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Bible Study: An idol by any other name

NASHVILLE (BP) – This weekly Bible study appears in Baptist Press in a partnership with Lifeway Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. Through its Leadership and Adult Publishing team, Lifeway publishes Sunday School curricula and additional resources for all age groups.

This week’s Bible study is adapted from the MasterWork curriculum.

Bible Passages: Judges 8:22-35

Discussion Questions:

  • What is an idol?
  • Are idols a thing of the past? If not, what form do idols take in the 21st century?
  • What are the most prevalent idols in the world around you? What substitute names do they go by?

Food for thought:

In the television documentary series River Monsters, Jeremy Wade traveled the world seeking to solve mysterious injuries, deaths and disappearances perpetrated in global rivers. Each episode sought to answer a single question: What river creature could have, and likely did, commit this particular atrocity?

Local fishermen sometimes supplied the name of the fish they suspected, often one Wade was unfamiliar with. When he eventually caught or saw the fish the locals referenced, he learned he indeed did know it. He just knew it by a different name.

Bible teacher and author Priscilla Shirer concludes “Gideon: Your Weakness, God’s Strength,” with the chapter, “An Idol by Any Other Name.” She emphasizes “idolatry is very much alive today, no matter what terminology we attach to it.”

In Gideon’s case, after he led the Israelites to victory over the Midianites, they asked him to “rule over us” (Judges 8:22). They didn’t use the word king, but they described what a king would do, and they did so at a time before God had approved a king for His people. They wanted a man rather than God to rule over them.

For his part, Gideon said the right thing: “I will not rule over you. … The LORD will rule over you” (v. 23). But what did he do? He began to live and behave as if he were king.

He requested part of the spoils of war as would a national leader (v. 24). He willingly received the opulent ornamentation for himself and his camels that only kings with national wealth behind them could afford (v. 26). He made himself an ephod, a symbol of priestly authority, and allowed people to worship it (v. 27). Then he named his new son Abimelech, which means son of the king (v. 31).

We might use positive and innocent-sounding words for an object of our devotion. But regardless of what we call it, anything we put ahead of God carries the stench of idolatry.

MasterWork is an ongoing Bible study curriculum based on works from a variety of renowned authors and offers pertinent, practical messages that adults will find uplifting and enriching. The list of authors and their books to be studied in upcoming months can be found at Lifeway.com/masterwork.


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