Why do people pray to idols? What does idol worship mean today? What is an idol? Is there new idols today?
Idol worship begins in the mind—it starts with an incorrect perception of who HaShem is. It says you can turn an abstract, invisible God into a concrete, metal, wood or plastic god, which of course, is impossible. It is written by the Rambam’s 13 principles of the Jewish faith: “I believe with perfect faith that God does not have a body. Physical concepts do not apply to Him. There is nothing whatsoever that resembles Him at all.”
Idol worship doesn’t just mean singing and dancing and bowing in front statues, it does means believing in any force, object or item outside of the infinite, or the all-powerful God Himself; an angel, a man of God, a constellation, a force of nature, a living creature—or simply a funny-looking little statue. Everything is created by HaShem, and to designate any piece of physical matter as “God” or a “Higher Power” is idol worship. To think that HaShem is not control at all times, and that somehow he is fighting and even some times losing to another power (Satan) is also idol worship.
Idolatry can take many shapes, in my opinion. It’s not only bowing to a representation of a deity, it’s giving up your faith to anything else than God. One can also worship a car, a job, a boss, a woman, etc. It doesn’t have to be a deity per say. You commit this sin if you ever come to consider something in your life more important than God. Idols can be made out of desires, ideas, fears, ideals or simply lies.
The Decalogue begins with the command to reverence the one true God and to recognize no other deities. I am HaShem your God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shalt have no other gods before me. You shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: You shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them… Shemot 20:2-5.
There is no end to the false gods we create when our homing device gets misdirected. In Western cultures we often bow down to the false gods of materialism and control. Some try to relieve their inner emptiness by trying to get approval for being talented or successful. The list goes on, but the point is clear. Whatever we try to derive our core sense of worth and meaning apart from HaShem is idol worship or avodah zarah. Idol worship is also coming into the presence of a holy God on your own terms, not on God’s terms. Doing what you want because your god loves you and changes His standards as you go along. Idol worship is placing your faith in a thing of God and not in God Himself. And by the way, the god of Islam is not a god but a demon.
Making the holy Jewish Messiah into someone he is not is idol worship. We are not to pray to him, but through his holy merit, we are to acknowledge that he is the one send from HaShem. He is the second Adam, the one after one after Moses, suffering like Yosef (suffering, but at the end saving the Jewish people), coming back as King David, to fight the wars of God. But we must remember that we are not to pray to him: Our holy Rabbi, Maran Yeshua HaMashiach said in Mattityahu / Matthew 4:10, “You shall worship HaShem your God and Him only shall you serve.”
We must only worship God and our worship must be in spirit and in truth.