In the familiar story detailed in Daniel 3, something jumped out to me that I never focused on before: the emphasis, as noted through repetition, on man's efforts in creating idols. You've probably heard of Nebuchadnezzar's 90' tall golden statue and how Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-nego) refused to bow down to it, resulting in their being thrown into the fiery furnace.
SPOILER ALERT: God rescues them from the furnace without even a hint of smoke on them.
Usually the focus of the story is on that aspect, and rightly so. It's an amazing event with, most likely, the preincarnate Christ setting these young men free and establishing the Lord's sovereignty over creation. But as I studied the passage recently, I couldn't help but notice the amount of times that the phrase "the king had set up" (or something very similar) was used in describing the 90' statue of gold. (It's at least 10 times in the first 15 verses.)
Nebuchadnezzar's power and arrogance convinced him that he was invincible. His efforts had accomplished all that a man could accomplish, so to receive worship unto himself, he created a huge golden idol. He made it and set it up and then told everyone to come worship it. It reminds me a little of this:
The text of Daniel 3 clearly shows us that Nebuchadnezzar's idol originated from himself and that his narcissism rejected any idea that there could be anyone greater. That's why he asks the Israelite young men, "what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?" He didn't believe there was one. He had made an idol, he had caused everyone else to worship it, he fired up the furnace and he was the only one who had the authority (or so he thought) to kill these dissenters or spare them.
This is what our idolatry does in our own lives. When we set up for ourselves, as Nebuchadnezzar did, the idols that make us feel comfortable or pleased, we begin to think we're the ones in control. After all, we set it up!
If you're looking for a way to identify idols in your heart that you may not realize you've set up, consider your reaction to losing things you hold dear. Often, when we're reminded that we're not in control or don't have final say, we get upset. The things we REALLY want to control or have final say over usually have become idols in our lives. Even in the context of the Christian life, it's easy to set things up for ourselves in a way we like. Then we continue down the path we've designed while attributing our walk to obedience to Christ, hoping that He won't actually call us to veer from what we've set up.
Let us turn our hearts to the one who set it ALL up!
Hear the word that the LORD speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the LORD:
“Learn not the way of the nations,
nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens
because the nations are dismayed at them,
for the customs of the peoples are vanity.
A tree from the forest is cut down
and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
They decorate it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so that it cannot move.
Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field,
and they cannot speak;
they have to be carried,
for they cannot walk.
Do not be afraid of them,
for they cannot do evil,
neither is it in them to do good.”
There is none like you, O LORD;
you are great, and your name is great in might.
Who would not fear you, O King of the nations?
For this is your due;
for among all the wise ones of the nations
and in all their kingdoms
there is none like you.
They are both stupid and foolish;
the instruction of idols is but wood!
Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
and gold from Uphaz.
They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith;
their clothing is violet and purple;
they are all the work of skilled men.
But the LORD is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation.
(Jeremiah 10:1-10 ESV)