Exodus 8, 9, 10, 11
These four chapters are quite possibly the most famous in the whole book of Exodus because it is here that God demonstrates his mighty power by sending 10 plagues to Egypt in order to get the Pharaoh to let His people go. Most theologians seem to agree that the 10 plagues God sent weren’t merely chosen at random or as only an invasive inconvenience for the Egyptians. Rather, the 10 plagues were chosen by God to destroy the main idols in Egypt at that time. So, following will be a table describing the plague and the idol it was intended to tear down:
|Blood||7:14-24||Nile River, giver of Life||The giver of Life became the giver of death.|
|Frogs||7:25-8:15||Isis, fertility goddess||Isis was depicted as a frog, symbolizing new life. But here, frogs were dying everywhere.|
|Gnats||8:16-19||Seth, Earth god||Gnats are born of the earth and rise from the earth and tortured people. But no amount of prayer to Seth helped.|
|Flies||8:20-32||Beelzebub, prince of the air||Flies were considered Beelzebub’s ears. The priests couldn’t stop this plague, yet the flies didn’t attack the Hebrews, which set them apart as holy.|
|Livestock||9:1-7||Apis, the sacred bull||God killed their bulls, literally killing their gods, since Apis was considered the sacred bull.|
|Boils||9:8-12||Medical shamans||Boils = punishment for sins. And the magic shamans couldn’t heal them.|
|Hail||9:13-35||Weather shamans||Weather shamans were supposed to be able to control the weather, but here God proved that only He can.|
|Locusts||10:1-20||Agriculture shamans||Agriculture shamans were supposed to be able to control the crops, but here, locusts destroyed all the crops.|
|Darkness||10:21-29||Aman-Ra, most favored & powerful god||Ra, the sun god, was considered the father of Pharaoh and most powerful of the gods. When God blocked the sun, he destroyed that notion.|
|Firstborn||11:1-10||The family & excellence of man||These were the most favored sons – the idol here being the family. God also considered the firstborn designated to Him.|
Idolatry is not limited to Egypt
My favorite story about idolatry is from Mark Driscoll on a trip he took to India. He says:
I went to India some years ago. I was on the board for an organization that plants churches and takes care of orphans and runs an orphanage in India. So I went there to teach and to visit and as I went through the villages, out into the rural areas, I saw these shrines on the side of the road, built to regional false over certain jurisdictions and in those little shrines were chicken feathers and blood and they would sacrifice animals in there and they would leave food and money for the little god of that neighborhood. There was idols everywhere. People were down at the beach, covered in paint, worshiping, literally, the ocean as the tide went in and out. I mean, there were festivals everywhere. People had idols in their homes. It was unbelievably clear to me that this was a culture so steeped in Hinduism that it was just filled with idolatry and I thought to myself, “How could anyone live in this culture so constantly surrounded by idolatry?”
And I was talking to one of the pastors’ wives and they were both Hindu converts. She’s a very articulate, intelligent, very great woman and I said, “Well have you ever been to the United States?” She said, “Yes, but I don’t like to go, so I don’t go very often.” I said, “Well, why do you not like to go to the United States of America?” She says, “I can’t stomach the idolatry.” That’s what she tells me. And I said, “What do you mean, you can’t stomach the idolatry?” She says, “Americans worship their sports teams. They worship their bands. They worship their sex life. They worship their body. They worship their stomach. They worship their income. They worship their job. They worship their house. They worship their car. They worship their clothing.” I thought, “You know, she is absolutely right.”
Where’s Your Idol?
So where’s your idol? God is no more OK with idolatry today than he was during the time of the Exodus. He loathes idols. But we have so many. So, how can you find your idol? Here are a few hints (and religious people are no less prone to idols – in fact, the opposite may even be true):
Religious? Maybe your idol is one of these:
- Truth idolatry: Truth idolatry is common for those who think that the more truth you possess, the more righteous you are. It was incredibly common for religious leaders during Jesus’ day, and is no less common now (in fact, this is probably mine). People who love to study and gather truth are prone to this idol.
- Gift idolatry: This is common for those people who have many gifts and talents and love to be used by God, and use the gifts God has given them “in His service.”
- Morality idolatry: This is the most common for well-behaved people, and those that consider morals and ethics to be of utmost importance.
Actually, all of the above can be good things – when they aren’t elevated above God’s position in our lives. But when even a good thing becomes a God thing, then it becomes an idol. If any of the above takes precedence in your mind above Jesus’ redeeming work on the cross, or if any of the above takes the place of God in your life, or if you believe yourself to be more holy, more justified, or more righteous because of those things, then chances are you are idolizing it.
Non-religious, or didn’t find your idol above?
- Generally speaking, to find your idol, follow your money. Where is most of it spent? Where does it all go? Where is it invested? Where do you desire to spend it?
- Also, check your time. Where do you spend your time? What would you “rather be doing” right now?
- And finally, what thing (or things) if taken away forever would you be most depressed about? If you lost your house, your husband, your child, your job, your money, your health, and so on, which loss would cause you to think that your life was literally over? Which loss would make you think that life just wasn’t worth living any longer?
In closing, I think there is a very good reason why John ends his first letter with this verse: “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). We would all do well to heed his warning.
These are provided for further investigation on your part. This post referenced most of these:
- Plagues Versus Egyptian Gods
- To Find Your Idol, Follow Your Money
- Know Your Idols
- Resisting Idols Like Jesus
- Continuous Worship: Idolatry
- Jesus on Money, Idolatry, and Comedy
- You Are What You Idolize