The collective sins of idolatry and pagan practices are a serious hindrance between God and His people in all nations. It is a hindrance to prayers being answered. It is a hindrance to receiving God’s blessings for a nation but also individually, as a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, it hinders one from receiving all God wants to give His children.
Definition of idolatry: The worship and pre-eminence of a carved or casted man-made image as a god and/or giving pre-eminence to any person’s ideology, beliefs etc over and above the only true God, creator of all that is, seen and unseen, and His teaching.
It is amazing how ignorant the average Christian is about the facts around the practices of, and the sin of, idolatry and cultural deities and how God hates it.
During my Christian life I became acutely aware of these facts through the study of the Bible and, in particular, the Old Testament. I believe that is where the ignorance originates from. The fact that not many Christians read the Old Testament and if they do, they do not understand the spiritual principles laid down in it such as that idolatry brings a curse into the perpetrator’s life.
Time and time again, in the Old Testament books, one come across the facts that idolatry, the practice of it and pagan worship caused Israel to diminish as a nation, taken into captivity, suffered defeat in wars and had pestilence break out among them. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob hates the practice of idolatry and pagan worship by His people. He is a jealous God and wants complete devotion and acknowledgement that he alone is the only true God worthy of worship. No created being, whether animal, bird, human in living form or created through carved and moulded images are to take the place of the worship to the “Creator of all that is, seen and unseen.”
There are numerous references in the Bible where God’s prophets warn against the sin of idolatry or the making of an image of a created earthly inhabitant for the purpose of worship or integrating pagan worship practices in the worship of Him as the only true God.
A golden calf
One of the earliest references was when Israel made the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments from God. We read in Exodus 32 the horror of how that terrible sin played out. Moses was so upset that he threw the two stone tablets on which the testimony of all God had commanded him to tell the people of Israel, “from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain” (vs 19).
We then read what followed in Exodus 32: 20 – 35 to the extent that Moses commanded the “sons of Levi” (the tribe of the priesthood) to “… kill every man his brother, and every man his friend, and every man his neighbor.” (vs. 27). Pretty harsh don’t you think? Makes one pause and think – maybe God really does not like idolatry!
So let there be no doubt. God will not tolerate idolatry and pagan practices amongst His people, in other words, those who profess Jesus Christ as their Saviour.
“Oh”, you say, “I do not worship idols or false gods. I worship Jesus Christ God’s son and I believe in God as the creator. So why are you writing about this in an age of technology and advancement? Surely there are no pagans in our societies?”
Eph. 5:5: “For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person – such a man is an idolator – has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (immoral means sexual immorality, impurity of deeds and greed for more and more and never being satisfied).
So bear with me and you will see how idolatrous our lives have become, individually and collectively as a nation and as Christians. Conditioned by “traditions of forefathers and men not of God”.
National Prayer Days without turning from our wicked ways
As Christians we have been called to national prayer days for our country, South Africa, by prominent leaders such as Angus Buchan and others. We constantly receive social media messages to pray for our country, to pray for rain, to pray for the removal of corrupt people from our government. Scripture verses such as 2 Chronicles 7:14 “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” are circulated on social media. It calls us to “take a few minutes and pray this prayer” and an appeal to forward to all on your contact list. What I call “instant prayers”.
But unless we do what the Word of God says, namely “humble ourselves”, “seek (My) face” and “turn from our wicked ways”, there will be no desired answer to our “instant prayers” sent around on social media!! God’s Word is clear!
We don’t want to make the effort, sacrifice and time to do what He requires. Is it a wonder our nations are falling apart and plagued by natural disasters? We have 50 murders a day in South Africa and yet we will not, as Christians sacrifice time, food and comfort to seek God’s face for mercy and deliverance for our country. Joel 2:12 “…Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Modern day fasting
Talk about fasting? You mean I actually have to go without food over a period of time? That is almost taboo in churches today. To make it more palatable to the average Christian, you are encouraged to “fast from watching television” for a few hours or “give up drinking coffee, tea or that soda you are addicted to, for the day”. Nothing too sacrificial please.
But true biblical fasting is abstaining from food. Abstaining from eating a meal or two over a period of a day or two. If we want to really meet God’s requirements for humility and seeking His face, we will have to fast according to his standard and not our “convenient substitution of a fast”
One actually have to give up eating in order that one can focus one’s spirit, soul and body on seeking God’s face, weep and mourn over our sin and the nation’s sins. Tear your heart up God says, not your clothes as so many African mourners do.
If we are prepared to sacrifice, God will answer. That is a guarantee from the Bible.
A King got rid of the idols and won a war
If anyone dares to tell us that we are idol worshippers and need to repent, that person is maligned and ridiculed for speaking the truth. But the Bible is full of examples of what happens when a nation filled with idolatry cleans up and destroy their idolatry and cultural deities.
In 2 Chronicles chapters 14 to 16 there is a classic account describing how the King got rid of the idols in the land, and as a result, won a war against a vastly better equipped and manned army. I quote excerpts from chapter 14:2 – 12
“And Asa did good and right in the sight of the Lord his God, for he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment. He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah. And the kingdom was undisturbed under him. …..Now Asa had an army of 300,000 from Judah, … and 280,000 from Benjamin, … all of them were valiant warriors. Now Zerah the Ethiopian came out against them with an army of a million men and 300 chariots, … Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, there is no one besides Thee to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength, so help us, O lord our God, for we trust in Thee and in Thy name have come against this multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God, ….’ So the Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.” [emphasis mine]
In chapters 15 we read that the prophet Azariah came to visit King Asa. After that visit we read how King Asa proceeded with further cleansing of the land of Judah and Benjamin and the captured cities and “hill country of Ephraim” from “abominable idols”.
Why would he do that?
King Asa understood
Because King Asa understood one of the greatest fundamental principles in having God on your side: Get rid of idolatry and idol images, cultural deities and pagan worship that detract you from totally and completely relying on God with your whole undivided heart!!
- He understood that God is a JEALOUS GOD and a HOLY GOD.
- He understood that idolatry and the worship of cultural deities in his country’s cities, hills and countryside, created a wall between God and his people. Their prayers, supplications in times of trouble (such as famine and war) would go unanswered by God.
- He understood that, as a people whom God had made and ordained as “His people”, they could not defile their land and their households with idolatry and then expect God to take care of them when adversity strikes.
- He understood the importance of prophecy and that God sends prophets to His people to warn them.
- Most importantly, he also understood that if you take over a country and its cities after a war, you also have to clean up that country and its cities from all signs of idolatry, including cultural deities.
Turn from our wicked ways
God’s word says we “must turn from our wicked ways.” So are we prepared to get rid of the idols in our lives? What do I mean by idols in this day and age? Surely we do not have carved images that we bow down to or worship?
Remember the definition is also “…giving pre-eminence to ideology and believes over and above the one true God.” Idolatry also means being sexually promiscuity (immoral), impure in deeds – things that are against the commandments and precepts of God and to be greedy for more and more of the things of the world. It also means getting rid of those pagan ornaments representing “foreign gods” that you bought on your travel trips and display proudly display in your house.
We have to turn from our wicked ways as part of the conditions to receive answer to our prayers to God for our country, our people and our own lives. It is not negotiable. We cannot mock God. He is holy and we must be holy as well. God has not changed and will not change. We must change.
Take time to look at your life and allow the Holy Spirit to show you all the idols you have in your life and your home. Look at those “inherited” family traditions that you follow without knowing what it is truly all about. The time to destroy these idols is now.
“Wake up, for the coming of the Lord is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is far gone, the day of his return will soon be here. So quit the evil deeds of darkness and put on the armor of right living as we who live in the daylight should!…” (Rom.13:12 – 13).
Prayer: Father God in Jesus Christ name I pray for everyone who read this post that the Holy Spirit will move in their hearts and open the eyes of their understanding to see the idols You abhor in their lives. Give them the courage and the will dear Lord to do what is necessary to rid their lives of the things that take pre-eminence in their lives so they can receive the blessings you have in store for them. In your mercy hear my prayer. Amen
(My next post will be on cultural deities as it ties in with idolatry).