The story of God’s interaction with humans is one of abundant love and acceptance for all people.
At the same time, God is utterly intolerant of idols.
God does not tolerate other so-called “gods.” He knows that these substitutes for the “Genuine Article” are destructive to all of life.
As the Hebrew nation was about to enter the promised land, God commanded them to remove from the land any reference to false gods or idols.
Destroy All Idols
God’s command was to “demolish completely” all forms of idolatry.
— Deuteronomy 12.2-3 – You must demolish completely all the places where the nations whom you are about to dispossess served their gods, on the mountain heights, on the hills, and under every leafy tree.
Break down their altars, smash their pillars, burn their sacred poles with fire, and hew down the idols of their gods, and thus blot out their name from their places.
Scammers often use the Internet to steal the identity of unsuspecting persons.
Cult leaders capture the innocent and use them for personal power and profit.
Kidnappers appear kind until they capture a child in the clutches of their crime.
Idols and substitutes for God may appear helpful and attractive, but God knows better. He wants us to approach idols with the same extreme caution as we should give to scammers, cult leaders, and kidnappers.
The One True God gives life to his followers. He is motivated by self-giving love. He alone is worthy of our service.
Idolatry and the Human Heart
When we serve what is false, we become false like that to which we are devoted.
The predominant idols of American culture are power and money. These idols have not serve humanity well.
How many wars have taken place because of money and power?
How many millions of people have been abused and oppressed, because the powerful and affluent wanted more?
How many lives have been destroyed in the service of these two idols?
When God commands the destruction of idols, I don’t think he is suggesting that we smash the windows of banks or anything like that.
I do think God’s command to destroy idols will lead us to hold lightly to power and possessions. We can use them, but live determined to not let them use us.
The Alternative to Idolatry
When God called Jeremiah into service, he gave him this mandate.
“See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1.10)
Idols should be destroyed and overthrown, but that is not the end of God’s command. We are also to build up and plant God’s good in our lives.
— Deuteronomy 12.4-7 – You shall not worship the Lord your God in such ways.
But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes as his habitation to put his name there.
You shall go there, bringing there your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and your donations, your votive gifts, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks.
And you shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your households together, rejoicing in all the undertakings in which the Lord your God has blessed you.
At this point in Israel’s journey, life in Jerusalem was a distant happening. There would come a time when worship would center around the Temple in Jerusalem.
At all times, God’s people were to devote a portion of the bounty that God granted them. They brought their gifts and rejoiced before the Lord.
I have frequently been intrigued by the phrase, “You shall eat there in the presence of the Lord your God” (verse 7).
The Greatest Being of All invites us to eat in his presence. This was more than a command. It was an invitation to a friendship relationship with God. What an opportunity!
Each of our meals can be a time when we commune with God. We can eat in his presence and should take advantage of that gift.
Every meal looks to the time when we hear the angel say, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19.9).
No doubt, what we have considered in this article gives us excellent reason to avoid all idols and to embrace the love of our great God.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I have produced a brief video on this passage. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish and has been following Jesus for 30 years. You will be blessed by his insights on this passage.
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