The past week I studied the story of Rachel and; Leah with a friend from church. Before reading Idols of the Heart, I never saw this story about idolatry before. Like most women, what I noticed most about this story is Joseph’s love for Rachel to labor for 14 years for her. Though there is a ton to learn from that itself-there is much on the topic of idolatry as well.
What so crazy about the story? Well, not even getting into the idols Rachel initially stole from her father, she was an idolater. But Elyse Fitzpatrick digs deeper by taking a look at Rachel’s desire for children (for Rachel was barren). She points out that we can see Rachel believed that having children would bring her blessing and make her happy because she eventually cries out to Joseph “ Give me children or I die!”
“Wow! Or she dies?” was my immediate reaction. Rachel really thought that that having children is what would bless her-enough that she’d rather die, if she didn’t have them. The ironic thing is, Elyse points out, is that she wasn’t satisfied with just one child, and then when she got her second, she actually did die! Elyse says “It is ironic, isn’t it, that the woman that cried, ‘Give me children or I’ll die!’ died in childbirth?” Yes, Elyse, it is.
Because idols are not filled with the living power of Jesus Christ, they could never satisfy. In fact, they do the opposite as Elyse discusses. Having an idol of praise, a relationship, feeling valued, vanity, etc, will not satisfy. Even good things like desiring a godly relationship, eating healthily, protecting a job, protecting one’s children will all leave us dissatisfied. If they are the source of our joy, the top priority or we feel like we’d sin to get a desired thing or result then it is an idol. Idols leave us dry like Jeremiah 17: 5-6 clearly describes:
Thus says the Lord,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
“For he will be like a bush in the desert,
and will not see when prosperity comes,
But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness
A land of salt without inhabitant”
Cursed, bush in the desert, stony wastes, wilderness, salt, without inhabitant. All those words combined does not make for a soul satisfying situation if you ask me. I’m from the desert-I know.
Like Rachel thought that idols, or children would make her happy, what could be some of my own idols? Do I desire praise from others to make me happy? Do I tell myself that I’ll just be happy & mature if my husband did this and that? Yes and yes. It turns out I have more idols than I’d like to think. I’m not so far off from Rachel’s seemingly ridiculous demand.
As I feel the weight of my sin, I am saddened that I would turn my heart to other things than my Jesus. I am saddened as I step back and look how my idols have affected not just me but the people around me. It’s disappointing and worth lots of tears that my dear husband has endured.
But as I look at my sin, confess and repent, I can only rely on Christ to change me and this sinful heart of mine. For if I confess my sins he is faithful and just to forgive me and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Idols. I guess they are not just in Asian temples or the Old Testament. They are also in our hearts, trying to keep us from Jesus the only Soul Satisfier.