“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol. Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord. And righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24)
What is an idol? Why are they destructive to our relationship with God? How do Christians identify idols in their life? What’s God’s strategy to help us bring them down? What’s God’s ultimate vision for us to live “idol-free” lives?
I. GOD DESIRES FOR HIS GLORY TO BE HONORED IN ALL ASPECTS OF HIS CREATION
A. In the next age, (after Jesus returns) our whole world will be filled with the “knowledge of the glory of the Lord”. His presence will fill the earth, “as the waters cover the sea”. (Habakkuk 2:14)
B. In this atmosphere, He will be worshipped as the righteous God, Who is worthy to rule the nations, in Whom resides all strength, all wisdom, all wealth and glory.
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” (Revelation 5:12)
He will will worshipped as such wholeheartedly – by every created being.
C. The Holy Spirit is committed to preparing a people who will give themselves to investing in manifesting the glory of the Lord in all aspects of creation (the Habakkuk 2 reality) in this age, by faith.
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put way the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River an in Egypt. Serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:14)
D. The goal of being free from our idols is our increased present-tense, tangible experience of the holiness, fear and love of the Lord, so that we might worship Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.
II. WHAT IS IDOLATRY?
A. Several general classifications of idolatry include:
1. The formation of objects, or the direct worship of some aspect of creation: trees, hills, stones, stars, animals etc. to which we ascribe power to order our lives.
2. Worshipping individuals/heroes who exert beneficial and punitive control over our world.
3. Exalting the ability of self to sufficiently govern our lives and/or the lives of others.
B. Here’s how numerous Christian leaders have historically defined an idol:
Origen: What each one honors before all else, what before all things he admires and loves, this for him is ‘god’.
John Piper: An idol is anything loved or the person loved more than God, trusted more than God, desired more than God, treasured more than God, enjoyed more than God.
Arthur Wallis: An idol may be defined as any person or thing that has usurped in the heart the place of pre-eminence that belongs to the Lord.
Timothy Keller: Anything that absorbs our heart and imagination more than God.
A.W. Tozer: The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. Wrong ideas about God are the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.
Kyle J. Howard: Idolatry is anything you want so bad you’re willing to sin to get it, act sinfully to keep it, and respond sinfully when you’re deprived of it.
Ed Litton My desire becomes want, want becomes need, need becomes entitlement and my definition of happiness, then anger ensues because God has not fulfilled my needs and I am lost in a desert of self consuming idolatry.
Paul Moser: Idolatry is inherently a rejection of God’s authority and a quest for self-definition, self- importance, and self-fulfillment on our own terms.
C. Paul describes the origin of idolatry in Romans 1:21-25: men forsook God – they stopped regarding God; Who He is and what He promises to do, and sank into ignorance – they became disconnected from the truth of Who God is and how He operates, and moral corruption – and they gave themselves to unfaithful behaviors for their own benefit. (Romans 1:28).
D. An idol is whatever we turn to, serve, honor, give worth to, apart from God, in order to experience “good”. Idolatry is what ever way we fill in the blank without God: “I need ______ in order to experience ‘X’ good in my world.” In making this statement we lie against the generous goodness of God and are well on our way to erecting an idol in our heart.
E. Idolatry is not merely an Old Testament metaphor. There are more than 35 references to idolatry in the New Testament. It is a real concern, because idolatry is ultimately real rebellion against the reign of God on the earth. Although Christians may not openly embrace idols, they none-the-less are susceptible to “idolatry”, and “idolatrous behavior” toward issues, powers and strongholds that promise us “good”
apart from receiving it through the means ordained by God.
III. THE DANGERS OF IDOLATRY
A. The Old Testament repeatedly warns the people of God from the worship of idols.
1. Idolatry breaks the first two of the Ten Commandments.
I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before Me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (Exodus 10:3-4).
2. After Israel had received the land, Joshua, exhorts them to renounce their idolatry.
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14)
3. The Hebrew culture used four words to reference “idols”. Each of these words stresses the inferiority of the idol:
a. pasil – a carved image; fashioned by the hand of fallen man
b. elilim – powerless one; that which lacks the power to give and redeem life
c. gillulim – pellets of dung; that which defiles, debases and devalues one’s soul
d. shiqqutsim – shameful things; that which should not be named among the image-bearers of God.
B. The New Testament also steadfastly warns believers to stay away from idolatry.
1. 1 Corinthians 10:14 So then my dear friends, flee from idolatry.
2. Galatians 5:20-21 Those who practice.. idolatry, will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
3. 1 Peter 4:3 For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the nations – when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries.
C. All idols are strongholds in our cultural or personal thinking that oppose the Word of God, and the true knowledge of the Lord.
…every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
D. Because idolatry is ultimately opposed to the knowledge of God and the universal reign of God, the Author of life, when we give place to idols we give place to real, destructive forces in our lives:
1. We defraud ourselves from the abundance that God desires for us to live in under the purity of His absolute and perfect reign.
2. We rob ourselves of the glorious identity that comes with being conformed to Christ; the rightful Object of our love and adoration.
3. We are more prone to entertain sin, turn a blind eye to sin, feed on sin and promote sin.
4. Idols devalue and tyrannize our lives. No one is better off living under an idol, than under the reign of Jesus Christ. Idolatry is a sure pathway to human destruction: destruction of our love, faith and allegiance to Jesus, and destruction of our hart, soul, mind and body.
5. Idols are empowered by demonic forces in opposition to the reign of God.
6. Idols diffuse and short-circuit our prayers before God. (Psalm 24:3-4)
E. Ultimately, idolatrous behavior will keep individuals from experiencing the Kingdom of God, and inheriting eternal life. They will be deemed “enemies of God” and subject to eternal destruction.
For you can be confident of this one thing: that no person who is immoral, impure, or greedy (such a person is an idolater) has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
But as for these enemies of Mine who did not want Me to be their King, bring them here and slaughter them in front of Me!’” (Luke 19:27)
(See also Revelation 22:15; 1 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 10:7)
IV. IDOLATRY AND THE JEALOUSY OF GOD
A. The Father longs for His people to see and understand that He is a God of jealous love. In fact, scripture
tells us that one of the names for God is “Jealous”.
For you must not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)
For the Lord your God is a consuming fire; he is a jealous God. (Deuteronomy 4:24)
B. ALL false definitions of greatness and strength will be exposed – not because He’s hostile toward us, but because He’s hostile toward those things that falsely promise to be sufficiently strong for us. Consequently, the Lord is actively protective and discriminatory toward everyone and everything that would purport to serve as intermediaries to His personal goodness. He is jealous to clothe us in His strength in a fallen world in which we have no ability to stand on our own.
Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (James 4:4-5)
C. Our King, the resurrected Son of God Himself is coming to rule the nations (ala. “us folk”) The Father is jealous that humanity learns to trust under the shadow of His singularly sufficient wings, now, in a way that will be manifest fully, on that Day when every eye shall see Him.
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity (of trusting in and relying upon) that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:2-3)
D. Today, we are blessed indeed as we resist the temptations of idolatry, and place more and more of the weight of all that we are; our strengths” and our weaknesses, our good and our trouble, our provision and our needs into His capable leadership.
“Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.” (Psalm 2:12)
E. He displays all this jealousy so that we would learn to trust the true and perfect security of His wings vs. the false promises of imperfect protection. He’s jealous to show forth the depth, the closeness and the goodness of His power to reign over our lives. This is the reason that idolatry grieves our God’s heart.
(See also Deuteronomy 32:1-47 and Psalm 78:52-58)
V. IT’S VITAL THAT WE IDENTIFY THE IDOLS IN OUR LIFE
A. Because idols oppose the exaltation and presence of God, it’s vital that each of us have a working definition of idolatry. In this way we are able to pin-point the characteristics of idols and subsequently refuse the invitations into idolatry that our culture constantly offers us.
B. Here are seven universal characteristics of idols that are found in every culture and every generation:
1. Idols tempt us to exalt self. (1 John 2:16)
“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the Word of the Lord…” (1 Samuel 15:23)
2. Idols tempt us to compromise with unrighteousness and develop a special dispensation of grace/ anointing that allows individuals and people groups to operate outside of the standards of God’s Word.
3. Idols argue against the wisdom of the cross, and oppose the way of the crucified life.
4. Idols tempt us to carnal (often sexual) lust for power and things of the earth (1 John 2:16)
5. Idols inevitably call for absolute uncircumspect allegiance. Questioning or disagreeing with the idol, or those who are enthroning the idol is resoundingly forbidden.
6. Furthermore, idols incite hostility, intolerance and condemnation toward those who do oppose the idol. Often those who question the idol, or don’t worship the idol are furiously denounced, rejected and turned into “enemies”.
7. Idols obscure and diminish the glory of God, and detract from the pursuit of intimate love for God, and the pure trust of His holy ability.
C. A few examples of idols in our modern, western culture include:
2. Individuals who are champions for issues that are valuable to us
4. National Pride
8. Theological Pride
V. WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE CHURCH FAILS TO ADDRESS IDOLATRY?
A. There is a declension of idolatry that is very much like the declension of sin that Paul outlines in Romans 1:18-32. Those who the Lord has “given over to a debased mind” (Romans 8:32) ultimately give themselves to their behavior in spite of the fact that they know the righteous judgement of God.
“But we know that the wrath and judgement of God is according to truth against those who practices such things.” (Romans 2:2)
Such is the deceit of sin, and the delusion of idolatry. It’s the power of the enemy to lie and supress the truth about the goodness and generosity of God.
B. A simple, personal idolatry is not static. Like sin, it has a corrosive power in our lives and in our relationships.
1. As we yield to the lie that comes with the idolatry, we defend it with our own crooked reasoning.
2. As we develop defense-arguments for the continuation of our personal idolatry, we begin to construct belief-structures that allow for us to continue in the idolatrous behavior without being troubled by the conviction of the Holy Spirit, or the objective input of other believers.
3. The more we defend our behavior successfully, the thicker the stronghold becomes, and the more it takes for us to see our behavior and our beliefs differently.
4. As we practice defending our behavior, the greater our potential to influence others around us with the same faulty thinking. The sphere of influence that we create around our lie is
where the seeds of “cult behavior” are sown.
5. In the unrighteous progression of idolatry, we will always attempt to mak our idols someone else’s idols. It’s what idols do. It’s what makes idolatry cancerous among the people of God. And it’s what ultimately turns idolatrous behavior into cult behavior.
C. The connection between idolatrous behavior and cult behavior is made when we begin to influence others around us with the same false thinking/reasoning that allow our idols to remain firmly in place in our hearts. The more we rationalize our behavior and get others to agree with our rationalization, the more we create an idolatrous culture.
A horrid example of this kind of unrighteous, idolatrous thinking influencing whole segments of society was the idol of “manifest destiny” that first infected the hearts of both believers and unbelievers who settled the American continents. We thought (incorrectly) that if we wanted it and had the power and the means to possess it we should make it ours. The problem was, that idolatrous thinking led to the dehumanization, dispossession and ultimately the genocide of the native American peoples. The Church gave place to this type of wicked thinking, precisely because they did not arrest the idolatrous lie that promised them anything they wanted as a free, prosperous and powerful people. By failing to yield their freedoms and powers to the cross, millions were enslaved and/or marked for extermination, and
generations thereafter suffered the reprecussions of failing to arrest this societal idol.
D. Idolatry always seeks to justify itself by developing a “cult narrative”. A cult-narrative is a “story”, or world-view that explains why the idolatrous behavior is wise or warranted.
1. The fact is, idolatry (if it’s to survive) must create and feed on false narrative world-views and conspiracies. If these are left unchallenged, the idol and the false narrative WILL produce self- protective-cult-like-behavior. This is the way idolatry progresses – every time. In its self- justifying pursuit for survival it seeks to delegitimize and destroy that which is opposed to its viability.
2. This is the way of crossless self-exaltation. It was the false way of the enemy. And its the ubiquitous way he entices all to travel. (See Luke 4 and Jesus in the wilderness and Matthew 16 and Peter’s rebuke of Jesus at Caesarea Philippi) The deceiver’s temptation is this: “Seize what you want. Skip the cross.” Essentially, He was tempting Jesus to operate independently of the Father’s timing, and the Father’s way saying: “You’re entitled to feed yourself, and rule the nations. You’re the uncreated Son of God. You should have whatever you want.”
Ultimately, the Father did give all power and authority to Jesus, but it was as Jesus surrendered
Himself to the goodness of the Father – believing Him for something greater than what He (Jesus) could reach for Himself.
VI. HOW TO IDENTIFY IDOLATROUS BEHAVIOR IN OUR LIVES
Here are eight Holy Spirit self-analysis questions that can begin to give us clues about where we may be engaging in idolatrous behavior:
1. Where is the bulk of my time, energy, thoughts and resources directed?
2. What type of glory do I most crave? Who do I want it from? Over what issues?
3. What in my world do I most fear, or appears most threatening to me? (Identifying our greatest fear/threat can help us identify what kind of thinking/behavior we’ve developed to help us stay safe from these fears and threats.)
4. To what paradigm or person (parent-type, pastor, prophet, politician etc.) do I look in times of trouble, in order to discover, or bring order to my world?
5. To whom, or to what issues do I give permission to operate independent of scriptural parameters. Where am I giving myself and others permission to suspend the beatitudes for the sake of expediency? (Note: Idols have no power in and of themselves. Their power is a false power; a power of lies. The beauty of the beatitudes are that they rely on God-empowerment to function in a person’s life. If you’re going to operate in meekness, God really has to come through in your life-circumstances. The beatitudes are the idol-busters secret weapon.) Another helpful question here would be, where do I find myself most tempted to operate without humility? In fact, if I find no room for humility re: the presence of idols in my own life, it’s one of the best indicators that I’ve not yet let the Holy Spirit deal with the real idols in my life.
6. Over what issues/relationships do I tend to be most defensive? Where am I engaging in self-justifying behavior?
7. Where do I work most hard to not experience shame in my own life? Over what issues/relationships am I most prone to shaming others?
8. Unto what way of thinking, or to what person or organization do I ascribe a great deal of “infallibility”. With whom am I most tempted to say: “I can trust their word, motives, perspective, wisdom. They won’t steer me wrong.”
VII. WHY IT’S DIFFICULT TO BRING DOWN OUR IDOLS
A. At some point, among every people of God – in spite of (or fulfillment of) the law, the prophets, the gospel of grace and the Word of the Lord Himself, the Lord is willing to say to a culture “I see no Josiah in the land. I will now contend for My own glory, and bring the IDOLS down from the high places Myself.”
B. IDOLS remain on the high places of our hearts for six main reasons:
1. They’re laden with CULTURAL and EMOTIONAL ties to exhilarating experiences and memories in our lives and communities.
2. It’s scandalous/unpopular that one would advocate for their removal – your desire to bring them down WILL deeply offend others; even others you’re close to.
3. They’re UP HIGH. They’re difficult to discern; reach and require persistent, intentional dialogue with
the Holy Spirit to deconstruct them.
4. Idols create a cult narrative that tells us how to interpret our world. When the idol comes down, our world appears fearfully chaotic and unknowable. We don’t know how to navigate and make sense of our lives without the narrative.* (This is a large part of the reason why the Lord instructed the nation of Israel to utterly destroy the idolatrous nations that inhabited the land. The idols came with a worldview and values that were contrary to the true narrative of God.)
5. We fear the loss of the power and familiarity of the idol. What practical, emotional activity will FILL THE VOID that’s left in the idol’s absence?
6. They’re empowered by DEMONIC forces.
C. Most often, a culture sees no benefit to bringing the IDOLS down until the Lord makes their society uncomfortable enough that the cost it requires to go up and do the hard work of bringing them down, is less than continuing to suffer the consequences of having them there. Beloved. This is precisely where the evangelical world finds ourselves in 2020. We have IDOLS flourishing on the high places of our culture.
VIII. HOW TO BRING DOWN THE IDOLS IN OUR LIVES
A. There’s nothing we gain in defending our idols that our Lord won’t give us a hundred times over as we yield our lives to Him. Today is a prime day for the people of God to have a conversation with God about these IDOLS. It will never cost us less to have Him bring them down.
B. Soberly ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your heart clearly so you may identify the idols in you life, and the sins associated with your idolatry. Invite Him to examine your heart with you as you ask yourself the eight self-examination questions above.
C. Confess and repent of enthroning false, inferior knowledge of God. Because idolatry will result in selfishness and sin, be sure to also ask forgiveness of those whom you’ve sinned against.
D. Receive forgiveness. Thank Jesus for His zeal to extend , mercy, forgiveness and grace.
E. Actively dialogue with the Holy Spirit, and let Him saturate your mind with the true knowledge of God.
This is the high, high value of the tabernacle of the Lord in the House of Prayer. In the rich environment
of corporate worship the speaking God washes the humble, hungry, receptive heart of the Bride with the water of the Word of God. (Ephesians 5:26) This is also where we replace the false cult-narrative with God’s narrative about our world, and the believer’s priorities in our world.
F. Take up your cross daily. The truth is the cross is the great enemy of the idols in our lives. When the cross goes up, the idols come down. Without a cross, a Christian, by default, is engaging in some form of idolatry! Whatever issues, relationships, values, things I have not allowed the Holy Spirit to apply the cross to is where I’ll find my idols.
Therefore, put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)
G. Engage in this work with daily intentionality and vehemence.
“All those I love I rebuke and discipline, therefore, be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:19)
H. Engage in this work with other praying believers in Christ.
“But speaking the truth in love we grow up in all aspects into Him, Who is our Head.” (Ephesians 4:15)
IX. REMAINING VIGILANT AGAINST ENTHRONING IDOLS
A. The best indicator of an idol-free life is enflamed passion for first-commandment love for Jesus Christ. The end of our idolatry is intimacy with Jesus. The goal of ridding ourselves of idols cannot be “idol-free living”. It must be living under the personal and intimate reign of the God/Man, Jesus. If we cultivate a perpetual priority of increased love for the person of Jesus Christ in all circumstances, we will engage in a great and sure defense against erecting idols in our lives.
B. Almost in every case, the only way to break free of the deluding narrative of an idol is by developing a Psalm 27:4 lifestyle; by taking up the Word of God, pray/reading/dialoguing the Word and “seeking the Lord’s Face” (Psalm 27:8), His heart, His beauty, His ways, and His paradigm-busting otherness. This is where we see ourselves clearly; in His light. This is where our false-narratives fall away and we develop a pure heart; where we see God, (Matthew 5:8) for Who He is and what He’s doing in our world and in our lives.
C. One of the reasons the enemy hates Christian unity is because true, multi-ethnic dialogue together affords us opportunity to gain perspective on our own unique contexts. When we interact with sisters and brothers of differing histories, customs, languages and Christian theologies we can gain perspective about our own biases and blindspots regarding our idols.
X. 20 OLD and NEW TESTAMENT TEXTS HIGHLIGHTING GOD’S ZEAL TO REMOVE IDOLATRY FROM HIS PEOPLE
Below is a lengthy list of scriptural examples of how God seriously addresses idolatry among His people. This is prayer material. These holy texts are meant to be brought before the Lord, where we may “inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4) about the degree to which these unrighteous ways may be found within us. Take up these words with humility and integrity, and let the Holy Spirit speak sobriety to your heart, that we may be without spot, blemish or wrinkle; (Ephesians 5:27) unfettered unto wholehearted love for His Son.
“Be careful not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it become a snare among you. 13 Rather you must destroy their altars, smash their images, and cut down their Asherah poles. 14 For you must not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. 15 Be careful not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to their gods, and someone invites you, you will eat from his sacrifice; 16 and you then take his daughters for your sons, and when his daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will make your sons prostitute themselves to their gods as well.”
Be on guard so that you do not forget the covenant of the Lord your God that he has made with you, and that you do not make an image of any kind, just as he has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire; he is a jealous God.
“2 Before the decree takes effect— the day passes like chaff— before the burning anger of the Lord comes upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger comes upon you. 3 Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. Perhaps you will remain hidden on the day of the Lord’s anger.”
Isaiah 30:1-3; 7-18
1 “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; 2 who walk to go down to Egypt, and have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore the strength of Pharaoh shall be your shame, and trust in the shadow of Egypt shall be your humiliation… 7 For the Egyptians shall help in vain and to no purpose. Therefore I have called her Rahab-Hem-Shebeth (the trust of idle help) 8 Now go, write it before them on a tablet, and note it on a scroll, that it may be for time to come, forever and ever: 9 That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear the law of the Lord; 10 Who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits. 11 Get out of the way, turn aside from the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” 12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel: Because you despise this word, and trust in oppression and perversity, and rely on them, 13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach ready to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant. 14 And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel, which is broken in pieces; He shall not spare. So there shall not be found among its fragments a shard to take fire from the hearth, or to take water from the cistern. 15 For thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’ But you would not, 16 and you said, “No, for we will flee on horses”— Therefore you shall flee! And, “We will ride on swift horses”— Therefore those who pursue you shall be swift! 17 One thousand shall flee at the threat of one, at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left as a pole on top of a mountain and as a banner on a hill. 18 Therefore the Lord will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.”
So now, you kings, do what is wise; you rulers of the earth, submit to correction. 11 Serve the Lord in fear. Rejoice and repent in terror. 12 Give sincere homage. Otherwise He will be angry, and you will perish in your way, when His anger quickly ignites. How blessed are all who take shelter in him!
Hear this word which I take up against you, a lamentation, O house of Israel: 2 The virgin of Israel has fallen; she will rise no more. She lies forsaken on her land; there is no one to raise her up. 3 For thus says the Lord God: “The city that goes out by a thousand shall have a hundred left, and that which goes out by a hundred shall have ten left to the house of Israel.” 4 For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: “Seek Me and live; 5 But do not seek Bethel, nor enter Gilgal, nor pass over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nothing. 6 Seek the Lord and live, lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, with no one to quench it in Bethel— 7 You who turn justice to wormwood, and lay righteousness to rest in the earth!” 8 He made the Pleiades and Orion; He turns the shadow of death into morning and makes the day dark as night; He calls for the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth; the Lord is His name. 9 He rains ruin upon the strong, so that fury comes upon the fortress. 10 They hate the one who rebukes in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks uprightly. 11 Therefore, because you tread down the poor and take grain taxes from him, though you have built houses of hewn stone, yet you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink wine from them. 12 For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: afflicting the just and taking bribes; diverting the poor from justice at the gate. 13 Therefore the prudent keep silent at that time, for it is an evil time. 14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the Lord God of hosts will be with you, ss you have spoken. 15 Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate. It may be that the Lord God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. 16 Therefore the Lord God of hosts, the Lord, says this: “There shall be wailing in all streets, and they shall say in all the highways, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmer to mourning, And skillful lamenters to wailing. 17 In all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through you,” says the Lord. 18 Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! For what good is the day of the Lord to you? It will be darkness, and not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him! Or as though he went into the house, leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him! 20 Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light? Is it not very dark, with no brightness in it? 21 “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. 22 Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. 23 Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. 24 But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream. 25 “Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? 26 You also carried Sikkuth your king and Chiun, your idols, the star of your gods, which you made for yourselves. 27 Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.”
“Hear this, O priests! Take heed, O house of Israel! Give ear, O house of the king! For yours is the judgment, because you have been a snare to Mizpah and a net spread on Tabor. 2 The revolters are deeply involved in slaughter, though I rebuke them all. 3 I know Ephraim, and Israel is not hidden from Me; for now, O Ephraim, you commit harlotry; Israel is defiled. 4 “They do not direct their deeds toward turning to their God, for the spirit of harlotry is in their midst, and they do not know the Lord. 5 The pride of Israel testifies to his face; therefore Israel and Ephraim stumble in their iniquity; Judah also stumbles with them. 6 “With their flocks and herds they shall go to seek the Lord, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself from them. 7 They have dealt treacherously with the Lord.”
“Why do you boast about your evil plans, O powerful man? God’s loyal love protects me all day long. Your tongue carries out your destructive plans; it is as effective as a sharp razor, O deceiver. You love evil more than good; lies more than speaking the truth. (Selah) You love to use all the words that destroy, and the tongue that deceives. Yet God will make you a permanent heap of ruins. He will scoop you up and remove you from your home; He will uproot you from the land of the living. (Selah)… Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others! But I am like a flourishing olive tree in the house of God; I continually trust in God’s loyal love. I will continually thank You when You execute judgment; I will rely on You, for Your loyal followers know You are good.”
27 “Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you. 28 “So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.
And it shall be, when you show this people all these words, and they say to you, ‘Why has the Lord pronounced all this great disaster against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against the Lord our God?’ 11 then you shall say to them, ‘Because your fathers have forsaken Me,’ says the Lord; ‘they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law. 12 And you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, each one follows the dictates of his own evil heart, so that no one listens to Me. 13 Therefore I will cast you out of this land into a land that you do not know.”
9 Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. 10 And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them.”
Psalm 106:36, 39-40
36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, and played the harlot by their own deeds. 40 Therefore the wrath of the Lord was kindled against His people.”
For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My plan will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a distant country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, I will certainly do it. 12 “Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. 13 I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay.
Hosea 4:1-11; 16-19
Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: “There is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land. 2 By swearing and lying, killing and stealing and committing adultery, they break all restraint… Therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away… 4 “Now let no man contend, or rebuke another; for your people are like those who contend with the priest. 5 Therefore you shall stumble in the day; the prophet also shall stumble with you in the night; and I will destroy your mother. 6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; because you have forgotten the law of your God. 7 “The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. 8 They eat up the sin of My people; they set their heart on their iniquity. 9 And it shall be: like people, like priest. So I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds. 10 For they shall eat, but not have enough; they shall commit harlotry, but not increase; because they have ceased obeying the Lord. 11 “Harlotry, wine, and new wine enslave the heart… For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God… 16 “For Israel is stubborn like a stubborn calf; now the Lord will let them forage like a lamb in open country. 17 “Ephraim is joined to idols, let him alone. 18 Their drink is rebellion, they commit harlotry continually. Her rulers dearly love dishonor. 19 The wind has wrapped her up in its wings, and they shall be ashamed because of their sacrifices.
2 Kings 17:11-16
Their evil practices made the Lord angry. 12 They worshiped the disgusting idols in blatant disregard of the Lord’s command. 13 The Lord solemnly warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and all the seers, “Turn back from your evil ways; obey my commandments and rules that are recorded in the law. I ordered your ancestors to keep this law and sent my servants the prophets to remind you of its demands.” 14 But they did not pay attention and were as stubborn as their ancestors, who had not trusted the Lord their God. 15 They rejected his rules, the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the laws he had commanded them to obey. They paid allegiance to worthless idols, and so became worthless to the Lord. They copied the practices of the surrounding nations in blatant disregard of the Lord’s command. 16 They abandoned all the commandments of the Lord their God;
Jeremiah 11:9-12; 20
9 The Lord said to me, “The people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem have plotted rebellion against me. 10 They have gone back to the evil ways of their ancestors of old who refused to obey what I told them. They, too, have paid allegiance to other gods and worshiped them. Both the nation of Israel and the nation of Judah have violated the covenant I made with their ancestors. 11 So I, the Lord, say this: ‘I will soon bring disaster on them that they will not be able to escape! When they cry out to me for help, I will not listen to them. 12 Then those living in the towns of Judah and in Jerusalem will go and cry out for help to the gods to whom they have been sacrificing. However, those gods will by no means be able to save them when disaster strikes them. “O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, you are a just judge! You examine people’s hearts and minds.
“Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy.”
Now some of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. 2 And the word of the Lord came to me, s saying, 3 “Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their hearts, and put before them that which causes them to stumble into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of at all by them? 4 “Therefore speak to them, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Everyone of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him who comes, according to the multitude of his idols, 5 that I may seize the house of Israel by their heart, because they are all estranged from Me by their idols.” ’ 6 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations. 7 For anyone of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who dwell in Israel, who separates himself from Me and sets up his idols in his heart and puts before him what causes him to stumble into iniquity, then comes to a prophet to inquire of him concerning Me, I the Lord will answer him by Myself. 8 I will set My face against that man and make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people. Then you shall know that I am the Lord. 9 “And if the prophet is induced to speak anything, I the Lord have induced that prophet, and I will stretch out My hand against him and destroy him from among My people Israel. 10 And they shall bear their iniquity; the punishment of the prophet shall be the same as the punishment of the one who inquired, 11 that the house of Israel may no longer stray from Me, nor be profaned anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be My people and I may be their God,” says the Lord God.’ ” 12 The word of the Lord came again to me, saying: 13 “Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it.
JSB • December, 2020 (Update)