Sometime last year, my father-in-law was certified to do controlled burnings on his farm. He had to go through extensive training so he could learn the procedures requisite to carrying out what is understood to be the lawful burning of brush on his property. He was literally licensed to play with fire. Needless to say, my three sons thought this was the coolest thing ever. After all, what little boys wouldn’t want to take a flamethrower and burn things! My mother-in-law, however, was insistent that the boys shouldn’t be allowed to be out with their grandfather while he did the burnings, since there was an enormous threat of getting burned, or of a wildfire starting and consuming everything in its path—including my boys.
Once individuals practice idolatry, there is the risk of it spreading like wildfire. We see this throughout Israel’s history, and perhaps nowhere so clearly as in the account of the Danites and Micah in Judges 17–18. No sooner had the members of the tribe of Dan heard about the household gods and personal Levite that Micah had taken to himself, than they wanted those things for themselves.
This was not pagan idolatry in the strictest sense of the term. This was synchronized idolatry among the covenant people of God. That’s what made it so exceedingly dangerous for them, and so abominable to the Lord. Micah had done what so many have sought to do throughout human history—he personalized his religion so that it would fit according to his own desires. The Danites then envied the idolatrous liberation that Micah had seemed to attain. Once they took the household gods and the Levitical priest to themselves, the synchronized idolatry burned among them like wildfire, and it burned for many generations (Judges 18:30).
There is a warning here for us today. While we may not be setting up carved idols in our homes or among our friends and family members, we are constantly being encouraged to synchronize the true worship of God based on Scripture with what seems to fit with our own desires and the practices and values of our culture. The path to hell really is paved with good intentions. However, idolatry is a wildfire of rebellion against the Most High God.
Jesus came into this world to be the Great High Priest of His people. He lived and died and rose again in order to bring us into the presence of God and to make us a people who worship Him in spirit and truth. Jesus dealt with the wildfire of our idolatry by extinguishing the fire of God’s wrath as He hung on the cross for our idolatrous sin. When we keep our eyes fixed on Him, we take them off the idolatries of this world and in our own hearts.
Written by Nick Batzig