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).
Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 17:5, NKJV)
Before and during the days of Jeremiah, Jerusalem and Judah had trusted in powerless idols, shaped and fashioned after the will and imaginations of men, to sustain protect them and bless them. The idolatrous “altars and their wooden images” exposed their sins to God’s just and fiery punishment (Jer. 17:1-4). God made their sins and punishment very clear to them. It is always thus when one “trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.” One is left to a barren wasteland, void of spiritual blessings when the heart departs from the Lord: “For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited” (Jer. 17:6). Many think they can survive without God, trusting in themselves and others. Instead of this, one should trust the Lord and follow His will: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” (Jer. 17:7). Doing so brings spiritual life, protection, and productivity, “like a tree planted by the waters…” (Jer. 17:8). When we trust in men instead of God we are living with a “this world” perspective. Trusting in God means we put our faith in the true God and look beyond this world. By faith, we live for eternal realms of glory (Heb. 11:13-16). Our hope is in the Lord.
1 These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things. (Deuteronomy 12:1–4, NKJV)
How we worship God is critically important to being accepted by God. Israel was commanded to destroy the false gods and their places of worship in the land of Canaan. They were forbidden to worship God “with such things” (v. 4). Christians cannot borrow items of unauthorized, false worship and expect God to be pleased. The true God only accepts true worship (“in spirit and truth,” John 4:23-24). Whether it is lighting candles, ritual ceremonies, using instrumental music, or many other such things, every attempt to minimize and discard the pattern of worship in the New Testament is an affront against God. This is a primary reason to carefully approach God with worship He approves, not worship devised by the wisdom and will of humanity.
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).
1 Now concerning things offered to idols: We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. 2 And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, this one is known by Him. (1 Corinthians 8:1–3, NKJV)
The next subject about which the Corinthians questioned the apostle was “things offered to idols” (that is, eating things that had been offered to idols, 1 Cor. 8:4, 10). Paul will explain that while we all know an idol is nothing and that there is but one true God, the consciences of some Christians were weak, informing them that the idol was still somehow consequential (1 Cor. 8:7). Rather than arrogantly dismissed them, their weak consciences were to be considered when deciding whether to use one’s personal liberty and eat things that had been offered to idols (1 Cor. 8:7-13). You see, knowledge, standing alone, invites arrogance (v. 1). Knowledge tends to inflate one’s opinion of himself. Humility, not pride, must inform and animate our knowledge (v. 2). We have not yet acquired the knowledge we ought to have if we view ourselves sufficient and superior in knowledge to others. Our goal is to be known by God, not to flaunt and force what we know upon others (v. 3). These principles inform our use of personal liberties. Paul’s call to combine knowledge with humility is needed whenever we are tempted to elevate ourselves above others (Romans 13:8-10).
17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.” (1 Kings 18:17–18, NKJV)
With the influence of his evil wife Jezebel, king Ahab advanced Baal worship in Israel (1 Kings 16:29-33). God sent a drought upon the land for over three years to show His great displeasure (1 Kings 17:1; James 5:17). Ahab blamed God’s prophet Elijah for the trouble, but it was Ahab and his house who had forsaken God’s commands and led the nation into deeper sin. Ahab was the real troubler of Israel. Here is a clear lesson concerning culpability when distress, trials, trouble, and division occurs among Christians. God says the troubler of His people are those who forsake His commandments and follow false ways. Yet, like Ahab, those who “hold fast the pattern of sound words” against the religious innovations borne of human desire and design are still (incorrectly) charged with being troublemakers (2 Timothy 1:13). No, we become troublers of Israel when we go beyond the doctrine of Christ and teach false, misleading things (2 John 9; Acts 20:29-30). False gods and false doctrines still plague the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16-17). Let us never be a modern-day Ahab who defends error while condemning truth and those who uphold it.
1 Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. 3 Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. 4 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. 6 Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. (Psalm 96:1-6)
This song of praise and thanksgiving honors the Lord God for His great salvation and wondrous glory among the nations of the earth. He is to be elevated and revered as the Creator who “made the heavens” (v. 5). He is in every way superior to “the gods of the peoples”, fashioned by the art and devise of men. Such idols are mere trinkets that perish, but the Lord God is eternal is majestic glory. His dwelling place is adorned with strength and beauty. God is worthy of your reverent worship and thankful service. To serve any other god is utterly futile.