Human beings are created to worship the Creator. The psalms in particular are replete with calls for all of mankind to worship the Creator (cf. Pss 66:4; 95:6; 99:5; 150:6). But, as Paul points out, it is part of fallen humanity’s penchant to exchange the truth about God for a lie and worship creation rather than the Creator (Rom 1:22-25).
This idolatrous worship practice can take place in many ways. Buddhism, Hinduism, and many African religions are examples of pagan idolatry. Even secularism, which claims to be empty of all religious components, takes the form of idolatry by replacing God with the autonomous self. Idolatry at its core is the epitome of human pride, arrogance, and foolishness.
Psalm 115: Worship and Idolatry
Psalm 115 gives insightful commentary on the subject of idolatry and worship. Psalm 115 depicts the false idols who have mouths, eyes, ears, noses, and hands; yet, they cannot speak, see, hear, smell, or feel. These idols are contrasted with the active and living God who is able to protect Israel (v. 9), the God who made heaven and earth (v. 15), and who belongs in the highest of heavens (v. 16).
The irony in Psalm 115 is not just the folly of trusting in idols who can do nothing to help you. The irony is found in the fact that those who make the idols, those who trust in them and worship them become like the idols themselves. Note verse 8, “Those who make them [the idols] become like them; so do all who trust in them.” This is a profound statement about the disposition of those who embrace idolatry. Those who exchange the real and living God for an idol become like the idol itself—desensitized and stupid. Just like the idols have ears but cannot hear, so idolaters cannot hear. Just as idols have eyes but cannot see, so idolaters cannot really see.
Worship and Idolatry in the New Testament
This theme of idolatry causing the stupefaction of individuals is carried on throughout the Bible, even into the New Testament. What we often see in both Old and New Testaments is the condemnation of people whose eyes and ears do not work properly, just like the idols! The implication within the language is that idolatry confounds the senses and does not allow us to hear and obey God.
Consider the following examples:
“Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;Isaiah 6:9-10
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.Matthew 11:15
Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.Matthew 13:13
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.Revelation 2:7
These are just a few examples of this type of language in the Old and New Testaments. Idolatry is the perversion of true worship for God, replacing God with something inferior. When we worship the true God and pursue Him we are sensitive to truth and we function as He designed us to function. When we displace God and pursue anything that takes His place, we become dull and stupid. We become like what we worship.
This is why the New Testament has many admonitions pertaining to the eyes and ears of individuals. It is a warning against idolatry. In the gospels Jesus often tells his audience, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” In a sense he is saying, if you are able to hear, then obey. Only those who have forsaken their idols and are fully committed to worship God will hear.