One vitally important truth the Bible continually illustrates is how quickly the heart can turn after idols. It often is very subtle where we don’t even realize our heart is turning away from God to an idol. Little by little the heart begins to turn and soon our backs are to God and our face to an idol. God’s admonition is to “Be careful!” “Watch out!” “Be vigilant!” “Be on guard!” “Beware!” that your heart not be turned.
“But be careful. Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord (Yahweh) and serve and worship other gods. (Deuteronomy 11:16, NLT)
Do not turn from Me to follow useless idols or cast metal images of other gods, for I am the Eternal (Yahweh) your God. (Leviticus 19:4, VOICE)
Therefore, say to the house of Israel: ‘God, the Master, says, Repent! Turn your backs on your no-god idols. Turn your backs on all your outrageous obscenities. To every last person from the house of Israel, including any of the resident aliens who live in Israel—all who turn their backs on me and embrace idols, who install the wickedness that will ruin them at the center of their lives. (Ezekiel 14:6-7a, MSG)
Make sure there is no man or woman, clan or tribe among you today whose heart turns away from the Lord (Yahweh) our God to go and worship the gods of those nations; make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison. (Deuteronomy 29:18, NIV)
God is crying out to not turn away from Him to follow and serve other gods. If we want to protect our hearts for God so they reflect His image and glory, we must understand the lesson of the turning of the heart. The heart is not static, stationary or motionless. The heart is always turning to the object of its fascination, craving and love. The heart turns toward what it desires. The poisonous root of idolatry always begins with the turning of the heart. You have two paths that you can travel on in life: the path of Yahweh or the path of idolatry, and the way of the heart is determined by the direction it is turned. You ultimately decide where the gaze of your heart is fixed. You decide the direction your heart is traveling.
The Turning of Solomon’s Heart
Now if think you are immune from the poison of a turned heart, then maybe you should examine the record of King Solomon. Nothing compared to the wisdom and understanding of Solomon as it was greater than anyone before or after him. I Kings 4:30 tells us that Solomon’s wisdom exceeded all the children of the east country and all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than all and spoke three thousand proverbs and composed one thousand and five songs (I Kings 4:31, 32). He had great knowledge about the earth and the animal kingdom, and people from all around the world came to hear his wisdom. Inspired by God, he wrote the books of Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes.
Yahweh appeared to Solomon twice and personally conversed with him, giving him words of wisdom and promise. Yahweh also gave him a specific warning of the dire consequences if he turned away from following the Lord and his commandments to go and serve other gods. Solomon built the house of the Lord with intricate detail according to the word of God and at its dedication encouraged the people to be wholly devoted to the Lord (Yahweh). Solomon wanted all the people of the earth to know that Yahweh is God, and there is none else. He was the wisest and richest of all the kings of the earth as God blessed Him with amazing wisdom and understanding that astounded the world.
Surely this wise and discerning heart of Solomon would never turn from Yahweh to idols. Surely he would not forsake God. Solomon was too wise, too understanding, and too smart. He knew more than anyone the utter foolishness of chasing after worthless idols. He was acutely aware of the danger of turning the heart to idolatry, and the consequences of such action to his kingdom. He could never be deceived into turning his heart away from God to a dumb idol of wood, stone or gold. Or could he?
In Solomon, God is instructing us about this vital lesson that no one, no matter how wise or spiritual, is immune from the turning of the heart away from God to idolatry. We must be watchful and vigilant for the turning of the heart can happen to anyone.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women. From the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. (I Kings 11:1-8, ESV)
King Solomon how could you do this? How could you let your heart be so turned? Solomon loved his wives more than he loved God, and he allowed his wives to turn his heart away from Yahweh to serve and worship some of the most despicable pagan gods.
We see the warning signs in I Kings 3 when Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh, King of Egypt, and took his daughter in marriage, and brought her into the city of David. The Hebrew word for “took” is a much more hostile and aggressive verb than we would see between a husband and wife. It means to capture, acquire, and seize like an animal. In Ezekiel the word describes a flash of lightening. Solomon is mesmerized. His heart has been swept away. He must have the daughter of Pharaoh at all costs so like a flash of lightening he aggressively seizes her like a hungry animal taking food. He forcefully took something that God had not given him and brought her into his home. His heart was turning in a flash and the stage is now set for the bitter poison of idolatry to begin to circulate throughout his heart. The turning of his heart to idolatry had begun. The enemy was at the gate.
The turning of the heart of Solomon was so complete that he committed the shocking acts of building high places of worship for the idols of his wives, and offering sacrifices to these false gods. He built this place of sacrifice on the hill east of Jerusalem, which was the Mount of Olives where all of Jerusalem could see this idolatrous abomination against Yahweh. These high places of worship Solomon built remained for almost three hundred years until tore down by King Josiah. The Bible calls it “the mount of corruption” for all the idol worship that occurred there right in the face of Jerusalem (II Kings 23:13).
Now we can see even deeper the heart of Jesus when from the Mount of Olives he burst into tears and wailed with great emotion over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). Oh how this city had run into the arms of idols instead of their loving Heavenly Father. These pagan altars built by Solomon looming over Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives caused many of God’s people to go a whoring after other gods. They were a blemish to God’s holy city Jerusalem and His sacred temple.
Can you even imagine the horror that Chemosh and Molech required child sacrifice in their worship! Solomon put his stamp of approval on the killing of innocent, precious children of God for the worship of dead, dumb and worthless idols. Solomon’s heart was so turned he did not care that he was committing murder in the name of idolatry. His wives and their beloved idols became his consuming passion, and no evil act was prohibited because of his misguided love. He profaned the name of Yahweh by offering children to Molech in the ritual of their detestable sacrifice (Leviticus 18:21).
Solomon’s actions not only destroyed his heart for God, but it took an enormous toll on the hearts of his countrymen and nation. He spoiled his witness for God around the world by not carefully guarding his heart. Solomon’s actions had devastating effects on Israel and Judah politically, economically and spiritually because he allowed his heart to be turned from God to blatant exhibitions of the worst practices of idolatry. God’s man, king and chosen had become a traitor to Yahweh, and a defector from the faith of his fathers Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.
Solomon wrote by revelation from God beautifully inspiring proverbs about the wisdom of God, which God gave Him in overflowing abundance. Yet he chose to forsake the wisdom of God for the wisdom of the world. He failed miserably to follow his own written proverb to guard the heart with all diligence for out of it are issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). He ignored the warning of Scripture concerning taking foreign wives and setting them up as idols in his heart. Solomon’s heart was no longer perfectly God’s, as it no longer completely belonged to God. It became the possession of another lover.
Many great men of God throughout history have allowed their hearts to be completely turned away from God by lusting after women whose hearts were not right with the Lord. Entire ministries, callings and kingdoms have been brought to utter ruin by the lusts and sexual cravings of these men who failed to exercise any godliness and self-control over their fleshly appetites. Men have worshipped women as idols and pursued them with reckless abandon to the destruction of their lives. This is a favorite idol of the kingdom of darkness to lure God’s men into the poison of idolatry. Lust is behind every form of idolatry and causes one to relinquish the ownership of their heart to something other than God.
We also see a clue of the turning of Solomon’s heart in the Hebrew words for “not follow the Lord (Yahweh) fully.” The Hebrew word for “fully” means to fill a vacant space with abundance until it is overflowing, to be satisfied and to be completed. Solomon was no longer satisfied with Yahweh. Yahweh no longer completed Solomon’s heart. The vacant space of Solomon’s heart was no longer filled with Yahweh in abundance to where it overflowed into his thoughts, words and actions. Solomon’s heart was filled with another satisfaction, passion and lover.
A Fool Turns to Everything but God
As wise as Solomon was, he never learned the lesson of the turning of the heart. It is interesting the word “fool” is used 73 times in the Bible, but well over half (41) of these usages of “fool” are in Proverbs, and 12 of the usages are in Ecclesiastes, both penned by Solomon. Solomon ended up playing the fool like King Saul because he allowed his heart to be turned from God, and he did not turn back to Him. King Saul said in I Samuel 26:21 “I have played the fool…I have erred exceedingly” and Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes 2:15, “As it happened to the fool, so it happened to me.” Saul and Solomon never learned the prime lesson of a fool. A fool turns to everything, but God.
The Essence of Faith: Turning Away From Idols and Turning to God
For not only did the message about the Lord go out from you throughout Macedonia and Achaia, but the news about your faith in God has gone everywhere. There is nothing, then, that we need to say. All those people speak about how you received us when we visited you, and how you turned away from idols to God, to serve the true and living God. (I Thessalonians 1:8-9, GNT)
The essence of faith is turning away from idols and turning to God. If idols dominate our hearts, then we will not have faith in our God. The altar of our hearts will be cluttered with other sacrifices, passions and devotions, and we will have no confidence in God. If you truly want to serve God from a pure and loving heart, you must turn from every idol, and throw them out of the throne room of your heart. Idolatry always shipwrecks faith and ruins service for God for the heart is fixed on another god. When the heart is turned to the vanity of a worthless idol, death to the ways of God enters the heart (II Kings 17:15). The faith of the Thessalonians sounded out around the world because it is such a rare gem to see a heart that has turned away from all idols to serve the true and living God.
Idolatry is still an enormous disease of the heart. It is not simply an ancient concept confined to the Old Testament. One of the great admonitions of the New Testament is contained in the books of I John and I Corinthians.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (I John 5:21, ESV)
But be on your guard, my dear children, against every false god! (PHILLIPS)
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]. Amen (so let it be). (AMP)
Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (I Corinthians 10:14, ESV)
God urgently commands us to keep ourselves from idols. The Greek word for “keep” means to guard, to keep from being snatched away, to preserve safely, and to watch in order to protect. This word was a military term describing a soldier who was on watch and was accountable with his own life to protect those entrusted in his care. It conveys the fundamental idea of protecting in the time of an attack. It was also used of keeping valuables in a safe place. This Greek verb is in the aorist imperative which makes the command more forceful, and calls for a decisive choice to do this now, once and for all, in one quick action with a sense of immediate urgency. You must keep your heart for God only, and diligently guard it from being snatched away by an idol. The danger of idolatry always lurks at the gateway of your heart. Your spiritual enemy is always attempting to devour your heart through idols. You cannot be lulled into a spiritual slumber and fall asleep in protecting your heart for the perils of idolatry are too great to ignore. Even as Christians, our hearts are extremely vulnerable to idols, and have a strong pull from our flesh to lust after them.
Zero Tolerance Policy Concerning Idols
We must protect the valuable treasure of our hearts from all enemies for it belongs to Yahweh. We must be like the disciplined and trained soldier that is alert every moment to the movement of the enemy and his tactics and schemes. We must check the identity, purpose and motive of every thought, image, and voice that wants to gain admission into our hearts. We must build a protective wall around our heart where no idol can penetrate. We need to examine every turn of our heart to assure that no idol is drawing us away from God. We cannot compromise and have a double life where we worship Yahweh at times and worship idols at other times. It is impossible to truly love Yahweh and still cling to our idols. It is impossible to serve and obey both God and idols. You must choose, and it is the most important decision concerning your heart that you will ever make. Every heart has an object of worship. Every heart has a driving passion. Every heart has a god that it serves. There are no exceptions. If your heart is not serving and worshiping God, then you have set up an idol in your heart that is stealing your devotion to God. God or an idol? You choose. You determine whom you serve.
God commands that our hearts have a zero tolerance policy concerning idols. We cannot play around with idols and win. God commands us to “flee from idolatry” and the Greek word for “flee” means seek safety by flight. Run! Get out of there! Move your heart away from idols swiftly like an Olympic runner. We don’t stick around. We don’t rationalize; we don’t socialize; we don’t reconsider. We put the pedal to the metal, and get out of the playground of idolatry as fast as we can. The seduction of idolatry is too strong. The deception of idolatry is too great. Run as fast as you can away from it. If we visit and spend the night at the house of idols, we will get burned. Idolatry is too toxic to play around with. Idolatry is too poisonous to drink from its waters. Ask King Solomon, the wisest man of all time, if you can play around with idolatry and win. Do not be a fool and think a little idolatry is harmless. It is the number one destroyer of the heart. It is the most fatal disease the heart has ever known. It is a deadly spiritual plague that kills the heart for God. It is a thief that robs us of intimacy, fellowship and growth with God, and turns us away from God’s breathtaking plans for our lives. Run my beloved as fast as you can from idols and never look back.
Who Owns Your Heart?
You must examine yourself daily and ask this question: who do you really have a heart for? Do you have a heart for God or an idol? Who owns your heart? Who controls your heart? Who have you given your hearts to? Who drives your heart? Whatever controls your heart, controls your life. Whatever controls your heart is what you prize and love the most. Who is the true treasure of your heart? Can you hear the Lord lovingly pleading with you? Can you hear his cry to your heart?
That is why the Lord says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. (Joel 2:12-13, NLT)
God is constantly imploring us to give Him our hearts. We need to come into His presence with humility, fasting, and weeping for the times we have betrayed him by setting up idols in our hearts. Return your heart to the Lord and seek refuge in His loving arms. He will forgive you and heal your heart. Time is of the essence, and each second is closer to eternity. Do not delay. Now is the time to give God all of your heart and not play games with Him any longer.
Excerpt from The Heart: The Key to Everything in the Christian Life by Tim Rowe available at http://www.lulu.com/shop/tim-rowe/the-heart-the-key-to-everything-in-the-christian-life/paperback/product-22601300.html. Also available on Kindred and Amazon.