Image building and idol worship

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.  Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages,  that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.  And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”  Therefore, as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, all the peoples, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  Daniel 3:1-7


This is the beginning of a story familiar to any of us who grew up in Sunday School.  The king demanded idol worship; three courageous Hebrews refused; he threw them into a fiery furnace; God miraculously protected them.  Definitely one of the most favorite stories from the Old Testament.


Today we're going to look at a different angle of it - that of the king and his idol, or as Scripture calls it, "an image".


This is not the only time in God's Word that we read about idols.  But in most every other mention, the word "idol" is used, not "image".  The idol is often described as the real thing it represents - a calf or other animal, for example.  But here, the word "image" is used. It is made of gold and ninety feet tall... And Scripture repeats the phrase "that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up" over and over.  The impression is given that this "image" is the likeness of the king himself!  Sure sounds like a major ego trip, doesn't it?


Before we write this off as something we are not,  never have been, and will never be guilty of, let's ask ourselves some questions....


Do we ever try to appear as something better than we are?  Are there things we do or say in an attempt  to make us look better, more important, more whatever than is really true?  Do we project an image to others that is not really who we are? In hopes that others will worship us,too?


Now don't think I am saying it's idol worship to color our hair or belong to a certain club, but maybe we all need to take a peek inside our hearts to see what is driving some of our decisions.  I think it's quite likely that this king's statue building and subsequent demands of worship were rooted in a deep insecurity of feeling that he wasn't good enough.  And he felt a need to appear bigger and better than he really was in order to merit the approval of others.


God designed each of us with a need to be valued, to feel significant, to receive approval.  Those feelings that drive us aren't the problem.  The problem comes when we seek to satisfy those needs with things that can never suffice.  When we think that presenting an "image" or making an impression that is different than our reality will make us feel valued, significant, approved. 


Just like the people surrounding the Babylonian King, our culture seems to applaud the setting up of our images.  We are encouraged (expected?) to strive for physical beauty (the standards of which are ever-changing and elusive), financial success (or at least the trappings of such - even if it requires indebtedness to acquire!), and popularity (currently measured, at least in part, by FB likes and followers on Instagram).  Even the church is not immune.  We consider large attendance "success" and hyper-involvement as "spiritual maturity".  And,  voicing a different opinion than the "important" people often results in  being labeled and marginalized!


All for the sake of "image".  "Image" that promises the security of approval, the esteem of being significant, and the pleasure of being valued.  It seems to work - all around us we see the likes of the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces - the important people of our world - bowing down to these images.  Arranging their lives around the worship of this image. Preferring to fall on the floor before these false ideals rather than risk the repercussions of rejecting the lies that images are built on.


Maybe you and I are more like the "officials" listed here and not like the king.  Maybe we haven't built an image of ourselves that we expect others to admire, trying to make others seem small so that we can feel tall.  Instead of that, we are controlled by a sense of never measuring up.  We compare ourselves to those around us  - and decide we are inferior.  Humility is one thing - a fragile self-esteem is another.  Being plagued by feelings of inferiority (and the resulting behavior of worshipping those we decide are more worthy) is just another form of pride.  It's no different than King Nebuchadnezzar's golden image -- both are manifestations of self-absorption! Just like image-building, idol worship is self-focused.  Whether fearful of reprisal or hopeful of attaining personal advantage, bowing down (or "kissing up"!!) to someone or something is rooted in pride.


No one and no image is worthy of our adoration.
Except for the King of Kings.


And He says  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you I Peter 5:6


Lord. help us not respond to our insecurity by either building an image that looks better than reality nor by falling on our face before those we think are in control of our well-being.  Help us see that You and You alone are worthy of our devotion...and under Your mighty hand is the highest position our hearts long for!