with confidence because Jonah knew exactly what it was like to forsake God’s mercy; he had done it. Jonah knew he had regarded the idol of following his own agenda instead of the Lord’s.
Just like in your life, just like in Jonah’s, there are always going to be things which tempt me into idolatry. I will always be tempted to fix or handle things in my own strength. Seeking out and surrendering those things to the Lord requires daily diligence. It also requires daily time in the Word and daily time with the Him. God is a God of abundant mercy and compassion, don’t forsake that. Then we can say like Jonah “I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving.” Jonah 2:9.