Identifying Idols


Dry cistern at Megiddo


“…for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Jeremiah 2:13

It is the passionate prayer of my heart that YHWH would continue to open the eyes, ears and hearts of all those who truly seek him. Oh, that God’s Spirit would descend on our souls and flood, purge, and restore us to true worship of the King of the Universe. As I sit among our community for corporate worship, I long for a healing rain to fall on us, fresh and new, that would reveal the depravity of our hearts and draw us back to into true, worthy repentance, enabling us to rightly worship YHWH.

This week I had the opportunity to listen to an excellent teaching about idols. This teacher was passionate about exposing idols in our hearts as well as retuning to rightly to sit in the presence of YHWH. My heart leapt, literally, because this is what I pray for. This is the truth that burns in me.

Here is a summary of what was taught.

  • “Idolatry is misplaced worship, small view of God, and wrong view of His set-apartness.” So much falls in to the category of idols. This is not just anger or materialism. This is any worship of YHWH that in some manner diminishes true worship of Him. It is internal as well as external. We can’t determine for ourselves what is best for us or our worship of God. Only God can define this.
  • “The effects of idolatry are pervasive and deathly.” We cannot be complacent about idols. This is serious. When we walk after emptiness, something other than true worship of YHWH, we became empty. It is an addiction that leads to complete emptiness. Our desire to worship our idol produces nothing in us except continued and fruitless pursuit of joy through our idol. We lose sight altogether of the truth, we know nothing else. We can hardly identify the idol in front of our faces because we no longer recognize the truth. The joy and fulfilment we sought after in these idols culminates in a consuming, deathly emptiness.
  • “There is hope out of idolatry.” YHWH will not yield his set-apartness to any other. He is jealous for our love and pure devotion. For the sake of his Name he draws his true children back into right worship. He will not stand by forever as the greatness of his Name is tarnished. For our sake, as well, he draws us back to himself. It would be unloving of him to not to. If he would continue to allow us to stray after idols it would be a disservice to us, producing only death in us.
  • “Our response to idolatry should be repentance.” True repentance is confessing our sins and then turning towards YHWH. Our only hope for turning from idolatry is continued pursuit of God for who he truly is.


Truth! All of it.

So, here’s the thing, if we, as a body of believers in the Messiah and worshipers of YHWH, are really seeking out these idols like it appears that we are, why is there still so much idolatry in our hearts? Why is there such a complacent attitude toward syncretism? Why do we go on allowing ourselves to believe we can combine the worship of God with idolatry? How do we, who want so much to love YHWH with all our hearts, mind and strength, allow sin to creep in, make excuses for disobedience and even stop calling it sin? We have forsaken YHWH and his living water and built our own broken cisterns to try to satisfy our needs.

God revealed something to me today. It just hit me. This gave me a glimpse into why we, as a body, have strayed so far from the righteousness of God. It sheds light on why we seek God and beg him to reveal the true path to us, but we don’t really seem to find it. We always end up back where we started; empty and struggling to tear down the idols yet again.

We don’t actually know how to identify sin!

How can we identify idols in our lives, how can we see these stumbling blocks right in front of our faces, if we don’t know God’s definition of sin. As the body of followers of Messiah, as a community, our operating definition of sin inherently leads us into idolatry.

Before the defensive walls go up, hear me out. Ask YHWH for ears to hear and eyes to see. Even King David begged God to search his heart and point out any grievous way in him, that he might be brought back into right worship. This is not something new to our generation. If we are not guilty of redefining sin in our lives, then there is nothing to fear. But, if there is the slightest straying from the truth should we not be begging God to reveal that to us so we may be drawn back to him?

Here is how sin was defined this morning: violating the character and nature of God.

First of all, that definition, while true, is vague and dangerous. There is no way to know the entire character and nature of God, let alone what it means to violate them. We cannot even begin to imagine the depth of God’s character, even with the Book about himself that he provided. With this definition we can only speculate whether or not our hearts are in violation. The boundaries and requirements to remain aligned with the character and nature of YHWH then lie in human interpretation. We rely on our own definition of the violations. For practical purposes, people may draw drastically different conclusions on what sin entails. We see that rampant in our culture today.

Secondly, the above definition is not a Biblical definition of sin, neither in pre-Messianic Scripture or post-Messianic Scripture. From the very start, YHWH gave his people very specific guidelines for identifying and defining sin, whether is made human sense or not. He didn’t make them guess what violated his character and nature. He gave Adam and Eve dietary guidelines in Eden. He gave Cain and Able guidelines about worship. YHWH walked through every detail of corporate worship, relationship issues, purity issues, priestly duties, legal and political regulations. YHWH outlines what is detestable and what is set apart for himself and his people.  Romans 3:20 says, “through the Torah come knowledge of sin.” God does not leave us to determine the definition of sin. He gave us his Word. He gave us his Torah which shows us our sin. Paul goes on to say that if we hadn’t known what sin was we would have never know that we have transgressed God at all. If we don’t look to the Torah we will not know how to define sin.

The Biblical definition of sin is “missing the target of Torah in action and in the heart”. We know and hold dearly to the fact that Yeshua was sinless. We know this intellectually. What does that mean practically? Did he proclaim a new way of perfection in the sight of YHWH? As long as he loved YHWH and loved his neighbor he didn’t need to obey Torah? I think most of us would agree that he needed to satisfy the righteous requirement outlined by Torah in order to be the Spotless Lamb for our sacrifice. He did not transgress one letter, not one, of the Torah. And beyond that Yeshua, as well as the prophets, taught that YHWH desired not only obedience in action but an attitude that matched. Both Yeshua’s heart and his actions were in complete compliance with all that God requires. That is the only example we have of living a sinless life.

This definition is not just for the Jews, as many teach, but for all people who are adopted as sons and daughters in to YHWH’s family. We are now his people. If we deny that as his people we should follow this definition of sin, by what definition should we follow? Anything other that what is given through the Word is merely doing what is right in our own eyes. We are not given the authority to pick an choose certain things that are sin and certain things that we don’t think apply to us. As a community we have refused to even adhere to all Ten Commandments. We love to redefine sin so that it fits us better. If we truly desire to tear down idols we must, must, be using YHWH’s definition of sin.

This is sin: violating Torah, in heart and in action.

The Torah of the YHWH is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the YHWH is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the YHWH are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the YHWH is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the YHWH is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the YHWH are true,
    and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
    Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O YHWH , my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:7-14

How do we apply this? As was expressed so beautifully in the message I have been referring to, God is perfectly righteous to condemn all idolatry in us, so we have no grounds to defend our distorted worship of God. We must repent before YHWH and turn back to him. Instead of the emptiness of idols, we find abundant, life-giving joy in him. It was stated that our worship of YHWH and the joy we find must be based in the Gospel.

This is where I would like to take the application a different direction. We do not base our worship in the truth of the Gospel. I fear that even in the definition of “the truth of the Gospel” we may be lead to believe that we are free and the Torah no longer applies to us. Instead, we must base our worship solely in YHWH, who’s Promise to us was expressed through Yeshua, the Messiah, by his life, death and resurrection. Our deepest joy shouldn’t be rooted in the fact that we can live in lawlessness, or even live by a law of righteousness defined by ourselves. Our joy is that in light of the work of Messiah, through the Spirit, we are free to pursue YHWH without the condemnation of our failure. Take joy, like the Psalmist, that we can love YHWH’s Torah and seek his commandments. Even though we will transgress, the Spirit empowers our heart to desire these things. They are no longer just a list of what YHWH requires, but we now are united with the Messiah and can pursue him and his righteousness with love. This is his Kingdom that is at hand.

This is true worship of YHWH and gives us true joy; that we follow his commands from our hearts. Not just a few that we think apply to our context. Not just nine of the Ten.

  • What empty addictions do we, as a body, cling to, while forsaking the true joy that comes from worshiping YHWH his way? Do we find complete joy in our pursuit of YHWH and our worship of him?
  • What commandents of YHWH do we refuse to obey? Why, because they are for the Jews? Because we have a “Christian” response for why it was abolished or inapplicable to us? Did Yeshua, the Messiah, ever tell anyone to stop obeying the Law?
  • Have we created our own traditions and significant days of worship that take the place of something instituted by YHWH? If we knew for certain that part of our worship of God was incorporated from pagan worship would we tear it down on the spot? Do we care enough about right worship to research history and Scripture to expose what is pagan and what is true worship?


Do not forsake YHWH, the Living Water, who satisfies all thirst, and turn to the idolatrous work of your own hands to provide for what you desire. You will not know how to identify and tear down your idols unless you search the Scripture, every unabolished jot and tittle of it, and find out for yourself what YHWH commands of his people. Search the Scripture.


“And the word of YHWH came to Zechariah, saying,  “Thus says YHWH of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear.  They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the Torah and the words that YHWH of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets.

Zechariah 7:8-12




2 thoughts on “Identifying Idols

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