If the heart of man is, as John Calvin described it, “an idol-making factor,” then the way in which those idols are destroyed should be of utmost importance to us.
An idol is anything or anyone who holds the place of God in our life. Idols are things we serve – even if they are good things.
Whenever we sin against God, it is because we have an idol in our life. The Bible is replete with references to idolatry because it was written with the purpose of confronting and providing the remedy for it.
The idolatry of Israel is evident on the pages of the Old Testament revelation – no less than the idolatry of the Gentile nations. No sooner did God deliver his people from the bondage of the idolatrous Egyptians that they made an idol at the foot of the mountain to which he had brought them to worship.
Idolatry persists throughout the world today. The Apostle Paul taught that all men, by nature, “exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:21).
He exhorted the Colossians to put off “covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5); and the Apostle John closed his first epistle with the admonition: “Little children keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
Throughout Israel’s history, there was a recurring act that symbolized how God would remove the idolatry of his people.
When Israel made and worshiped the golden calf at the foot of the mountain, Moses “took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire and ground it to powder.” Then he “scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it” (Exodus 32:20).
When he recounted the act, he explained that he threw the dust of the idol “into a nearby brook” (Deut. 9:21).
The burning, crushing and grinding of the idol represented the judgment of God against sin. The act of throwing the dust of the idol into the brook represented the removal of it from the presence of God. This act prefigured God’s promise to put the sins of his people away from his presence.
This symbolic act became a pattern for the subsequent acts of the righteous kings of Israel. Each of these kings removed idols from the land in a manner similar to that of Moses.
King Asa cut down the idol that his grandmother set up and burned it by the Brook Kidron (1 Kings 15:11-13).
King Josiah “brought out the wooden image from the house of the Lord … burned it at the Brook Kidron and ground it to ashes.” He “pulverized them and threw their dust into the Brook Kidron” (2 Kings 23:4-6, 12).
Under the reign of King Hezekiah, the priests went into the inner part of the temple, brought out all the debris that they found in the temple … and carried it to the Brook Kidron … and they cast them into the Brook Kidron (2 Chronicles 29:16; 30:13).
While these kings are remembered for destroying idols from the land of Israel, none of them could purge the idols from the hearts of the people. The righteous kings of Israel may have temporarily purged the land of idols, but King Jesus removes them from our hearts forever.
Jesus Christ is the cure for our idolatry. As he made his way to Calvary, Jesus crossed over the Brook Kidron (John 18:1), thus symbolizing everything he had come to do. He was burned, crushed and ground by the wrath of God on the cross. The sins of his people have been washed away in his blood.
He has “cast them into the depths of the sea,” even as the righteous kings casts the crushed idols into the Brook Kidron. Christ has destroyed the idols of his people, once and for all, by his death on the cross.