The human heart is a vast reservoir of complex intensity and depth. God instructs us to guard it and at the same time warns that it is deceitful and wicked. The more I read and study Scripture, the more I begin to (ever so) slowly uncover its great mystery. Truly, the heart is a force to be reckoned with and it is no wonder that the Bible has a lot to say on the subject. Since the very beginning, our hearts have been in natural rebellion against God.
Thank free will and sin for that.
We have plenty of earthly ambitions and temptations which leave us wandering away from our Heavenly Father. It is for this reason that Jesus made it loud and clear in the First and Great Commandment,
This request may appear selfish but let’s take a deeper dive and learn that it is with good measure. We are God’s creation therefore He knows us better than we know ourselves. Since we exist in the physical realm, our focus is primarily locked-in on what is seen and this where we get in trouble. It’s for this exclusive purpose that He appears at the top of the list because of our wavering nature.
The Almighty Lord loves us very, very much and only wants to protect us from our imperfect condition. As our Creator, He is more than sufficient to satisfy and sustain us and is immensely offended when we revolt against Him. Sometimes we have every good intention and yet we can still find ourselves stepping outside of the boundary lines.
In an effort to appease the cravings of our hungry hearts, we create idols. An idol is anything within creation that is magnified to function as God. There is a multitude of things which can be idolized such as a person, idea, property, activity, image, role, institution, worry and so on. On its quest to find happiness in all the wrong places, the heart is a factory of idols. Sometimes we don’t explicitly seek to deny God or diminish His character but the heart wants what it wants. A sweet thing can become sour if there is an excessive attachment, even to a parent, as it will drive us away from God.
Idolatry manages to turn even the most well-meaning desire into something which rules over us. These can be peace, love and approval, fame, wealth, respect and comfort. It all boils down to our actions and attitudes toward the potential idols that permeate our world.
The danger with idolatry is that that it never works out because it only brings pain. This is caused by blindly worshiping things that can never fill the void which God has reserved entirely for His presence. The Lord doesn’t want us to endure more heartbreak than is necessary so He cautions us to do away with all false sense of security. More often than not, idolatry leads to sin because anything that overtakes God cannot continue to flourish.
Cue the tears and broken heart.
Throughout Scripture, there are plenty of examples of people who blatantly kicked God off the throne. In the Book of Daniel, we are given the account of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the golden statue. This story wonderfully captures the folly of man and his eventual downfall when he fails to demonstrate absolute reverence to the Living God. I can’t get into all the details but will try to my best to provide the main highlights.
The king had a dream and the only person who could provide him with an interpretation was Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t all too pleased about the meaning as it foretold the collapse of his empire. In a rage of rebellion, the king decides to trump the Word of God and in an act of outright defiance constructs a golden statue (about 90 feet tall!) in the Plains of Dura where there would be less sight obstruction. He then proceeds to decree that when the music starts to play all the people of Babylon were to fall down and worship the statue.
The plot thickens as Nebuchadnezzar threatens to throw anyone who refuses such adoration into a blazing furnace. He encounters resistance from three men named Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego who vehemently reject this order as it would be a betrayal of the one true God. In light of this, the king instructs to have the heat intensified seven times more than normal and in they go.
To his astonishment, the men who were previously tied up are now loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire. On top of this, Nebuchadnezzar is also able to see the appearance of a fourth figure who he acknowledges as the son of the gods.
Upon witness of this scene, the king approaches the opening of the furnace and shouts to have them come out. He openly praises their God and commands that should anyone say anything against the Lord they will be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble. A happy ending for the faithful men but the adventure continues as the king is further humbled by God for boasting about his conquests. In an effort to quiet him, Nebuchadnezzar loses his sanity and is forced to live like a bovine for 7 years. The king is restored after he finally heeds the hard-earned lesson that the God Most High rules over all kingdoms.
In Daniel 4:25-37, we read:
You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
We have a mighty God who is worthy of our praises but only if we always put Him in first place.
Now, who or what is sitting on the throne of your heart?