Two weeks ago on April 9th, we looked at a deep inward bankruptcy and our attempts to earn our way to God. We touched a little on the idol worship the nation of Israel was involved in that grieved God’s heart as it pulled away their faith and confidence and trust in him, shifting it to idols made out of stone, rather than dependence on the living God.

Today we are going to take a look at what kinds of idols Israel worshipped in the time of the writing of the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament, as well as taking a look at the idols of the New Testament era, and if we have time, perhaps I’ll give a few examples of modern day idols we worship today rather than God.

To understand idol worship a little more and how it was such an offense to God, we first should take a closer look at what happened when the nation of Israel was given the ten commandments by God.

What happened that day as Moses received the 10 commandments from the God of Israel, the creator of the universe, the God Christians believe in as well? The Israelites had agreed to enter a covenant with God, a contract, as it were, that consisted of blessings for obedience, and curses for disobedience. You can take a closer look at these blessings and curses in Deuteronomy 11 in the Old Testament. If we de-construct this to a modern day comparison, we can view this as a contract. If the two parties participating in the terms of the agreement are satisfied with the terms they will sign a contract including the consequences involved for breaking the agreement of the terms stated. we see a similar contract developing with God and the people of Israel. The people agreed wholeheartedly, wanting the blessings offered in this contract, and the terms seemed reasonable enough. As the 10 commandments state:

1.Don’t have any other gods before Me. (this is God speaking to Moses as he is giving the law he expects Israel to follow).
2.Don’t make any idols, in the image of anything in heaven, or on earth, or under the earth. Don’t worship them or serve them.
3.Don’t take the name of the Lord God in vain.
4.Remember the Sabbath (a day of rest) and keep it holy. You shall not do any work on this day.
5.Honor your father and mother that your days will be prolonged in the land which God gives to you.
6.You shall not murder.
7.You shall not commit adultery.
8.You shall not steal.
9.You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10.You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

I read a quote once, that I absolutely love, on the subject of the ten commandments that I will share with you now, which at first, may seem to contradict everything that I am suggesting about some ‘standard’ that God has set, that we cannot attain to. But bear with me; I am taking you on a journey with me to discover what the heart of God for man is. Here is what Erwin McManus suggests on the subject of the Ten Commandments:

“The ten commandments are not heaven’s standards… They are not God’s attempt to pull us up beyond the human into the spiritual. The Ten Commandments are the lowest possible standard of humane living. Stop and consider what they demand of us. Maybe it would help if we just rephrased them in everyday language. Here goes: ‘hey could you stop killing each other? Oh, yeah, and by the way, could you not steal each other’s stuff? And it would be really helpful if you wouldn’t lie to each other and here’s a thought, could you not take other people’s husbands and sort of, like, keep your own? Upon reflection, these are unreasonable right? How could anyone be expected to live up to those? Only God could do that, right? Why don’t we get it? Anything below these standards is choosing to live like an animal, a barbarian. The Ten Commandments don’t call us to extraordinary life; they call us to stop dehumanizing each other. The law is the minimum of what it means to be human.”

When you look at it the way Erwin McManus puts it, it makes sense. Sounds like some good rules to live by to keep everybody happy and inherit massive blessings on top of it! Israel was IN! They agreed to the terms of the contract, little realizing how difficult it would be to follow. Little realizing that to God, this was more than a contract, this was His heart of love wanting to bless his people and have a close relationship with them. But as I mentioned in my blog two weeks ago, Israel strayed their commitment and affection from God to other things.

Some of the major idols in the BC (before Christ) era that Israel served were the gods of the Caananite people who controlled all the fertile valleys of the region at the time. The Caananites worshipped Baal and other deities that were known to be gods of fertility. It was natural to pray to these gods to hope for one’s crops to be good each year, as well as the very sexual content involved in the worship of these gods.

The erection of two golden calves in cult centers were also idols that were forbidden to be worshipped. These forms of worship were introduced from Assyrian and Babylonian worship that influenced Israel while they were in exile to foreign rulers.

“Israel’s calling was to the worship of the one true God. God’s election separated the people from unholiness and to himself as his special possession… God had chosen Israel and they were to worship and serve him only…the first commandment is to have no gods before God (Exodus 20:3). In addition, the construction of any images or the mention of other gods was forbidden” (taken from biblestudytools.com. )

Baal, according to the Caananite religion of the time, was considered to be the god of the rain, thunder, fertility and agriculture, and lord of heaven. In an arid land were agriculture was a thing of difficulty, it is no wonder people would turn to whatever God ‘specialized’ in the need at the present moment. Fast forwarding to the Roman and Greek culture that we are more familiar with in history, the same applies: pray to Aries the god of love, or to Aphrodite, the female sex goddess, or for peaceful journeys at sea, pray to Poseidon the god of the seas. Or Zeus, or Hades, god of the underworld. You prayed to whom you needed the most at the time.

Going back to Baal worship for a moment, back in the day, Baal worship consisted of child sacrifice, indecent sexual acts, and the reverence of creation over the creator. It would look a little like a bunch of people standing around the alter to Baal and burning a child on the altar, and then having a massive sex orgy, in the attempt to bribe Baal to bring rain and fertility to the land.

The goddess associated with Baal is Anat, like the goddess Ishtar, of love and war. She is believed to aid & support him in his conflicts and vindicating him in his losses. According to tradition, Caananites centered their worship around the male creator god, El, and his wife Asherah. Baal was the son of their union. Asherah was the chief female deity worshipped. Baal’s appearance was mostly in the form of a man with horns of a bull, carrying thunderbolts in his hand like his father. He would also appear in the form of a serpent. Asherah appeared mostly as an Asherah pole, a wooden figure depicting sexuality.

The problem the Living God of Creation had with these pagan idols was multi-fold. First of all, these idols were treated like household gods, in an attempt to get what they wanted, they would pray to the appropriate god, thus, treating all gods as a means to an end, out of selfish ambition. Second, these idols had turned Israel’s dependence and trust in God to other images of stone that were not gods at all, but mere idols and myth. God wanted his people to recognize that he was God over all, that HE in fact, was the God of creation, not El. That HE was the God of the rain, and the thunder and the water and all creation itself. Thirdly, creation itself was exalted higher than the God who created all things!! And finally, and most important, God loved his creation and wanted them to know his love, rather than exert their independence and trust in their own strength, or in fantasy rather than reality. He wanted them to know, according to Him, all other gods are no gods at all and have no strength or might or ability.

He alone is God. So here we have it… God is still trying to teach them (and us) to get it: He alone is God. “all other cisterns are broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

No other god, or created thing can fill us as He does. We were designed on purpose to connect to God, to be loved by God, to love him in return, to enjoy the community of oneness between us and the godhead, and to pass it on in the communities of our lives, our family, our friends, our community, our neighbors… Even our enemies, to extend compassion & love towards them.

Briefly, on idols today: anything we put our faith, confidence and assurance in MORE than God, is considered an idol. He wants us to rely on Him. After all, he is known as the Exer Kenegdo: “The One who comes through for”.

Katie Meilleur
Life Coach
http://www.freedomlifelove.com
#Freedom #Life #Love

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