14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say (1 Corinthians 10:14–15, NKJV).
Many idols live in the hearts of men and women. Some are apparent, from the nearly 394-foot-tall Buddha in Japan, the 65-foot-tall Shiva in India, to the millions of shrines honoring local gods around the globe. Other idols are not as visible. Hidden in hearts, people carry these false gods like Israel took their little idols in the wilderness (Amos 5:25-26). Anything elevated to a place of honor and devotion above the only true God is an idol, a false god (Isa. 40:18-20; Jer. 10:1-11; Rom. 1:22-23). For example, greed for material possessions and power over others is a false god. Covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Wise people judge idols are “useless things” and turn away from them (Acts 14:15-17). The gospel calls us to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). Only the true God lives and forgives (Acts 17:22-31; 26:17-20). Carving idols of wood, stone, metal, or in the recesses of our hearts is futile and foolish (Isa. 44:9-20). Flee idolatry. The gospel plea is to repent of sin against the living God, put your faith in Him, and obey the word of His Son Jesus Christ. Salvation is only possible in Jesus (Acts 4:12).
1 Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. 2 After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. 3 Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth” (Hosea 6:1–3, NKJV).
The prophet Hosea set out God’s case against Israel and her sins against Him (Hosea 4:1). His people had betrayed His love and turned to her lovers (Hosea 2:2, 4-5; 4:11-12). What could Israel do to avoid punishment for her adulterous idolatry (Hosea 2:12-13)? “Let her put away her harlotries from her sight, and her adulteries from between her breasts (Hosea 2:2).” Only by returning to the Lord could the nation escape the outcome of her sins. But there was “no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land” (Hosea 4:1). Israel had “ceased obeying the Lord” and joined herself to the idols (Hosea 4:10, 17-19). Judgment was certain (Hosea 8:7-13). God continues to seek His lost sheep, calling His people to come back to Him when they fall into sin (Matt. 18:10-14). The Lord will revive the heart of the fallen when they “return to the Lord” with repentant, prayerful confession of their sins to Him (Acts 8:22-24; 1 John 1:9). The Lord’s hand can reach and restore the fallen who return to Him and forsake their sin (Isa. 59:1-2; Luke 15:11-24). He will revive and receive every soul that comes to Him (Matt. 11:28-30).
4 “Yet I am the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me. 5 I knew you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. 6 When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me” (Hosea 13:4–6, NKJV).
Yahweh saved Israel from Egyptian oppression and He sustained her in the wilderness. But instead of giving God thankful, obedient service, Israel forgot the Lord and turned to idols (Hosea 13:1-2). Worshiping Baal and the golden calves Jeroboam had set up, Israel added sin upon sin. What led to Israel’s apostasy warns us not to fall as she did (1 Cor. 10:6-12). Hosea 13:6 describes the sequence of Israel’s apostasy. (1) Israel became satisfied in her prosperity. They were “at ease” in their abundance and failed to humbly obey God and serve their brethren (Amos 6:1-7). The church of the Laodiceans provides a similar warning against spiritual apathy (Rev. 3:15-17). (2) Israel’s heart was filled with pride. Pride is an insidious enemy that elevates us above God in our minds. Pride is an undeniable step away from God and is abhorrent to God (Amos 6:8). The church in Sardis wrestled with pride’s self-righteous fruit (Rev. 3:1-2). (3) Israel forgot God in her self-sufficiency. Israel forgot that God was their savior and sustainer. Israel’s prosperity led to prideful sufficiency while ignoring God (Deut. 8:1-20; 32:15). The parable of the rich fool warns us not to trust riches but to lay up heavenly treasures (Luke 12:15-21). “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
18 Therefore they left the house of the Lord God of their fathers, and served wooden images and idols; and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem because of their trespass. 19 Yet He sent prophets to them, to bring them back to the Lord; and they testified against them, but they would not listen. (2 Chronicles 24:18–19, NKJV)
At first, Joash, the king of Judah, “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chron. 24:2). Yet later, he listened to the leaders of Judah and fell away from the Lord (2 Chron. 24:15-17). Listening to the counsel of men rather than the prophets of God, Joash and Judah turned back to idol worship. Led by the king, they even killed the prophet, Zechariah, in the court of the temple, because he rebuked their sins (2 Chron. 24:20-21; Jesus referred to this in Matt. 23:34-36). Indeed, the prophets of God were “an example of suffering and patience” (Jas. 5:10). Now, God speaks to us “by His Son” through His apostles and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:1-2). The choice between listening to the will of men or to the word of God remains. Shall we join with those who cried, “Crucify Him!” and reject His word, or shall we stand with “the apostles of the Lord and Savior” who spoke Christ’s truth (2 Pet. 3:2)? Will you listen to the Lord or men? That depends on whether you want to fulfill the will of God or the devil (Jno. 8:43-44).
1 Hear the word which the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. 2 Thus says the Lord: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; Do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.” (Jeremiah 10:1–3, NKJV)
The principle behind this warning against idolatry given to Israel by God’s prophet continues to be relevant: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles.” Christians must not learn the ways of unbelievers who are not the people of God (1 Pet. 2:9-10). Yet, the currents of social conformity and worldly lusts persuade saints to become “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). The temptation to fashion ourselves according to this age is strong (Rom. 12:2). The Gentiles are those who are “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without Christ in the world” (Eph. 2:12). Do not learn to follow their false gods. Do not assimilate their futile customs that ingrain sin into their hearts. Stand apart, “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). Do not learn the way of the Gentiles. Learn the way of God (Psa. 18:21, 30; Jno. 14:6).
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.” (Amos 5:21–22, NKJV)
If you are under the impression that God accepts whatever worship is brought to Him, then please give close attention to today’s passage. During the days of Amos the northern kingdom of Israel was immersed in idolatry, immorality, and injustice against one another (Amos 5:25-27; 4:1). They oppressed the weak and rejected the word that God sent them by His prophets (Amos 5:10-15; 2:11-12). They attempted to worship the Lord with gold calves (set up by Jeroboam as a hedge against the reunification of Israel and Judah, 1 Kgs. 12:26-30). Israel could not come before God with impure hearts and unclean hands and be accepted by Him. Neither can we (Jas. 4:7-10). It is the height of hubris to ignore the word of God that explains how we must worship Him “in spirit and truth” while confidently asserting God is pleased with us (Jno. 4:23-24). Such arrogance is rejected by God, who “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6). You see, it matters how we worship God as well as what type of heart we bring before God when we worship. Let us humble ourselves before God and obey His word, so that our worship will be in spirit and truth. Otherwise, our worship will not be accepted by the Lord.
“He was thirty-two years old when he became king. He reigned in Jerusalem eight years and, to no one’s sorrow, departed. However they buried him in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” (2 Chronicles 21:20, NKJV)
Thus is the summation of the life of a particularly wicked man, Jehoram, king of Judah. He was a murderer who killed his brothers after the death of their father, king Jehoshaphat (2 Chron. 21:1-4). He was an idolater, having married the daughter of king Ahab (Athaliah), he led Judah astray into pagan worship (2 Chron. 21:6, 11; 22:2). During Jehoram’s reign, Edom and other nations revolted and plundered Judah (2 Chron. 21:8-10, 16-17). Jehoram suffered an ignominious death following a two-year, incurable disease (2 Chron. 21:12-19). Everyone, it seems, was glad to see him go. No achievements of his reign were recognized. No state funeral was held in his honor, for nothing about him was honorable (v. 19). No one grieved his death. What a tragic legacy! And, the worst of it is Jehoram died condemned in his sins. What sort of legacy will you leave when you die? Let it be a life well lived for Christ and others. Let it be a life faith, holiness, service, and devotion to the gospel of Christ. Let it be a legacy of righteousness that will speak long after your departure (Heb. 11:4). Be a Christian, faithful and true to Christ, and it will be so.
34 They did not destroy the peoples, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them, 35 But they mingled with the Gentiles and learned their works; 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, 38 And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, and played the harlot by their own deeds. (Psalm 106:34–39, NKJV)
When Israel entered the land of promise they were under commandment to destroy the nations of that land as the execution of God’s punishment against them (Leviticus 18:24-28). Because Israel was “a holy people to the Lord your God” they were not to marry them lest they learned and followed their terrible, idolatrous ways (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). Israel disobeyed the Lord and was influenced to join the nations in sinning against God and against their children. Christians are called out of the world, not to mingle with the world (1 Peter 2:9-10). Therefore, we must “abstain from fleshly lusts” and live differently than those who do not know God (1 Thessalonians 4:4-5). We cannot follow Jesus on Sunday and follow the world the rest of the week without being polluted and defiled by the world. Do not be deceived (1 Corinthians 15:33-34). Instead of mingling with the world let us separate ourselves from its sins, fear God and live holy lives (2 Corinthians 6:17-7:1; 1 Peter 1:15-16).
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. (Ezekiel 6:9–10, NKJV)
Israel was unfaithful to God by committing adultery with idols. The Lord was crushed by their adulterous heart as their eyes pursued harlotry. Clearly, the rebellion of His people grieves the Lord (Psalm 78:40-42). So, He understands the pain caused when a spouse is unfaithful. He knows the crushing grief of a child rebelling against parental rule and God’s will. Experiencing such pain causes some to compromise God’s will to avoid the emotional trauma of such rejection. But, a temporary “peace, peace” when there is no peace is not a winning spiritual strategy (Jeremiah 6:14-16). Though crushed, God punished Israel for her sins while leaving a remnant to escape and reclaim their faith (Ezekiel 6:1-8). Our sin crushes the heart of God, but He will not abandon truth to win us back. Instead He calls on us to repent and to return to faithfulness, warning us of eternal punishment if we persist in our sin. May we quickly sorrow over what our sin does to the heart of God and to the hearts of our loved ones, and repent (2 Corinthians 7:9-10).
4 Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” (1 Corinthians 8:4–6, NKJV)
Idolatry is abundant on the earth today, just as it was when Paul penned these words. Now, as then, there is only one God – the Creator and Father of us all (Genesis 1:1; Acts 17:24-26). Christians serve one Lord, Jesus Christ – not Lord Shiva (Hinduism) or any other so-called god or lord men have devised, carved images of and then worshiped (Isaiah 44:9-20). Idol worshipers are not spiritual, they are deceived and under heaven’s wrath for their defiance of the true God (Romans 1:18-23). Since an “idol is nothing” and “there is no other God but one,” be sure you honor and serve Him. “He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27-32).