There is a phrase that appears 10 times in the Old Testament — “under every green tree.”
“And you shall know that I am the Lord, when their slain lie among their idols around their altars, on everyEzekiel 6:13
high hill, on all the mountaintops, under every green tree, and under every leafy oak, wherever they offered pleasing aroma to all their idols.”
What significance does this phrase carry? Well, the Israelites sacrificed their offerings to their gods underneath these trees. This was a place of spiritual unfaithfulness.
“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25).
So while these nations feared the LORD, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day (2 Kings 17:41).
They served their idols, which became a snare to them (Psalm 106:36).
The Bible teaches us throughout that seeking the pleasures of this world is committing spiritual adultery.
Yet time and time again God gives us more grace.
When we look at Ezekiel 6:13, we see the Lord act in righteous anger. He is a Holy God, the Lord of Lords, the Creator of all things, the only one our praise belongs to. Yet, while we fear Him, we serve our idols when we praise the creature rather than the Creator. If we praise our grades, our relationships, our achievements, even ourselves, then we are placing our identity in those things instead of in the God who made our identity.
None of those things made or created us, yet we treat them like they have. These things become a means by which we can “find ourselves.” Then right when we find what we think we’ve been looking for, we become ensnared by it, and suddenly we’ve lost ourselves, again.
You see, we get caught in this cycle of looking for a god that we can see, something we can control more easily.
“Maybe this will bring me happiness.”
But is it not true that every time we pursue whatever achievement, person, or ambition more than we are pursuing God, it is only a moment before it all falls apart, leaving us empty and feeling as if we’ve lost ourselves. When God moves, He is going to move every idol out of your life. And when he moves your idols, he is moving your selfish ambitions, pursuits, and self-centered desires that yearned after something other than God’s desire for you.
Let me say that again. His desire is for you. He created you to glorify and enjoy Him forever. He created you in His image, and your identity lies in Him and Him alone. In Him, you lack nothing.
If our identity lies in anything other than God, we are bound to “lose ourselves” and feel as if we don’t even know who we are anymore. We are bound to fall and break. I’ve come to realize that subsequently, this needs to happen. There needs to be brokenness. It needs to get worse before it gets better.
Only then are we brought to a place of realizing that we need all of Jesus, and it is then that we can recognize God’s phenomenal glory and power. It is only then when we realize that He is the Lord, we give up our vain pursuits to pursue a complete fear and reverence for the Almighty God.
Learning to live to honor God and give thanks to Him in and for everything is crucial to the Christian walk, and truly strengthens your relationship with Christ. Remember: He is the one deserving of all our affection and praise.
If you place your identity in the Lord, you will never lose who you are. If you have surrendered your life to Him, he has sealed your eternity, set His Holy Spirit to dwell in you, and made you His. Maybe you’re like the Israelites in 2 Kings 17:41, and you fear the Lord, but there’s an idol in your life you are placing above Him that popped into your head while you were reading this. If I can be honest here, that idol for me was people and relationships.
I was bent on pleasing people and making them happy, even at the expense of my own health and stability. In reality, I was idolizing myself because I sought their praise for being the cause of their happiness, instead of placing God as the focal point and ultimate source of joy in each of our lives.
When the Lord took those relationships out of my life, it absolutely broke me, but it became a much needed end to myself and the beginning of God. The Lord’s gracious mending and restoration changed my heart to place my identity in Christ; truly beginning to live that out by glorifying Him filled me with so much more joy than any person ever could.
God will move idols out of our lives, even though it can be painful, but ultimately it brings us to an end of ourselves and the beginning of God on the throne of our hearts. Oh, how wonderful it is to completely surrender our lives in worship to the God who truly satisfies our every need and heals our brokenness!