Idols by Any Other Name

Sighing, I continued my physical therapy exercises as the You Tube video I was watching was interrupted by yet another ad. Usually I tune out the ads, but something in this one caught my attention. I stopped moving and stared at the tiny screen on my phone.

A young beautiful woman was talking about her abusive past, and that she had found something that helped her overcome it.

Was it Jesus? I had never seen a testimonial ad on You Tube. I continued watching.

She got a good job, was able to save money, and even travel. And she was so thankful. This something had turned her life around.

Was it Jesus? Sure sounded like it. I waited for her to give Him the glory.

Then somehow she lost that something. Everything in her life fell apart. She lost her job, her home, and her happiness. One day a friend led her back to that something, and again her life was restored. And now she wanted to tell the world about it.

About Jesus? I was ready to celebrate with her, but…

Nope. It wasn’t about Jesus at all.

It was about… a bracelet.

A very special bracelet, infused with good energy by specific rituals, and accompanied by clear directions on how to wear it (make sure you touch it frequently to… what?… show it your faith?) and what not to do with it. She attributed all her well-being to this bracelet, and all her problems to having lost it. It even had a name.

I was floored.

Here in America, we don’t worship man-made objects, right? I mean, in this country we can’t just go to the market and buy a god or two. We (Westernized Christians) generally think of idols as pride, wealth, or status. But what if we’re wrong? What if idols actually mean idols? And what if we are as full of them in the Church today as the Israelites were in the Old Testament? As Christ-followers, we have been commanded to seek all our needs from God, to look only to Him. If we seek joy, prosperity, health, wisdom, peace, safety or anything else from anything other than our Father, how is that any different than what the Israelites were doing? And if we are as guilty of idolatry as they were, regardless of what we call our idols (good luck charms, energy stones, and healing crystals, among others), then aren’t we as much in danger of judgment today as the Israelites were back in their day? God is still a jealous God, and will not share His glory with another. We have been warned numerous times.

Let’s do ourselves a favor. Let’s be like Josiah, the king in 2 Kings 23. Let’s examine ourselves and our stuff and get rid of any idols we may have, before our Father has to come down here and do it for us. Then we can enjoy his blessings instead of facing his judgment.


Deut 7:25-26 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take if for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.

2 Kings 23:24-25  Moreover, Josiah put away the mediums and the necromancers and the household gods and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law that were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest had found in the house of the LORD. Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

2 Cor 6:16  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will  make my dwelling among them and walk among them and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

2 Peter 3:9  The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance.

Two Sides

A book has a beginning and an end. Without both, it would be incomplete.

A coin has a front and a back. Without both, it would be valueless.

A house has an inside and an outside. Without both, it couldn’t exist.

A staircase has a top and a bottom. Without both, it would be useless.

A toothbrush is a hard and a soft part. Without both, it wouldn’t be a toothbrush.

Many things have two sides, both equally important.

So does our God Most High.

He is loving, kind, long-suffering, patient, faithful, merciful, and forgiving.

He is also just, jealous, holy, righteous, wrathful, and a consuming fire.

He is God.

He is not a god.

He is the LORD God Most High.

We did not create God.

His character is not open for debate.

Liking or not liking His traits does not negate them.

Understanding or not understanding Him does not change Him.

He is who He is.

He is God.

Focusing on only one side leaves you shortsighted.

Those who focus on the ‘God is love’ side tend to become presumptuous and  complacent, accepting everything, even sin.

Those who focus on the wrathful God tend to become fearful and legalistic, rejecting anything outside their view.

To know God you have to know both sides.

We either accept Him as He is, or we need to find a god more to our liking. Even if that god is us.

The truth is…

God Most High is both loving and jealous.

God Most High is both merciful and wrathful.

God Most High is both forgiving and holy.

God Most High is both faithful and vengeful.

The side you see depends on where you stand.


Exodus 3:14  God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Psalm 83:18  That they may know that you alone, whose name is the LORD, are the Most High over all the earth.

Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 46:9  Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.

Exodus 34:6-7  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation.”

2 Chronicles 34:21  “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book that has been found. For great is the wrath of the LORD that is poured out on us, because our fathers have not kept the word of the LOR, to do according to all that is written in this book.”

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.

1 Peter 1:15-16  But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all you conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Psalm 11:7 For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

Psalm 86:5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.

1 Cor 15:3  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.

1 John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness.

What If?

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What if all those warnings over the last 40+ years were true –

warnings of a coming darkness?

warnings of God’s wrath?

warnings of judgment because we (Christians) have turned from God?

 

What if you knew those days were here?

How would you live differently? Or would you?

How would it change your prayer life? Or would it?

 

Individually and as a Church,

would we use God’s Word to look within ourselves, to see where we’ve compromised with the world around us?

Because we have compromised.

Would we ask God to reveal our sin; where we’ve strayed?

Because we have strayed.

Would we repent, and pray for God’s mercy?

Because that’s what He wants most of all.

Or would we point our fingers at each other? Or at those outside the Church for bringing this upon us?

 

Each time the Israelites strayed from God’s commands, incorporating pagan lifestyles and beliefs into their own, God sent warnings through His prophets. God gave the people plenty of time to return to Him. Sometimes it was years, sometimes decades, sometimes even centuries. But each time the warnings were ignored. Since the wrath didn’t appear the next day, or the next month, the Israelites believed it wouldn’t happen at all. Instead of turning to God, they turned on the prophets with ridicule, imprisonment, even murder. Until the wrath fell on them.

 

What if we as a Church are no different? What if we have adopted the mind sets and life styles of the world around us? What if we no longer hold God first in our hearts, but  seek after the gods of this world? What if we have been warned repeatedly by courageous modern day prophets, but treated them the same way the Israelite treated the prophets of old? Have we dismissed those who have called out for us to repent? Have we belittled and criticized warning “prophecies”, believing, maybe, that God doesn’t do that anymore? Or that the prophets “got it wrong”? After all, we go to church. We give our money. We try to live good lives. We’re fine, right?

Are we?

 

God told the Israelites to…

worship only Him, and with all their heart,

to follow all His commands which involved their relationship with Him, and with each other,

and to keep His ways, not the ways of the people around them.

 

Didn’t Jesus tell us the same thing?

worship God with all our heart,

love each other, treat each other fairly and justly

obey the Holy Spirit inside us,

and not conform to the world around us

 

God poured out His wrath on the Israelites for straying – wrath that included…

Confusion, frustration

Diseases, afflictions, pestilences, and illnesses

Defeat by their enemies

Oppression and robbery instead of prosperity

Sojourners among them would rise higher and higher while they were brought lower and lower

A nation from far away come against them

Crops consumed by insects

So hungry they end up eating their own children

Be in darkness as if blind

Be left few in number

 

Scary, isn’t it?

What if He did the same with us? What if He’s already doing it? The New Testament warns of a coming wrath. It’s not a matter of IF it will happen, but WHEN it will happen.

 

Yet, God also promised blessings instead of curses if the Israelites turned back to Him…

Set them high among the nations

Defeat their enemies

Establish them as His holy people, causing all other nations to fear them

Prosper them in every way

Send rain in its season

Open to them His good treasury in heaven

They would lend to other nations, and not borrow

 

What if we listened to the prophets this time?

What if we turned back to God with all our hearts?

What if the time was now?

 

 

 


Scriptures:

“For the LORD GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

“Yet he sent prophets among them to bring them back to the LORD. These testified against them, but they would not pay attention.” (2 Chron 24:19)

 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Rom 1:18-19)

“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)

“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom 2:4-6)

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among the saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has not inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceived you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”” (Eph 5:1-14)

 “ Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Col 3:5-6)

“Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

“But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jude 1:17-19)

list of Blessings for Obedience, and Curses for Disobedience (see Deut 28)

“And when all these things come upon you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you call them to mind among all the nations where the LORD your God has driven you, and return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and all your soul, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have mercy on you…  and you shall again obey the voice of the LORD and keep all his commandments that I command you today. The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of you cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the LORD will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers… (Deut 30:1-3, 8-9)

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?” But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it. See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil… therefore choose life that you and your offspring may live…” (Deut 30: 11-15, 19)

“if my people who are called by by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chron 7:14)

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your father served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in the land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15)