Why Idolatry is such a big theme in the Old Testament

Andrew Fountain
Sun, 2021-02-28
  • Behind idolatry is our fear, and a need to gain control when we are powerless.
  • Once we get how it worked in the Old Testament it is very easy to see how we fall into this trap ourselves on a daily basis.
  • If you have trouble viewing this video, you can try watching it directly on Vimeo
  • Play Audio

Sermon Outline - Why Idolatry is such a big theme in the Old Testament


To see why idolatry is one of the big themes underlying the Old Testament

and to see how it relates to us on a daily basis.

Why Idolatry is such a big theme in the Old Testament

  1. How Idolatry Works
  2. How God wants us to relate to him
  3. A theme in the Bible from beginning to end
  4. Living this out daily

1. How Idolatry Works

Cultures of the World

  • Justice/Guilt culture
  • Honour/Shame culture
  • Power/Fear culture


  • It is an attempt to gain control by persuading some “Power” to help you
  • In ancient times they had a god for everything they wanted to control.
  • Can you name anything they might want to control?
  • rain
  • war
  • fertility
  • health

Statue of Ba’al

Statue of Ba'al

Larger statue of Ba’al

Larger statue of Ba'al

  • arm raised to throw a thunderbolt —weather, but also useful in war!

Ba’al with his consort Astarte (fertility)

Ba'al with his consort Astarte (fertility)

Astarte (fertility godess)

Astarte (fertility godess)

Cupid (god of love)

Cupid (god of love)


  • We want certain things that we cannot get directly
  • So we try to manipulate a deity to get what we want.

How Idolatry Works

2. How God wants us to relate to him

2. How God wants us to relate to him

  1. The LORD will have compassion on his people,
      will change his plans concerning his servants;
    when he sees that their power has disappeared,
      and that no one is left,
        whether confined or set free.
  2. He will say, “Where are their gods,
      the rock in whom they sought security,38
    who ate the best of their sacrifices,
      and drank the wine of their drink offerings?
    Let them rise and help you;
      let them be your refuge!
  3. See now that I, indeed I, am he! says the LORD,
      and there is no other god besides me.
    I take life and give life, I break and I heal,
      and none can resist my power. (Deut 32)

Love and Trust

  • The way that God wants us to relate to him is
    • to worship him because we trust him, because we love him.
  • We don’t worship him in order to get him to give us the good things that we want in life.
    • Not think that if I have read the Bible for an hour every day this week he will answer my prayer
  • because he loves us he will give us what is good.
  • Our response is contentment with what he gives us.
  • Job says, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” (Job 13:15)

Worship: Two ways

  1. As a means of gaining control
  2. In trusting adoration

True Worship

  • Between these two there is a fundamental tension.

3. A theme in the Bible from beginning to end

3. A theme in the Bible from beginning to end

  1. Adam & Eve
  2. The Tower of Babel: Making a Name
    • Command to spread out, to “make a name”,
      but Abraham & Sarah were willing to do the opposite:
  3. Sarah & Abraham: Faith & the promised Child
    • 25 year wait
  4. Israel worship golden calf or invisible God
  5. The Ark: an Idol? (Eli)
    • God absolutely refused to be treated like an idol
  6. Saul (False king)
  7. David: “Man after God’s own heart”
    • e.g. Ps 20 on next slide
  8. The Jews (Hebrews)
    • turned the Scriptures into an idol
  9. Jesus: the Ultimate Example (Iesus)
    • not about your performance persuading God. Just trust my love

David: Psalm 20

  1. Some trust in chariots and others in horses,
          but we depend on the LORD our God.
  2. They will fall down,
          but we will stand firm.

King Asa: 2 Chron 14

  1. And Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said,
    “LORD, it is nothing for you to help,
          whether with many
          or with those who have no power;
    help us, O LORD our God,
          for we rest on you,
    and in your name we go
          against this multitude.”

King Jehoshaphat: 2 Chron 20

  1. “Our God… we are powerless against this huge army that attacks us! We don’t know what we should do; but our eyes are upon you.”
  2. All the men of Judah were standing before the LORD, along with their infants, wives, and children.
  3. He said: “Pay attention, all you people of Judah, residents of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat! This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Don’t be afraid and don’t panic because of this huge army! For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

4. Living this out daily

4. Living this out daily

  • The Test of Faith
    • Sometimes God deliberately puts us in a situation where we are out of control
    • sometimes, medical, financial, relational
    • How do we respond to this test?
  • Only two things are really important in this world
    1. God is all powerful
    2. He loves me
  • We don’t really know this till we have been through it.
    • This is what happened with Abraham & David
  • He says: Don’t fear—come to me, trust me
    • Will you trust him?

Updated on 2021-02-28 by Andrew Fountain