I’ve re-read many of my past posts and I realize that what I have said might have brought up deep and complex theological issues, and I’m deliberately hitting on these for a reason. I intend to challenge the assumptions you make when you read the Bible; things that you have taken for granted. Or as Dr. Robert McGee liked to say: “We’re going to see just what it is that you believe you believe and see if you really do or if there is really any basis for it beyond traditions.”
And yes, I know I rattled some cages and challenged some sacred cows by asking you to examine yourself in regard to which things in your life you are hanging on to that please you, but that might have no place in the life of a Believer and certainly doesn’t please God. I assure you that it is because the teacher, is being taught. These words pierce me as strongly (or stronger) than they do you. But I did warn you before that some of you might go to bed and have a sleepless night wrestling with this challenge, and others would simply be mad at me for pulling the covers off a deep-seated problem you would rather not face. So it doesn’t surprise me that this is, of course, what happens.
Maybe my main point in my previous teachings was that followers of God who (for instance in the story of Samuel) wind up being judged for idolatry aren’t those who have renounced the God of Israel; it’s simply that the idolaters are invariably those who have permitted pagan ways to infiltrate their faith, their beliefs, their worship practices, their traditions and customs, and then finally their daily behavior. This condition we can cal the “Believer in the kettle” happens over an extended period of time, and in such a stealthy manner, that we don’t actually notice any change or often sense a growing danger.
Those of us in the modern-day Church easily distract ourselves from the real issue of idolatry by drawing this mental picture of ancient Israelites who made a wholesale rejection of Yehoveh and instead adopted in full the Canaanite gods. Interestingly, Israel also felt that idolatry was essentially conversion from Yehoveh worship to Baal worship (which they knew they hadn’t done) so in the midst of their idolatry they didn’t see themselves as idolatrous. What I am saying is that from the Hebrew viewpoint, as long as some acknowledgment of the Lord remained in their lives and culture, and in their rituals and conversations, the pagan ways that became intertwined with the ways of the Torah were thought to be normal and acceptable to God (anything but idolatry).
This is also the modern Church’s viewpoint of idolatry. Paganism at first was just a tiny and unnoticed blemish on Christianity, but over time it has metastasized and so embedded itself into our cherished customs and traditions that we either don’t notice it or have decided that it is better to simply accept it and move on rather than perform radical surgery and remove it because of the disruptions it might cause in our lives and our relationships if we did.
A paganized Christianity is the new norm. So as an alternative means to put aside our guilt and concerns we have developed creative ways of rationalizing it away; from declaring that we have taken a pagan custom and attached God’s name to it so that makes it holy and acceptable to the Lord; to saying that we hang on to this pagan thing because it is merely “fun,” or we don’t actually worship it, or that on balance it is a good thing that helps us to strike up conversation with non-Believers that might lead to their conversion.
Idolatry is a misunderstood biblical concept, and I am not going to give you specific examples of how idolatry is in our Churches, I’ll leave that for the Holy Spirit to guide you. But generally speaking, pagans aren’t called idolaters (I’m talking about the biblical use and intent of the word). Idolatry and apostasy are similar in character; both assume that the person who is committing either of these sins is a follower of the God of Israel, not a pagan. What I mean is that you can’t apostize from something which you don’t belong to in the first place. You can’t commit idolatry if you aren’t first a believer in the imageless El Shaddai.
Okay, in case that doesn’t make any sense to you, let me illustrate it this way: you can’t be fired if you don’t first have a job. The term “fired” only has meaning to a person that was employed, apostasy only has meaning to a person who has something to apostize from, and you can’t commit idolatry unless you have already been set apart for Yehoveh and forbidden from having things in your life that you place on par, or above, God (whether it’s false gods, pagan traditions, or some material thing whose importance overwhelms everything else).
Now, the only reason I’m saying this is so you can sort of “reset” your thinking about what the Lord considers idolatry to be and who idolaters are (as opposed to how we typically think of it), and what it was that the Israelites were doing and thinking that the Lord judged them as idolaters. I’ll say it again, idolatry isn’t renouncing God in exchange for something else; it’s including pagan practices (impure practices) into your worship of God and the accompanying traditions and lifestyle that invariably comes with it.
Idolatry is the illicit mixing (sha’atnez) that leads to confusion (tevel) that the Torah prohibits and warns against, and unfortunately those of us in the modern-day Church have been sold a bill of manmade theological goods that says (erroneously) that since the Law is dead, illegal mixing must be dead, so idolatry (except for some spiritualized ethereal concept of it) must also be dead. So when we incorporate decidedly non-scriptural pagan-based elements into our worship and holiday observances and even into the symbols we use to express our membership in the Kingdom of God, we are doing no less than what Samuel called all Israel to repent from doing. (Okay, now you can send those nasty emails . . .).
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add you—a to the list: Mail List)
I do thank you for your gifts. It is your faithful and continued support that makes these messages possible.