Because people’s spiritual awareness is proportional to the purity of their lives—to the degree they live by God’s divine laws—one can rarely say he knows God until he does so experientially through that process. The opposite is to never know God. When worldliness becomes the norm, it shuts out people’s ability to reach him and for him to reach them through the barriers of their addictive preoccupations. Isaiah thus teaches that the single most contributing factor to spiritual blindness is idolatry—people’s worship of false gods.
While modern idolatry doesn’t necessarily take the form of “bowing down before dumb idols” as in Isaiah’s day—although some instances of it remain—its effect is the same. Today’s idolatrous materialistic socio-economic system not only replicates the idolatrous materialistic culture of ancient Babylon, it does so on steroids. Religious institutions, therefore, have been compelled to cater to people who are compromised by their love of idols that prevents them from knowing God personally or from replicating the miracles of the past.
Those who attempt to serve God and Mammon inevitably live in a spiritual twilight, a comfort zone that offers solace in worldly things that fill their void of spiritual things. A vicious cycle of idolatry robbing spirituality and spirituality defaulting to idolatry typifies their lifestyle. Yet they wonder why God doesn’t respond to them as he did to people of old. Isaiah’s answer is simple but not easy—repent of your idolatries. Put away the gods that can’t save you and return to him from whom you have contrived ways to go far astray.
The evil effects of idolatry—the worship of false gods in place of the true God—not only causes spiritual blindness but also inner conflict as your lifestyle contravenes God’s recipe for peace of soul and inward joy. The combination of spiritual blindness and inner conflict, in turn, may lead to a stubborn determination to live life without God, on the one hand, or to blame others as the cause of your discord and make them the scapegoats of your guilt. A better alternative would be to eliminate idolatry and let you and others live in peace.
But when we speak of modern idolatry, which specific idols could present a problem? Persons who have experienced a true wilderness situation for a time in order to find God or “get in touch with the universe” learn that we really don’t need all the worldly trappings our material culture has to offer. Smart-phones, games, TV, entertainments, vehicles, machines, gadgets, hobbies, professions, sports, sports stars, movies, movie stars, music, pop stars—when they distract us from remembering our Savior–God, they have become idols.
We know when we attempt to give up an idol and feel it pulling us to indulge in it again that we are on the right track in letting go of our idolatrous addictions. As we align our will with God’s will—sacrificing our own will in favor of his—we begin to experience an amazing freedom. The heavens open and our walk in life becomes more confident. And once we divest ourselves of bondage to one idol—discovering we can do without it—letting go of the others gets easier until loving and serving God alone becomes second nature.