The Vanity of Idols

Meditating on Psalm 135.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
16 They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
17 They have ears, but they do not hear;
Nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them. (Ps. 135:15-18)

The psalmist lamented about the worship of idols of the nations surrounding Israel, but the irony is that, Israel has also adopted it. Their fathers saw the mighty works and wonders that God performed in their midst; Moses taught them to worship only the one true living God, inscribing the commandments on tables of stones so they and the generations to come would not forget. Yet, the generation that came after soon turned aside from Moses’ teachings and followed after strange gods and served them.

I could utter the same lamentation for our country. The Philippines was colonized by Spain for more than 3oo years. The Spaniards’ arrival was described by Carlos P. Romulo’s I Am a Filipino, “…and my sire was the West that came thundering across the seas with the Cross and Sword and the Machine.” Tears pool in my eyes as I am brought back to 4th grade when our class and that of the 5th grade recited this in a program, an important celebration of sorts. This line has stayed with me all these years. When I came to serve the one true living God, I knew why.

The Spaniards brought their religion to us together with the worship of all their graven images . The Filipinos have embraced it ever since.

Most Filipino households have altars where they set up the graven images made of wood or stone. When I was a kid, my grandparents’ house had a built-in altar in the living room full of statues of different sizes and costumes. Every time I passed by the place, I turned my face the other way. Those images spooked me!

Until now, the adoration of images pervades the country. One can find them in public transport, parks, streets, etc. People offer sampaguita garlands to them. They adorn them with bright-clored fabrics and dust them regularly. When I was a kid, everyday during the whole month of May, we offered flowers to the image of Mary enshrined in the church. We would bow down our heads and pray before it. We knelt before the image of Mary! (How truly lamentable!).

During Lent, an image of the infant Jesus would be placed on the altar and the devotees would form a long line to bow before the stone baby and kiss it. I was one of the many who thronged that cold, unmoving baby made of stone. How crazy was that! Before someone would violently  react, I would like to remind you of this commandment:

am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.

3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God… (Ex. 20:2-5)

God lives forever! He speaks, He moves, He is mighty and powerful! He saves and delivers!

During calamities, the people carry their images to safety. The images of wood and stone cannot walk and save them, for how can they seeing they are non-living things! But the people cannot see that!

 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god [Satan] of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (2 Cor. 4:3-4, annotation mine)

The Philippines’ national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, died for the country’s freedom. The country has gained its independence from the Spaniards, but it has remained in bondage to their religion. The parting line of Carlos P. Romulo’s I Am a Filipino still rings true today:

“I am a Filipino born of freedom and I shall not rest until freedom shall have been added unto my inheritance – for myself and my children’s children – forever.”

Amen. We will not rest until true freedom has been obtained through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Your name, O Lord, endures forever,
Your fame, O Lord, throughout all generations.
14 For the Lord will judge His people,
And He will have compassion on His servants. (Ps. 135:13-14)

(Photo courtesy of my cousin Bill Raras).

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Journey with Jesus,


  1. Jen says:

    Thank you for sharing this at Essential Fridays. I was not aware that the Philippine culture was so saturated with idol worship. Of course even here in the States we have various forms of false gospels, and many of those include idol worship. Even those of us who follow Christ often create idols in our own lives. We just need Jesus, don’t we?! :)

    • RinaPeru says:

      Amen, Jen! We are vulnerable in creating idols in our hearts and worshiping them. That’s why there is a need to walk with the Holy Spirit so closely.

  2. Hazel Moon says:

    May we set aside anything that has taken place instead of Jesus in our hearts. Thank you for sharing your inspiring post with us here at ‘Tell Me a Story.”

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