When some folk hear the word “idolatry” they begin to think of other people bowing down to statues of various gods or other man-made images. Perhaps even bowing down before objects in nature that are thought to have supernatural power. But we fail to realise just how close to idolatrous we can become. We do so when we allow ourselves to adapt to changes in our culture that Yahweh, the God of the Bible, declares to be contrary to His will.
It is happening in today’s world. It is happening with our attitude to God Himself. We are replacing the God who declared Himself to be Yahweh (YHWH), the source of all things (whom Jesus described as “… the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” Mat 22:32) with the god of our imagining. We are replacing Him in our minds and our affections with other gods with different values.
Take for example the passage in Leviticus 18. In this passage God declares His will to Moses, And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the LORD your God.” Here the “Lord” is (YHWH or Yahweh or Jehovah in older translations) and “God” is (elohim). The former is always used for the God of Israel whilst the latter is often used of Him but is also used for other so-called “gods”. In other words YHWH is the one true God, creator of all things. The same phrase “I am the LORD your God” occurs again at the end of chapter 18. What then does the chapter contain that is so important that Moses has to share it all with the people of Israel
As we read Leviticus 18 we see that God is giving warning to the people of Israel whom He has brought out of slavery in Egypt. He is leading them towards the Promised Land. He warns them that they must not adapt to the culture they left behind in Egypt. Nor must they adapt to the cultures they will meet as they journey through other nations on the way. He specified what those cultural No! No’s! were. They were in the area of the sexual behaviour. God required of His people behaviour which was in stark contrast to the behaviour prevalent in those other nations. The sexual behaviour of those nations was not to be adopted nor their culture absorbed by His people. Lev 18:3 You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. Rather they had to do His will as His people, Lev 18:4 You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the LORD your God. 5 You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD. He sets the rules for all humans of all times to obey as He is creator of all.
The wrong behaviours God warned about through Moses were very detailed and specific. These are to be found in verses 6 to 23. At the end of those verses God declares in Lev 18:24-30, (24) “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, (25) and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.(26) But you shall keep my statutes and my rules and do none of these abominations, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you (27) (for the people of the land, who were before you, did all of these abominations, so that the land became unclean),(28) lest the land vomit you out when you make it unclean, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.(29) For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people.(30) So keep my charge never to practice any of these abominable customs that were practiced before you, and never to make yourselves unclean by them: I am the LORD your God.” It can be seen from the repetition of “all” or “any” or “none” outlined above, that every behaviour in the list was abhorrent to God and that His people should practise none of them.
For some people today to insist that some of those things declared there in Leviticus 18 to be evil in the sight of God, are “good” and to “welcomed” among the people of God and are “blessed” by God is contradictory to what He has said in His eternal word. He has declared His values on human sexuality. He does not change His values. He does not adapt His word to fit in with the prevailing culture. The reverse is true. Throughout His dealings with His people He wanted them to reflect His values by living lives that were different with His help. In this way there could be a transformation of the culture of the nations around them. He wanted His people to be light in human darkness. In words used of the nation of Israel (and more fully fulfilled in Jesus) Isa 60:1 Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Modern-day idolatry consists of replacing the God of Israel (YHWH who has declared His values in His word in places like Leviticus 18) with a god who has different values altogether. Such a god exists only in the imagination of those who attempt to make ‘him” (or “it” or “her”) a god who is more acceptable to much of modern culture. Such a god can help nobody. Only the true God YHWH, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is able to do so, because He exists. He longs to help those who turn to Him for true direction and fulfilment in life. He is the God of whom St Paul wrote in Phil 2:13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose. He alone gives us the motivation and the empowering to live in the way He has eternally planned for humans to live. Idols don’t have any power. But our idolatrous thoughts about the god of our imagination do. They have the power to lead us into greater deception and behaviour that God has declared to be eternally abhorrent to Him. Such deception may eventually have us saying, “good” and “blessed” about certain activities when God has plainly said, “evil”.
Blog No.080. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Saturday 30th June 2012