Showing posts with label Idolatry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Idolatry. Show all posts

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Mining the Minors: Zechariah (9)

There’s no getting around the fact that the Bible’s pictures of wickedness are frequently female. We’re going to study one today.

Commentators occasionally feel the need to apologize for this, as if maybe the Holy Spirit might be a tad misogynistic, or perhaps the prophets of God went off the reservation and used imagery consistent with their patriarchal biases that he might not have personally approved.

Hey, we all know the Lord Jesus loved women …

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

The Cost of the Chase

“They … have gone after the Baals, as their fathers taught them.”

Do you ever wonder why so many unsaved people get increasingly bitter as they age? I believe it’s because you become like the things you chase.

Idolatry is the quintessential Old Testament sin, but it also serves as an analogy for other types of extreme self-interest. The word Baal simply means lord or owner, and the New Testament teaches us that ownership of the human heart comes in many guises.

Sunday, September 03, 2023

More Calf Exercises

Is it my imagination, or do those
tags in your ears say, “Liar, liar”?

It was 722 BC, and God had taken Israel off the board.

As a political entity, the northern kingdom would no longer be active in accomplishing the purposes of Heaven. God continued his work, of course, in the lives of individual Israelites and their families dispersed throughout Assyria’s empire.

The writer of 2 Kings gives the nation this eulogy: “They went after false idols and became false.”

But this is how it goes: when you order your world on the basis of a lie, you further the lie and become a liar yourself. And liars are not much use as anything but cautionary tales.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Calf Exercises

How do you go from “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” to “Up, make us gods who shall go before us” in such an insanely short period?

And yet, I cannot imagine this sort of treachery and double-speak was characteristic only of Israel. “These things happened to them as examples,” Paul tells the Corinthians, “but they were written down for our instruction.”

We’re still reading them today, so maybe we can learn a thing or two.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

The False God of Education

My neighbor to the left is an attractive forty-something single mother with a small child and a big fence around her property, which abuts on an ‘L’-shaped swath of grass that is technically the property of the city. From time to time, in the dead of night, the occasional nefarious individual with a large item he wishes to dispose of quietly unloads his castoff between the fence and the street. It’s a whole lot easier and cheaper than driving it to the dump.

My neighbor’s frustration with this practice is obvious.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Foreign Gods in the Least Likely Moments

“He said, ‘Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord, the God of Israel.’ ”

Quick question for avid readers of the Old Testament: without clicking or mousing-over the link above, who said these words?

If you guessed Moses, you’re wrong.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Hyperbole and Analogy


Say what you like about James, he knew how to get a reader’s attention.

And people have said a fair bit about James over the years, not least Martin Luther, who famously called his letter an “epistle of straw”. There’s no getting around the fact that there are aspects to the missive that are theologically difficult, a tone about it that is markedly different from Paul, Peter, John and even Jude, and a strong Jewish flavor to it that can confuse Christian readers.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Mining the Minors: Hosea (6)

When Canada rejected Stephen Harper as Prime Minister in favor of a candidate whose most identifiable features were his last name and haircut, I was completely unsurprised.

At the time I often lunched in a semi-trendy midtown café frequented by liberal-leaning twenty-somethings. It’s a small place; even if you are not inclined to eavesdrop, the tables are wedged in so tightly that you can hardly fail to pick up the broad strokes of any animated conversation in the room. Back in 2015, day after day, patron after patron, the subject was politics and nothing but. Young Canadian urbanites hungered for an abrupt swing to the left, and they were determined to make it happen.

And so they did. The country has yet to recover.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (19)

There is no such thing as a truly secular state. Man was made to worship, and if he will not worship the one true God, then he will worship false gods. If he does not worship false gods, then he ends up worshiping himself. But worship he will, one way or another.

The problem with alternatives to the worship of the one true God is that they are all futile.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Mining the Minors: Amos (14)

Why would God extend an invitation to sinners to keep right on sinning? Isn’t that the exact opposite of what he really wants?

It’s not a bad question. Yet the scripture frequently shows us God standing back and allowing the sinner to act out the evil in his heart, from his warning to Cain in Genesis 4 that “sin is crouching at the door” (which went sadly unheeded) to the accumulated sins of Babylon in the book of Revelation, which are “heaped high as heaven”.

This divinely permitted real-world actualizing of the evil desires of the heart often comes at great cost to others. Yet here in Amos, God once again invites the people of Israel to “multiply transgression”.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Everybody’s an Idolater

“The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands.”

Everybody’s an idolater. Well, almost everybody.

Christians are exempt. Of course we may struggle with temptation to idolatry of various sorts from time to time, but the characteristic pattern of the Christian life is not idolatrous. We do not continue in it. After all, idolaters will not enter the kingdom of God. Anyone whose life is characterized by idolatry is by definition un-Christian.

Saturday, November 07, 2020

Mining the Minors: Jonah (7)

Students of ancient religions will likely recall that the vast majority of non-Israelites (and, frankly, far too many Israelites too) were pantheists, and that the vast majority of the gods these people worshiped actually possessed very limited portfolios.

In the Ancient Near East, every major city had its own patron deity. The Egyptians had literally dozens of them, each with specific areas of responsibility. So Montu was their god of war, Neper their god of grain, Osiris their ruler of the underworld, Nut their sky goddess, Ash their god of the Libyan desert, and so on. The Sumerians had more than 3,000 deities, major and minor, including Ashur, god of wind and Nergal, god of plagues. The gods of all major ancient religions divvied up responsibilities over the world in this way, and the effect of this multiplicity of gods was invariably to lessen the impressiveness of any individual deity.

Even the Canaanite god Baal, named 63 times in our Old Testaments and a major factor in Israelite idolatry, was primarily known as a fertility god.

How does this relate to our study of Jonah? Read on, my friend ...

Tuesday, September 01, 2020

A Sheet of Glass

Now and then when I’m unable to write a new post for one reason or another, I’ll recycle something from our archives, generally without comment. But I couldn’t help but notice that this end-of-2014 post about the suddenness with which change comes to our world was definitely NOT inadvertently prophetic. Not one bit. Really.

Last week, Matt Drudge linked to an article in The Guardian that informs us “we are safer, richer and healthier than at any time on record”. In “Goodbye to one of the best years in history”, Fraser Nelson wraps up 2014 by reminding his readers that while it may have escaped our notice:
  • our lives now are more peaceful than at any time known to the human species;
  • global capitalism has transferred wealth faster than foreign aid ever could;
  • global life expectancy now stands at a new high of 71.5 years;
  • traffic deaths are down by two-thirds since 1990; and
  • there has never been a better reason for people the world over to wish each other a happy and prosperous new year.
While Mr. Nelson may have overlooked one or two little atrocities here and there in his glowing report on the human condition, he makes an effort to substantiate his claim that relatively at least we are doing pretty well as a species.

Terrific for us, until things change. And change is coming.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Names of Their Gods

Dr. Jordan Peterson’s fifteen minutes of fame are pretty much up, I suspect, but since he got almost three years of limelight and a book that has sold in the neighborhood of three million copies out of his notoriety, he’s probably not complaining.

For the three readers who have never heard of him, the professor drew international attention in late 2016 for his critique of political correctness, something almost unheard of on Canadian university campuses. He has not looked back since.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Hooks and Nooses

“[I]f you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”

We often have more than one reason for saying the things we say. God could have said, “If you serve their gods, I will be offended.” That would certainly have been true. He could also have said, “If you serve their gods, you will find it useless.” This too is true. Inanimate carvings of wood and stone have no power to protect or deliver. He could have said, “You don’t understand that serving their gods is really serving demons.” Once again, entirely true. He could even have said, “If you serve their gods, I will punish you severely.”

This was most definitely the case.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Getting in the Driver’s Seat

“My people inquire of a piece of wood, and their walking staff gives them oracles.”

Idolatry is stupid. There, I said it.

It’s hard to imagine that any craftsman who ever put tools to wood, stone or metal really believed his artistic creations had the power to determine outcomes or influence reality. These men could hardly miss the fact that they were manufacturing a commodity. They were marketing a commercial product, not consciously giving worldly form to some arcane power in order to enable its devotees to focus their otherwise-diffuse religious attention. And if idols are indeed merely human constructs, then worshiping them is stupid.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t reasons people do it.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Some Deliverance

Divine law was not given to mankind simply as a means for us to avoid God’s wrath (though obedience to the law in any generation may defer judgment for a time).

Neither was divine law given only so that men would live happier and more productive lives (though history and the evidence of our eyes tell us societies in which God’s laws are obeyed are better places to live than societies where God’s laws are not).

Still less was divine law given as a means of justifying ourselves in the court of God. That one has never worked.

No, the law was never an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. The desired end was a flourishing relationship with the God who gave it.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

More Calf Exercises

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Our Enemies Are By Themselves

A few years ago, an acquaintance in Northern Ontario was asked to take the funeral of a local man who had passed away unexpectedly. Nobody could say for sure whether the dead man did or didn’t know the Lord, so the speaker opted to give a clear gospel message.

When he was done, an older relative of the deceased, tears in his eyes, approached him to thank him for taking the funeral. To all appearances, this man was a secular success story; someone who, while apparently decent and moral, had shown little or no interest in the things of God for many years.

“I believe every word you just said,” he told the speaker. “I’ve wasted my life.”

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Fourth Option

People talk about God, and about what God wants from us. What they say may come from several places.

Sure, what we say can (1) originate with God. We hope it does. Peter says, “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God”. Amen, so be it.

But we know this is not always the case.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Calf Exercises

 The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Quote of the Day (7)

Idolatry is fundamentally the worship of self.

When we think of the ancients grovelling before groves and altars, we may be inclined to envision them as essentially religious people with errant theology. That is easier to do when we picture pagans with no knowledge of the true God beyond that which they might intuit from nature and the cosmos.

But then how do we explain the nation of Israel after the exodus?

Friday, January 02, 2015

When Everything Crashes and Burns

The most recent version of this post is available here.