In Scripture, God doesn’t mince any words about idolatry. For example…
“They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger.” (Deuteronomy 32:16)
“They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God; they have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols.” (Deuteronomy 32:21a)
“You shall not bow down to [idols] nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” (Exodus 20:5)
“(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God).” (Exodus 34:14)
“I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.” (Isaiah 42:8)
Recently, I was freshly made aware of idolatry in my life. But God’s purpose in showing me the abundant evils of my heart was not condemnation (driving me away from Him) but conviction (drawing me to Him).
My natural response to sin is not to repent, but to beat myself over the head, as if the pride of legalistic self-abasement could somehow provide penance for my sin. On the contrary, it only adds to my sin. In fact, penance is a lost cause. If penance is my only hope, I have no hope.
On this particular occasion, I received grace to respond with brokenness and grief. As God once again showed me how good He is, I saw how evil my sin is. I had forsaken the fountain of living waters and had hewn for myself broken cisterns that hold no water (see Jeremiah 2:13). In that moment (as in every moment of every day), I deserved to receive God’s just condemnation, and yet God lavished on me His grace to seek repentance and reconciliation in his eternally-satisfying arms.
Based on the seriousness of my sin, it is amazing that I am not consumed by the Lord’s displeasure. That I am looked upon in mercy and not wrath is a testament to the efficacy of Christ’s finished work. How good God is, as expressed in Charles Wesley’s hymn, “Depth of Mercy,” printed in its entirety below. (Go ahead, read the whole thing; it’s awesome!)
Depth of mercy! Can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?
I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.
I have spilt His precious blood,
Trampled on the Son of God,
Filled with pangs unspeakable,
I, who yet am not in hell!
I my Master have denied,
I afresh have crucified,
And profaned His hallowed Name,
Put Him to an open shame.
Whence to me this waste of love?
Ask my Advocate above!
See the cause in Jesus’ face,
Now before the throne of grace.
Jesus, answer from above,
Is not all Thy nature love?
Wilt Thou not the wrong forget,
Permit me to kiss Thy feet?
If I rightly read Thy heart,
If Thou all compassion art,
Bow Thine ear, in mercy bow,
Pardon and accept me now.
Jesus speaks, and pleads His blood!
He disarms the wrath of God;
Now my Father’s mercies move,
Justice lingers into love.
Kindled His relentings are,
Me He now delights to spare,
Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”
Lets the lifted thunder drop.
Lo! I still walk on the ground:
Lo! an Advocate is found:
“Hasten not to cut Him down,
Let this barren soul alone.”
There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is love! I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps and loves me still.
Pity from Thine eye let fall,
By a look my soul recall;
Now the stone to flesh convert,
Cast a look, and break my heart.
Now incline me to repent,
Let me now my sins lament,
Now my foul revolt deplore,
Weep, believe, and sin no more.