An idol is a come between God and us. Woe to us if we get so far down the road of pursuing our idols that God respects our free will to the point where we are left with only those idols. The good news is the Lord is jealous for the Spirit within us and pursues us…
28 “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am about to deliver you into the hands of those you hate, to those you turned away from in disgust. 29 They will deal with you in hatred and take away everything you have worked for. They will leave you stark naked, and the shame of your prostitution will be exposed. Your lewdness and promiscuity 30 have brought this on you, because you lusted after the nations and defiled yourself with their idols.
4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us?
In his prophecy through Ezekiel, God compares Israel to a prostitute who has unfitting desires for people who really want to harm her. She lusts after them and when she gets them and they get her, they kill her. It’s a very sad image, and it translates for Israel into the judgement of God on them at the time for the way they “lusted after the nations and defiled” themselves.
James picks up the theme in his words to the church. Friendship with the world is adultery against God. We lust after the things of the world just like Israel lusted after the things of the nations around them. This isn’t about the desire to get a good job or live in a nice area. This is lusting after – pursuing – things which come between us and God. That’s what an idol is.
An idol is a come between God and us.
God’s warning is that we ought to be careful what we wish for. When we pursue things which come between us and God, there is a chance that we might find that God lets us have the thing between us. At some point, God sees that we are so far invested in that idol that he lets us have it. Meaning that he lets us have our way.
When we desire to walk away from God, he pursues us like Jesus describes in the parable of the lost sheep. He leaves the 99 to find the 1 missing. God will pursue us. Yet he also respects our free will, and if we find ourselves getting what we want, it can be our ruin.
Woe to us if we get so far that God respects our free will to the point where we are left only with our idols.
The good news, as we see in James’ words, the Lord is jealous for the Spirit he causes to dwell within us. And if the Holy Spirit is within us, we can have confidence that God is jealous for us. Lord, please pull me toward you and may your Spirit’s voice in me be strong…