I’ve always been puzzled by idol worship in the Bible. I never could understand why people would bow down. An example is in Hosea 4:12 “My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them; For a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from their God.”
I had trouble with understanding why people would bow down to pieces of wood, gold, iron, or anything really. In North America we have idols but they are usually abstract concepts such as fame, fortune, power, and relationships. While these are real idols that North Americans struggle with these aren’t the pagan idols of the Bible.
I didn’t understand until recently I was able to go to Todaiji Temple in Nara, Japan. The outside of the temple was an impressive building, but I was expecting another cool Japanese building. But as soon as I entered I saw it, the 50 ft Buddha statue. I don’t know what I was expecting but I wasn’t expecting to be awestruck. I have stood at the base of Lady Liberty in New York and seen the Heads of Mt. Rushmore but this was different. For the first time I understood why Israel would bow down to a piece of metal. It was elegant, made me feel tiny, and demanded attention! I realized that idols are what is attractive and what brings you security, even if it is false security.
As I watched people enter the temple and bow down to the statue I was left feeling sad and reflective. I was saddened by the realization that they were placing their faith, hope, and security in something that is dead. A god who will never answer and never save but has the power to pretend to give both. As I reflected if this is how I could be struck by a dead god, how much more would I be in awe of a living savior! A living savior, who was once dead but now alive and one not made of bronze but made of flesh and spirit. Jesus spoke of himself “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Rev 1:18). I learned what it meant to be in awe of a dead statue, how much more eagerly I seek to be in awe of a living Savior!