‘A MAJOR DIABOLICAL STRATEGY OF GOD’S ENEMIES’
an ESSAY by J.b.Wilhelm
Idolatry is one of the most offensive sins a human being can commit in GOD’s eyes. Whereas other sins affect their fellow humans and in some instances the perpetrators themselves, idolatry is a direct and personal offense against the person of YHWH GOD, the creator, himself.
For this reason idolatry is given special attention by GOD’s arch-enemy, Satan the Devil and his followers. It is the pre-eminent insult against GOD Almighty which one may carry out and he, (Satan) knows it and treats it as a sacred cow in his tool box of opposition against YHWH, the Creator and true God.
IGNORANCE and IDOLATRY
Generally in most organized religions there is an under emphasized, rather simplistic meaning attached to idols which falls far short of the gravity GOD attaches to idolatry. Most religions give precedent to one of two definitions offered by secular dictionaries such as Webster’s 1828 Dictionary and its successors while virtually ignoring the other one.
From the classic Dictionary Definitions found in Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:
IDOL'ATRY, noun [Latin idololatria. Gr. idol, and to worship or serve.]
1. The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God.
Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, etc. made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals.
2. Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.
The first definition is the one which is widely promoted by the churches and accepted by the public at large while the second definition is downplayed by the clergy of organized religions and virtually passed over by the public at large. A reason for this may be that the clergy and the religious denominations they serve are themselves grossly guilty of idolatry according to definition number two in Webster’s Dictionary and the practice of idolatry labeled number two is seen to be very prevalent in the ‘world’ today.
While Idolatry is lumped together with all other sins which are offensive to YHWH God, idolatry, due to the personal way God himself takes it warrants special consideration. Not only is it personally offensive to God but it is used extensively by his adversary, Lucifer (Satan the Devil) as a primary way of heaping insult on the creator and injury to his primary creation, the human family. All the while, directing appreciation and worship due the creator to others including himself. As long as it deprives YHWH God of what is rightfully exclusively his, Satan sees every form of idolatry as a personal victory against GOD and his sovereignty.
Idolatry is a complex issue in the battle between Almighty God with his forces of truth and light and Lucifer (Satan) and his forces of deception and darkness because it takes on a number of masks, some very apparent and others less recognizable.
A. RECOGNIZABLE SUBJECTS of IDOLATRY
1. Images, Statues, Symbols and Icons which are venerated or afforded the accoutrements of worship, excessive attachment or veneration bordering on adoration;
These are representations of some ‘one’ or some ‘thing’, contrived to represent real entities in graphic or physical forms such as drawings, paintings, statues or other forms including photographs and symbols.
Does this mean all art and sculpture represents idolatry? While some people may take this extreme position, this is not a scriptural viewpoint neither one supported by logic. An object only becomes an idol by virtue of the way it is treated. If it is afforded either undue adoration, veneration, glorification, exaltation or reverence tantamount to worship, only then does it become an idol. These are accoutrements of worship which YHWH God has deemed to be exclusively due himself alone as exclusive creator and originator of the universe and all it consists of.
B. APPARENT NATURAL SUBJECTS OF IDOLATRY
Idolatry may encompass things and parts related to nature which are afforded “iconic status” in effect, nature worship.
Nature worship is any one of a variety of religious, spiritual and devotional practices that focus on the science and spirits considered to be behind the natural phenomena visible throughout nature. A nature deity can be seen to be in charge of nature, a place, a biotope, the biosphere, the cosmos, or the universe. When it is venerated to the extent that it is given Iconic status by people, it become an idol. This has been so in the past and is also true in a variety of ways among some cultures today. In these instances humans have been guilty of worshipping the creation rather than the creator.
C. LESS THAN OBVIOUS SUBJECTS OF IDOLATRY
1. People - Politicians, Media celebrities, Sports figures, Rock stars, Educators, Clergy, Medical Practitioners, Military heroes, etc. are all examples where some people afford them honor and glory which rightfully belongs to the creator.
In all these instances humans can be afforded worshipful status by veneration and adulation belonging only to the true God. Often, in places like theatrical productions and rock concerts performers are afforded outrageous frenzied adulation by crowds of attendees. Immoral and unprincipled celebrities are held in awe as examples for people to follow, rather than looking for divine guidance from the creator and regarding him, his son and his loyal followers as examples to follow.
2. Places - Buildings, Religious Edifices, Monuments, Mansions. Idols are not limited to live or dead beings or things related to nature. They can constitute manmade “things” which have been given iconic status.
One of the obvious examples we may cite are places of worship. Temples, Churches and Cathedrals take on “glorious” proportions, grandeur and ostentatious characteristics wherein they themselves become subjects of adulation. Palaces and grand mansions are given monumental status and treatment as if they were worthy of awesome reverence in their own rights. Government buildings are endowed with a grandeur demanding iconic attention.
3. Organizations and Institutions - While we don’t normally see entities such as corporations, fraternal, social, charitable and political clubs, as Idols, they can be. Also, institutions such as colleges and universities, foundations and societies, religious academies and administrations are often viewed with adoration and reverence tantamount to worship. Often one finds a religion or a religious organization taking on greater importance in the lives of its followers than the principal subject it is supposed to be based on. In effect, the “church” or the “organization” and its clergy become just as important, and in some cases even more important than the God they are supposedly worshipping.
In secular circles, Corporations, institutions and organizations demand the loyalty, devotion and service of their members which transcends religious fervor. This too is a form of idolatry.
D. MURKY SUBJECTS OF IDOLATRY
Other forms of Idolatry are far less recognizable by the average person. They all into an area of things and activities which few humans recognize as being potentially idolatrous. Mostly, they don’t even recognize these things to be capable of being seen as idols, yet YHWH God does.
Concepts such as certain ideas, ideals, rights and freedoms, come to constitute idolatry when they are afforded the prestige and esteem due the creator or deprive the creator of that credit which is rightfully his.
1. Concepts: In a universe where YHWH God knows he is responsible for the entire creation, the concept that he doesn’t exist is idolatrous. Particularly when it is adapted with a zeal and fervor otherwise reserved for religious pursuits. Such is the case with orthodox ‘Atheism’ whose followers deny both the existence of God and even his right to exist. Atheism is a concept which its proponents can be seen to hold with idolatrous enthusiasm tantamount to worship.
Another example is found in ‘Feminism’ which began as a realistic reaction to abusive men. For some it has escalated into a quasi-religion where females and feminism are afforded extraordinary and unusual status often bordering on worship.
2. Ideas and Ideals: Ideas, when they are embraced to such large extent wherein they cause proponents to sacrifice, even to the extent of giving their own and the lives of others, they can become idols in their own right. Such is the case with “freedom” and “independence”. When freedom from the laws of nature and the laws of God are ‘deified’ to such extremes, those ideas become a form of idolatry and those who wholeheartedly embrace them to the exclusion of YHWH God must be seen as idolaters. Recall, the second definition found in Webster’s dictionary: “2. Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.”
3. Self-Worship: Self –Worship takes on a number of forms which are promoted under the banners of taking the concepts of ‘self-esteem’, ‘self-image’, ‘personal fulfillment’ and a ‘me-first attitude’ to extremes.
When one pays the honor homage and dedication which rightly belongs to YHWH God to one self, that is self-worship and a form of idolatry.
Self-worship may manifest itself in a number of different ways, most of which are frowned upon by society in general yet seen to exist in the individuals making up that society. They are; arrogance, boastfulness, conceit, egocentricity, haughtiness, narcissism, presumptiveness, ostentation, self-importance, self–pity, selfishness and self-superiority. When found in extremes these are all sub forms of self-worship and constitute idolatry.
4. Greed: Then there is ‘greed’ which demands its own special consideration. Greed is the ultimate form of “me-first” expression which is given explicit attention in God’s word.
Luke 12:15 Then Jesus said to them, "Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. People do not get life from the many things they own." (ERV)
Col. 3:5 You must put to death, then, the earthly desires at work in you, such as sexual immorality, indecency, lust, evil passions, and greed (for greed is a form of idolatry). (GNB)
Ephesians 5:5 You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world. (NLT)
1Co. 6:9, 10 Don't you know that evil people won't have a share in the blessings of God's kingdom? Don't fool yourselves! No one who is immoral or worships idols or is unfaithful in marriage or is a pervert or behaves like a homosexual 10 will share in God's kingdom. Neither will any thief or greedy person or drunkard or anyone who curses and cheats others. (CEV)
The world, particularly its commercial systems, while rejecting it publicly, embraces greed as a means of achieving personal success. It is found to exist between the lines in every self- improvement course and business curriculum offered by the world for individual fulfillment.
Scripturally it is an entirely different matter.
At 2 Peter 2:3 greed is depicted as something which portends destruction for its perpetrator. We may conclude that while it may bring temporary welfare to an individual, in the overall sense it deprives others of their welfare and brings ultimate destruction to the greedy person.
2 Peter 2:3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (GW)
In the “Spirit Realm”, not only greed, but all idolatry is a personal affront to GOD. Lucifer knows this is an insult which YHWH is especially sensitive over and so he perpetrates it upon people in a wide variety of ways, some obvious, some subtle and some completely disguised or wrapped in mystery.
IDOLATRY AS A DIABOLICAL STRATEGY
It is noteworthy that Lucifer’s very nature centers on opposing YHWH GOD and that his ultimate purpose is involved with “rule or ruin”. If he cannot get members of the human family to follow him in his rebellion against GOD, he desires to see them destroyed.
Lucifer knows that YHWH GOD is a God of truth and that he is totally committed to keeping his word. He shrewdly uses this concrete fact in a diabolically brilliant strategy wherein he maneuvers people into idolatrous positions where GOD is forced to do away with them even if in other ways they may be his people. Holy Scripture reveals YHWH GOD will not tolerate idolatry and he has revealed this fact to all people by means of his son, his inspired prophets and scripture preserved for human guidance.
Examples of this are found in numerous places in the Bible, a few of which are cited below:
Exodus 20:4, 5 "You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in heaven above or on the earth under heaven or that is in the waters under the earth. 5 You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I YHWH, your God demand exclusive devotion from you, *
Mat 4:10 Jesus said to him, "Get away from me, Satan! The Scriptures say, 'You must worship the Lord your God. Serve only him!'" (ERV)
Psalms 96:5; For all gods of the nations are only idols; but it is YHWH who made the heavens. *
1Co 10:7, 14 Do not be idolaters, as some of your ancestors were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry." . . . 14 For that reason, my dear friends, have nothing to do with the worship of false gods and idolatry. *
IDOLATRY CLEARLY UNACCEPTABLE to GOD
Exodus 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. (NAS)
Jeremiah 44:4 I sent my servants, the prophets, to those people again and again. They spoke my message and said to the people, "Don't do this terrible thing. I hate for you to worship idols." (ERV)
2 Ki 17:35 And Jehovah had made a covenant and charged them, saying, You shall not fear other gods, nor bow yourselves to them, nor serve them, nor sacrifice to them, (MKJV)
Jeremiah 5:23 "But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned against me and have chosen to practice idolatry (NLT)
Jeremiah 10:14 People who make idols are so stupid! They will be disappointed, because their false gods are not alive. (CEV)
1 Corinthians 10:14 ; Therefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. (MKJV)
WHY IDOLATRY IS SO ABOMINABLE TO GOD.
1Co 10:20, 21 I say to you that the things which the nations sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to GOD. And I don’t want you to have anything to do with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of YHWH and the cup of demons; you cannot be partakers of our Lord's Table and of a table the demons spread before you.*
Deu 4:23, 24 You must be careful not to forget the agreement that the LORD your God made with you. You must obey the LORD'S command. Don't make any idols in any form, 24 because the LORD your God hates for his people to worship other gods. And he can be like a fire that destroys! (ERV)
A primary reason why GOD is so vehemently opposed to idolatry is because to him idolatry is synonymous with leaving him (apostasy).
Jeremiah 1:16 "I will punish my people because they have sinned; they have abandoned me, have offered sacrifices to other gods, and have made idols and worshiped them” (GNB)
PROSPECTS FOR IDOLATERS
Ezekiel 23:49 Your debauchery will recoil on yourselves, and you will bear the weight of the sins committed with your foul idols and you will know that I am the Lord Yahweh." (NJB)
Revelation 21:8 "But for the cowardly and 1unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and 2brimstone, which is the second death." (NAU)
While the above scriptures give us picture of an outcome for the workings of idolatry, Jesus own words confirm just how abhorrent idolatry is to God and how certain that outcome for idolaters will be.
Luke 4:8 Jesus replied, "The Scriptures say, You must worship the Lord your God; serve only him.'1 " (NLT)
Revelation 21:8 But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; which is the second death (death without resurrection).*
The angel who delivered the Revelation had this to add to Jesus words when the Apostle John wanted to afford what he saw as an act of veneration to him.
Revelation 22:8, 9 And I, John, was he who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to do homage before the feet of the angel who shewed me these things. (DBY) 9 but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God." (ESV)
IDOLATRY AFFECTS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
Idolatry has a direct bearing on GOD’s relationship with the human family. His irrevocable promise concerning that relationship is revealed in the scriptures;
Jeremiah 24:7 The people I gather will be given a heart to acknowledge that I am YHWH. They will be my people and I shall be their GOD, for they will return to me with all their heart.*
John 4:23 But the time is coming -- indeed it is already here -- when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. : That is the kind of worshipper the Father is looking for.*
Ezekiel 11:20 So that they will live according to my edicts, and observe and carry out my laws; consequently they shall be my people and I will be their GOD.*
Ezekiel 37:27 My dwelling place will be with them; I will be their GOD, and they will be my people.*
In view of this relationship we are acutely aware of his words at Exodus 20:4, 5;
Exodus 20:4, 5 "Do not make idols of any kind, whether in the shape of birds or animals or fish. 5 You must never worship or bow down to them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not share your affection with any other god! I do not leave unpunished the sins of those who hate me, but I punish the children for the sins of their parents to the third and fourth generations. (NLT)
Today, the word ‘jealous’ is generally seen in a negative light. While Bible translations generally use the word “jealous” in this verse and we apply the negative modern meaning to it, this was not what the original Bible writers had in mind. Scripturally, jealousy is more accurately understood as an emotion attributed to a God who is described as possessive or ‘zealous’ for that which belongs to him.
In fact. Both the original O.T. and N.T words for jealousy are also translated as ‘zeal’.
Being jealous or being zealous are essentially the same thing scripturally, carrying the meaning of a God who is eager about protecting those things which are precious to him.
His ‘name’, that is his reputation and all that stands behind it is something precious to him. Also, his word, his unrelenting commitment to truth, his promises are all precious to him.
Perhaps foremost is his sovereignty, which is his right to rule his own creation which is found among the things he is zealous for and fully committed to.
His all-powerful nature added to this makes him worthy of all respect, appreciation and worship. These things are due him as the only true God and creator.
Idolatry is a personal affront to him because it denies him what is rightfully and exclusively his.
Idolatry is emblematically representative of rejection or denial of GOD’s promises, his relationship with humans as well as a direct personal rejection of him, his nature and his purposes.
This brings us to the underlying characteristic of YHWH’s personal nature according to many Bibles where he is represented as a “jealous” God.
Exo 20:4, 5 Thou shalt not make to thyself an idol, nor likeness of anything, whatever things are in the heaven above, and whatever are in the earth beneath, and whatever are in the waters under the earth. 5. Thou shalt not bow down to them, nor serve them; for I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, recompensing the sins of the fathers upon the children, to the third and fourth generation to them that hate me, (Brenton)
On the other hand, other translations for the same verse represent him as a “zealous” God.
Exodus 20:4, 5 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. (NRS):5 Thou dost not bow thyself to them, nor serve them: for I, Jehovah thy God, am a zealous God, charging iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third generation, and on the fourth, of those hating Me, (YLT)
There is a vast difference between the meanings we attach to those two words. Jealous carries a negative connotation for us while zealous has a positive ring to it. Which is the more correct translation of the Hebrew word ‘qanna’ which was found in original scripture?
It turns out the word ‘qanna’ can mean either jealous or zealous, confusing the meaning of Exodus 20:3 - 5 for some people.
Exo 20:3-5 You shall have no other gods before or besides Me. 4 You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 You shall not bow down yourself to them or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, ( AMP) [see also Isa. 42:8; 48:11.]
Clearly the concept of ‘Zealousness’ fits a loving, all knowing, just and wise God who is perfect in every way, whereas the emotion we know as ‘jealousy’ is seen as un-wise and un-just by us, even when found in imperfect humans.
ROLE of IDOLATRY in our RELATIONSHIP with GOD
Three of the Ten Commandments are critical to the definition of Idolatry. God created humanity to live in a relationship to him; knowing him, honoring him, delighting in him, serving him, finding identity and meaning and personal significance in our belonging to him and working with him to accomplish his purposes in creation. This is the way it was intended to be.
But, sin entered the picture and tragically altered the way man relates to God. At Romans 1, Paul details the effects of sin in the way we respond to God. The human inclination and propensity of our hearts is that we no longer naturally turn to God. We do not honor him as God or give thanks to him. We do not delight, in God in our love, honor, obedience, and grateful service.
Instead the world we live under promotes independence of God - not wanting to face the reality of GOD. People do not naturally acknowledge him as the great, true, and only God who is of infinite worth. We don’t supremely prize him, or value him as first and ultimate. We do not acknowledge our total dependence upon him for life and joy – the source of all good, him as the foundation for our happiness and joy; we refuse to acknowledge him as the object of our trust and hope and the giver of every good thing.
This is the general human condition today. We do not naturally give God center stage; we do not glorify him as ultimate, first, paramount; he does not fill our minds and hearts and is not the object of our supreme love and loyalty. However, because we are created as covenantal beings intended to live in relation to God, we do not simply abandon the reality of God, rather we exchange God for a substitute. Because we are made for God and intended to derive our identity, security, purpose and happiness in a personal relationship with him, when we exclude him from our lives there is a huge vacuum. So we do not simply eliminate God – we exchange God for a God-substitute that we look to for our identity, security, meaning, purpose and happiness. That substitute becomes an idol for us.
So Paul says, we exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve the creation rather than the creator. We elevate something in creation above God. GK Chesterton said “When we cease to worship God, we do not worship nothing, we worship anything.”
These substitutes are counterfeit gods. So we can define an idol as “something within creation that is inflated to function in the place of GOD.” It is inflated to function as a god in this sense: It becomes more fundamental than YHWH God for our identity, personal meaning, security, purpose, and joy. So, “an idol can be a physical object, a property, a person, an activity, a role, an institution, an organization, a hope, an image, an idea, a pleasure, a hero or anything else that can substitute for God”
This means that an idol is not something that is necessarily in its essence a bad thing; it can be a good thing that is inflated to either replace or function as God in your life – a good thing that you love and trust too much and count it as fundamental to your identity and security and meaning and purpose and joy. Idolatry is the essence of sin. Every sin ultimately has idolatry at its root; every sin is a breaking of the first commandment. For example; lying, murder, theft, covetousness, adultery, hateful and abusive behavior, gossip and immorality all have idolatry within their beginnings. These are all affronts to the person and nature of God almighty and substitute for the natural and right relationship God has with humans and humans are intended to have with God.
Keeping in mind the primary principle behind idolatry, that is giving something which belongs to GOD to someone or some thing else, thereby depriving him of what is rightfully his makes modern-day Idolatry far more complex than it was in ancient days.
As such, it becomes for us a perpetual challenge in understanding its nature and recognizing its danger to our relationship with God. To God’s perennial enemy, Satan the Devil, it becomes a marvelous instrument in alienating God from his people and his people from God.
These two facts must be kept in mind at all times for any Christian who inadvertently ventures over the line into what constitutes either traditional or modern-day idolatry. No one can engage in idolatry and expect to have the kind of relationship with YHWH God and his son Jesus Christ which is fully acceptable to them. A Christian who engages in Idolatry in any of its forms must face the same certain consequences as any pagan idolater is destined to face.
Such being the case, we must all take Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians vs 10; 12-14 - to heart:
1 Corinthians 10:12-14 12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful, for you, too, may fall into the same sin. 13 But remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you will not give in to it. (NLT) 14 Therefore, my dearly beloved, shun (keep clear away from, avoid by flight if need be) any sort of idolatry (of loving or venerating anything more than God). (AMP)