But Not As We've Known It

Idolatry… but not as we’ve known it

We often think of idolatry as being an idol that is worshiped by heathens in uncivilised countries, but John and Paul defined idolatry as being anything that takes first place or preeminence in our heart apart from God : “Little children, keep yourselves from idols (false gods) – from anything and everything that would occupy the place in your heart due to God, from any sort of substitute for Him that would take first place in your life” 1 John 5:21.

Father taught me about this through the following dream in May 1996:

There was a large crowd of fans (all female) of Michael Fox, waiting to see him. When he arrived and passed through their midst, they went wild and hysterical. I could see very well what was happening as I was observing from above. Several women seemed to be pre-selected to go up to him and speak to him briefly and one of these was going to be chosen as his date. Some of the women were not very good looking and these ones he wasn’t interested in talking to at all, but the pretty ones he stopped and spoke to for a length of time. I felt sorry for the plainer ones as he almost completely ignored them. One woman was very pretty and he spoke to her for a while and I wondered how his wife felt about this and also thought it was very rude and unfair of him not to give the same attention to all the women but rather to discriminate between the good looking and plain.

He entered a room where an older woman said that they could choose one of the women he’d just seen, or they could decide by a different method which meant they had to see if he measured up. He seemed bemused by this idea as if, how could he possibly not measure up – didn’t she know who he was, but decided to humour her and allowed himself to be measured to see how wide and tall he was.

Then I was standing some distance away with another woman and we discussed what the decision would be. The women in the crowd were going wild with anticipation and they had to make a choice quickly. I seemed to already know that the decision was already made, to go with one of the women instead of the measuring up. I wondered how Michael Fox would react when he found out the choice was one of the plain looking women.

The big crowd of women waiting for the decision suddenly burst out from the building where they’d been waiting and rushed to where I and the woman were standing, there was almost a danger of our being crushed by their rushing at us. We were pushed right back against a wall. The people were hushed as they waited for the decision, then the lady beside me said, “You must GIVE UP yourself if you want eternal life.” When she said the words “give up” I said them at the same time as her, emphasising the words. I realised how opposite this message was to what the women were doing and that they weren’t expecting to hear it. She said it again, “You must give up yourself if you want eternal life”. The people were surprisingly quiet while she said this but they didn’t appear to be taking it in or understanding it, but were looking at her with blank faces, some almost perplexed as if to say, what’s that got to do with us and what’s she talking about?

Michael Fox was off to one side and angrily rebuked us saying, “I know what you’re trying to do and there will be time for that later”.

This dream speaks about a problem in churchianity today: the idolising of a pastor, prophet, teacher, evangelist, apostle, worship leader, musician or any other leader.

The fact that Michael Fox was used in the dream is significant as the name Michael is Hebrew for “like God” or “who is like God” and speaks of those who presume that their ways are God’s ways and their thoughts are God’s thoughts and that they are indeed like God and so don’t have a problem with being worshiped or idolised by people or in telling people what to do; they effectively take the place of God in people’s lives. We need to beware of ones with this attitude or mentality as they are like a “Fox” in our midst. Foxes destroy grapevines and their fruit.

Michael Fox was symbolic of leaders or “stars” who are very visible figures – as opposed to being hidden in Christ. They are looked up to and admired, particularly in religious circles. Often these “stars” are very gifted and able, both with natural and spiritual abilities or gifts.

Michael Fox was amused at the possibility that he might not measure up and this reveals the arrogance and pride that is in these ones. That he was choosing who he spoke to and gave time to and who he did not based on how a person looked, reveals not only arrogance and pride but also prejudice and discrimination, and choices made based on personal opinion. The pattern Jesus set was not to lord it over people but rather to be humble servants: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their great men hold them in subjection. Not so shall it be among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant. The kings of the Gentiles are deified by them and exercise lordship ruling over them; and those in authority over them are called well-doers. But this is not to be so with you; on the contrary, let him who is the greatest among you become like the youngest, and him who is the chief and leader, like one who serves” Matthew 20:25-28 & Luke 22:25-27.

The fault lies not only with the leaders. When we as people esteem others more highly than we should (as the women in the dream were), things get out of focus and can even prevent us from hearing or comprehending what God is saying, like in the dream. In organised religion it is usually accepted and expected that the leaders are the ones who hear from God, give teaching, fight the battles etc. However, our God is a personal God and wants to speak to each one, to have a personal intimate relationship with each one, to teach each one personally. What good father would not want to interact with their children themselves? If children only ever interacted with their babysitter instead of with their father, then they would not know him!

Being an anointed one (which is what the word Christian means) is about going to the Source of that anointing; Christ – The Anointed. Being a Christian is about having your own personal relationship with God, not going through or relying on a teacher or pastor or any other person. We are personally accountable before God for all that we accept and reject. There is no more pure Source than Christ Himself. He is rightfully jealous of His Bride, He wants her heart and her eyes to be focused on Him alone. She will then see and hear the One she loves in others, but HE will be the focus. “Shun, keep clear away from and avoid by flight if need be, any sort of idolatry, of loving or venerating anything more than God” 1 Cor. 10:14.

We are to eat from the Bread of Life (Christ) for ourselves; not to feed on each other. This is in effect idolatry if we rely, depend and trust someone other than Jesus Christ for those things which He Himself wishes to provide us with. That’s not to say, of course, that He doesn’t want to teach or speak to us through someone else because He often does, but we should never look to that person as being the source; but rather to recognise God as the Source and so give the glory to Him, and not to the person.

The exhortation in the dream is to die to self (“give up yourself”) and live for Christ. It is also a warning to not get deceived into idolising any person. Col 3:1-10 talks about this. The group of women at the end were so pre-occupied with their desire to see Michael Fox again that they couldn’t receive or hear the message that the woman gave to them; it didn’t sink in at all because their minds and hearts were elsewhere. The women had a passion for a man, not for God, they were in love with the created being, not the Creator. God is wanting a people with a passionate love for Him.

In the Old Testament in particular, idolatry and harlotry are often mentioned together and seem to be almost synonymous. Christ is returning for a pure, humble bride who is passionately in love with Him and Him alone; not for a proud harlot in love with and committing adultery with the world and craving its honour and recognition. The Bible is very clear that those who trust in idols, even unknowingly, become like them: blind, deaf and dumb. “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the WORK of MEN’S hands. Idols have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; they have ears, but they hear not, nor is there any breath (spirit) in their mouths. THOSE WHO MAKE IDOLS ARE LIKE THEM; SO IS EVERYONE WHO TRUSTS IN AND RELIES ON THEM.”(Psalm 135:15-18). Closely related to worshiping the idol of Self is worshiping the idol of someone else. It may be someone who has much of Christ evident in their lives, it may be someone who has a lot of wisdom and maturity. We so naturally and easily look towards others for those things which God wants to provide for through His Son and His Life, NO MAN must take the place of Christ in our lives.

The words of Michael Fox at the end of the dream are a warning to those who speak out to not be surprised should they be rebuked for what they say (sometimes by religious leaders) and that they mustn’t be influenced or talked into “leaving it for later” because the time IS short and there won’t be time later. At least the women in the dream heard the words even if they didn’t choose to listen and accept them. We need to pray that eyes and ears will be opened before it is too late.

In our Western society idolatry and worship of other gods are not as obvious as in some other cultures; however, idolatry is still present nonetheless. Idolatry is not simply the worshiping of idols in primitive cultures but is alive and well in churches today. Idols are not firstly physical but primarily spiritual.Our security and trust must never be in any person, church, religion, programme or method but only in God; to rely on anything else is simply idolatry. This idolatry is anything that we depend on, rely on or have our trust and security in when it should only be in God!

“Their land also is full of silver and gold; neither is there any end to their treasures. Their land is also full of horses; neither is there any end to their chariots. Their land is also full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, what their own fingers have made” Isaiah 2:7,8. Not only is materialism an idol in our culture, but even our identity in what we do can be idolatrous. The Hebrew word for “work” used here is the word: ma`aseh and means:

  • 1) deed, work
  • 1a) deed, thing done, act
    1b) work, labor
    1c) business, pursuit
    1d) undertaking, enterprise
    1e) achievement
    1f) deeds, works (of deliverance and judgment)
    1g) work, thing made
    1h) work (of God)

This list covers not only achievements brought about through our own ability and things made with our hands, but also the works or acts done for God. There is no room for Self here. What we do must never be our focus or delight, or that itself will become our idol. God is the One to whom we minister first and foremost and anything else we do comes from that relationship and ministry to Him. He is our delight and desire before anything and everything else in our lives!

One thing have I asked for of the Lord, that will I seek and require: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord in His presence, all the days of my life, to behold and gaze upon the beauty, the sweet attractiveness and the delightful loveliness of the Lord and to meditate and inquire in His temple. Psalm 27:4

Lynette Woods