This action reveals the duplicity of the human heart. Our sinful bent is to worship other gods rather than the true God. John Calvin famously stated that the human heart is an idol factory. While we may not all worship little statues today, idolatry is still very much a great temptation. Idols also include anything in your life that takes the rightful place of God. These things could even be positive in and of themselves for instance, relationships, personal happiness, a job, hobby, or a sport. But if your allegiance to them interferes with your allegiance to God, they have become an idol. Perhaps you miss church because you need to play in a sporting event. Or maybe you choose your personal happiness over the pursuit of holiness and obedience to the Lord. Whenever you choose to worship anything in creation over the Creator, you have committed idolatry and, as Romans 1:25 says, “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.”
We see the hold these idols had over both Laban and Rachel. Laban decides to chase Jacob and his family as they returned home. Remember that Jacob left Laban abruptly, with much of his livestock and without having had the chance to bid farewell to his family. Yet when Laban catches up to Jacob, the thing he is most upset about is not his missing flocks or his relations leaving him. Instead, he is furious that his idols are missing, showing how much they had captured his heart. Rachel, who stole them, does all that she can to successfully hide them from her father by sitting on them on her camel, showing how much she really desires them.
This is precisely the power of idolatry. Once we are hooked to an idol, we will do anything to serve it. But what idolatry really betrays is our lack of faith, and this lies at the heart of sin. It essentially reveals that in our heart we don’t trust the Lord to provide for us, to fulfill our needs and to satisfy us. Instead, we fall for the lie of the idol that it will satisfy us and fulfill our deepest longings.
Of course, idols can do no such thing. They offer only empty promises, and those who trust in them will be put to shame. That’s why the Bible warns us emphatically about the futility of idolatry. Psalm 115:4–9 says:
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them. O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.
Herein lies the antidote to idolatry, to a divided heart: trust in the Lord! He is our help and shield. Unlike the dead, useless, and lifeless idols, our God is alive. He hears our prayers, sees us, sustains us, satisfies us, knows us, loves us, and speaks to us through His Word.
Not only is our God alive, but He also has drawn near to us whose hearts tend toward idolatry. In the fullness of time, God sent to earth His Son Jesus Christ, who took on flesh and was made man, God with us, our Immanuel. Jesus paid the price for our idolatry and all our sin by dying on the cross in our place. God raised Him to life on the third day, forgiving sins and reconciling a sinful and idolatrous people to Himself. Trust in Him who is able to turn a heart divided and polluted with idolatry into a heart that is forgiven, cleansed, and set firmly on Christ the Savior.