Most Westerners have struggled at one time or another to understand the attraction of idolatry in the ancient world. What could be so compelling about an inanimate block of wood or chunk of stone? Hard-core idolatry feels as tempting as beet juice. It’s likely someone out there loves a frothy glass of obscure vegetable extract, but the temptation doesn’t weigh heavily on our souls.
But idolatry made a lot of sense in the ancient world. And had we lived two or three millennia ago, it almost certainly would have been tempting to each one of us. In his commentary on Exodus, Doug Stuart explains idolatry’s attraction with nine points. You’ll likely want to save this list and file it for future sermons or Bible studies.
1. Idolatry was guaranteed.
The formula was simple. Carve a god out of wood or stone, and the god would enter the icon. Now that you have a god in your midst, you can get his (or her) attention quickly. Your incantations, oaths, and offerings will always be noticed.
2. Idolatry was selfish.
Scratch the gods’ backs, and they’ll scratch yours. They need food and sacrifices; you need blessings. Do your stuff, and they’ll be obliged to get you stuff.
3. Idolatry was easy.
Ancient idolatry encouraged vain religious activity. Do what you like with your life. So long as you show up consistently with your sacrifices, you’ll be in good shape.