And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers…[and] went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them. (Judges 2:12)
The ancient Israelites repeatedly turned to the idols of the surrounding nations despite God’s repeated warnings. What in the world was so compelling about Baal, Dagon, Ashtoreth, Chemosh, and Molech?
Answer: the world around them worshiped them. The nations surrounding Israel had fruitful harvests and won wars. They grew wealthy, had many children, and flocks of livestock. Those nations mocked Israel’s invisible God and applied political pressure. These gods appeared to provide more immediate benefit than Israel’s God.
We mustn’t be quick to say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part.” (Matthew 23:30) What powerfully appeals to your sin nature to turn from God and to hope in other things?
Answer: whatever the world around you worships. Those that serve other “gods” may prosper financially, accomplish impressive feats, wield power, have beauty. They may mock what you believe and apply cultural pressure to you. These gods may appear to provide more immediate benefit than your God.
In fighting idolatry, we must remember that we are not as reasonable as we might wish. This battle is often not waged on the field of truth, but rather on the field of cravings and fears. The desires of the flesh and the eyes (1 John 2:16) are battles of appetite, not reason. And what of your last battle with doubt? Was it really based on a rational, fair comparison of truth claims? Or was it triggered by the fear-laden discouragement of circumstance, cultural consensus, or someone else’s confident contrary assertion?
The Israelites turned from God to idols out of covetousness and fear. We do it for the same reasons. False gods bring false benefits. When temptation comes, keep your head.
Our God wants us to trust his promises, not our shortsighted, distorted perceptions.