“Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” Psalm 115:8 ESV
My favorite fan fiction of all time is JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” In the movies and books we meet the pitiful creature Gollum, who once was a peaceful, friendly hobbit named Sméagol. But, Sméagol was transformed into the ugly, slinking creature Gollum when he had the misfortune of discovering a magical ring.
The One Ring promised unlimited power to the one who wore it, however in exchange it exacted a heavy toll. The ring was imbued with the evil spirit of a tyrannical king, named Sauron. Those who wore the ring were inevitably transformed by its evil and turned into slaves of the Dark Lord. And so is the tragic story of Gollum - a hobbit who became a creature corrupted by evil.
The reason why this character is so compelling is because it’s based on a biblical principle - we inevitably become what we worship. This is a major lesson of Psalm 115. Whatever or whoever holds our heart’s affection will transform us into its likeness - for good or evil.
When the Israelites came out of Egypt, they received the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai. The second of those commandments is to forsake all idols (Ex. 20:4). Psalm 115 celebrates this commandment, expressing worship to the true and living God, in specific contrast to the idols that were being worshipped by the surrounding nations.
The Egyptians, Canaanite’s and Amalekites were mocking Israel because they seemed to worship an invisible god, in contrast to their gods, who were visible and on display in their temples. In contrast, Psalm 115 says their gods were on pedestals in temples, whereas “our God is in heaven” (v. 3, 16). Their gods are “made by the hands of men” out of “silver and gold” (v. 4), whereas our God made us. Their gods have “mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk” (vv. 5–7). In contrast, the God of biblical revelation is the living God, who speaks, sees, hears, smells, feels, and walks!
The climax of the psalm is found in verse 8: “Those who make [idols] will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.” This is a great reminder to us. If you worship a dead block of wood or stone, you will become like what you worship, dead and lifeless. If you worship the living God, you will become like him, with all his goodness and perfections. Although we live in the 21st century, we still can see the widespread worship of false idols. An idol is anything you love more, fear more, serve more and worship more than the true God. Some worship the idols of money, drugs, power, and sex. However, these things have no more life than the dead idols of the ancient world. They will all pass away.
This psalm is a sobering reminder that we become like what we worship. Like Gollum who worshipped the power of the ring and became a slave. Therefore, we should be careful not only to avoid false idols, but also to not worship some warped caricature of God that we have invented in our own minds, rather than the true and living God, who has revealed himself in the person of Christ.
Pray: “Lord, smash the idols in my life! I don’t want to become a slave of the gods of this world. Transform my mind. Change my affections to love what you love and hate what you hate. Make me more like Jesus and less like myself. Amen.”