Previously, in Note 6, I looked at the whole issue of idolatry, what it is and that it is usually the root cause for Christians who backslide from God. In essence, idolatry exists when we value something more than God and put it before him in terms of importance, even being prepared to drift or walk away from him in pursuit of it.
It is easy for human beings to erect idols in their hearts and Christians are not exempt. It is something that we must always guard our hearts against therefore, in a state of watchfulness.
Idolatry is a sin that God vehemently hates and has demonstrated in his Word, the Bible, that he will always punish. The Old Testament is full of examples of Israel’s idolatry, how God punished them for it and how he admonished them, through his Prophets, to put it away and return to him, the fountain of living water. For, in him is life and in none other.
In Isaiah 43:11, God stated: “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.”
In Jeremiah 2:12-14, God lamented Israel’s foolish decision to turn away from Him, the all powerful one and the one in whom everything consists, in pursuit of a better life, as he knew that this would not be profitable to them but would only result in curses, sterility, stagnancy, shame, pain and death in their lives.
Through his Prophet Jeremiah, he stated of Israel’s backslidden condition in Jeremiah 2:11-14:
- “Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
Of the troubles Israel inherited because of its idolatrous decision, God further stated in verses 15-17 and 19:
- “The young lions roared upon him, and yelled, and they made his land waste: his cities are burned without inhabitant. Also the children of Hoph and Tahapanes have broken the crown of thy head. Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the way?…Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that that hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts.”
HOW GOD WANTS HIS CHILDREN TO ADDRESS THE ISSUE OF IDOLATRY
If you are a genuine believer in the resurrection of Jesus Christ and you have confessed that he is Lord with your mouth, if you have found yourself in a seriously backslidden condition, then it is due to idolatry.
The first thing you need to do is repent of this sin before God, which requires you to truly understand how evil your sin is, how deserving you are of God’s punishment and to understand that he has kept you alive solely through his mercy and grace. It also involves being sorrowful for your sin when you see it for how ugly it really is, confessing what you have done before God, that you were wrong and he was always right and asking him humbly for forgiveness and cleansing with a determination in your heart to cease from that sin forever. (SEE Article 12 for more details, entitled: ‘What Is Repentance?’)
As part of the repentant process, you must also put away or rid yourself of the idol you set up in your heart. For, the God you serve is a jealous God, as the following verses make clear:
- “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” (Exodus 20:5; Deutoronomy 5:9)
- “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:” (Exodus 34:14)
- “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” (Deutoronomy 4:24)
- “(For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” (Deutoronomy 6:15)
Ridding yourself of an idol (something that you have been holding on to in your heart or in your life but which God hates) may not be very easy. For, sin has a way that it entraps and is reluctant to let go. It wants to keep you down and stuck and outside of God’s favour for life.
You can therefore expect it to fight back and aggressively, even through subtle means, as it wants you to remain enslaved in is destructive hold. However, by the grace of God and the enablement of his Holy Spirit which dwells within you, once you are determined to be free of this idol or these idols and you pray to God asking for his help and his wisdom, he will help you to rid yourself of it. For His power trumps all.
Once you are genuinely sorry for your sin because you see the ugliness of it in the sight of God and you confess your sins to Him, he will faithfully forgive you of it and cleanse you from all of the unrighteousness (including all of the spin-off sins that came through that main sin of idolatry.) (1 John 1:9).
KING JOSIAH AND JUDAH’S IDOLS
2 Kings 23 presents a perfect example of how God expects us to treat our idols upon repentance. We cannot continue to hold on to them in our hearts but must make a clean break from them, never to return to that place again.
In 2 Kings, a new King, Josiah, had taken the throne in Judah. He was the great grandson of Hezekiah (a godly King) but the grandson of Manasseh, who had done great evil during his term as King and who was mainly responsible for causing Judah to turn away from God to false gods like Baal and to worship idols.
According to 2 Kings 23, when the book of God’s law had been delivered to King Josiah and it was read to him, in repentance, he rent his clothes, as he realized how great Judah had sinned, how far away they had gone from the true and living God and how great the curse was that was lying over their heads.
He realized that the people of Judah had completely gone out of the way and off the right path and that this was bound to be detrimental to them. For, life and blessings and favour and protection only come when one is in right relationship with the true and living God, the only true God. Yet, Judah had angered God with their idols.
Josiah then took decisive action and set about to set things right by having God’s Word read to the people, making a fresh covenant (promise) before the Lord to walk in his ways and then completely putting away, getting rid of and destroying the idolatrous objects and false gods that the people of Judah were foolishly worshiping.
King Josiah was determined to completely stamp out all idolatry and to return wholeheartedly to the true and living God. In 2 King 23:1-25, it states:
- “And the king sent, and they gathered unto him all the elders of Judah and of Jerusalem. And the king went up into the house of the Lord, and all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem with him, and the priests, and the prophets, and all the people, both small and great: and he read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood by a pillar, and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes with all their heart and all their soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people stood to the covenant.
- And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: And HE BURNED THEM without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel. And he PUT DOWN THE IDOLATROUS PRIESTS, whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah, and in the places round about Jerusalem; them also that burned incense unto Baal, to the sun, and to the moon, and to the planets, and to all the host of heaven. And he BROUGHT OUT THE GROVE FROM THE HOUSE OF THE LORD, without Jerusalem, unto the brook Kidron, and BURNED IT at the brook Kidron, and STAMPED IT SMALL TO POWDER, and CAST THE POWDER THEREOF UPON THE GRAVES of the children of the people.
- And he BRAKE DOWN THE HOUSES OF THE SODOMITES, that were by the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the grove. And he BROUGHT OUT ALL THE PRIESTS OUT OF THE CITIES OF JUDAH, and DEFILED THE HIGH PLACES WHERE THE PRIESTS HAD BURNED INCENSE, from Geba to Beersheba, and BRAKE DOWN THE HIGH PLACES of the gates that were in the entering in of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on a man’s left hand at the gate of the city…
- And he DEFILED TOPHETH, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech. And he TOOK AWAY THE HORSES THAT THE KINGS OF JUDAH HAD GIVEN TO THE SUN, at the entering in of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathanmelech the chamberlain, which was in the suburbs, and BURNED THE CHARIOTS OF THE SUN WITH FIRE. And the altars that were on the top of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, did the king BEAT DOWN, and BRAKE THEM DOWN from thence, and CAST THE DUST OF THEM INTO THE BROOK Kidron.
- And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king DEFILE. And he BRAKE IN PIECES THE IMAGES, and CUT DOWN THE GROVES, and filled their places with the bones of men. Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he BRAKE DOWN, and BURNED THE HIGH PLACE, and STAMPED IT SMALL TO POWDER, and BURNED the grove.
- And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and BURNED THEM upon the altar, and POLLUTED IT, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words. Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Bethel. And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria. And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the Lord to anger, Josiah TOOK AWAY, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Bethel.
- And he SLEW ALL THE PRIESTS OF THE HIGH PLACES that were there upon the altars, and BURNED men’s bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem.
- And the king commanded all the people, saying, Keep the passover unto the Lord your God, as it is written in the book of this covenant. Surely there was not holden such a passover from the days of the judges that judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel, nor of the kings of Judah; But in the eighteenth year of king Josiah, wherein this passover was holden to the Lord in Jerusalem.
- Moreover the workers with familiar spirits, and the wizards, and the images, and the idols, and all the abominations that were spied in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, did Josiah PUT AWAY, that he might perform the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the Lord. And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him.”
This is what God desires all of his backslidden children to do, not in part, not in jest, not in pretense, not for show, not with ulterior motives because we want something from God and have deluded ourselves into thinking that we can manipulate him but with a firm resolve to obey him with all of our hearts and all of our souls because Jesus is Lord and is therefore worthy of ALL of our worship and the WHOLE of our allegiance.
As indicated before, this is not always easy, as once the devil has a foothold in your life, he fights to keep holding on and will therefore send temptation to keep you stuck in bondage. YET, if you are serious about deliverance from sin and returning to your God, once you are determined to be free, God will help you to overcome whatever the devil throws at you.
“Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10).
Since idolatry begins and thrives in the heart, God wants his backslidden children to do as Josiah did and to STAMP OUT, PUT AWAY and BREAK DOWN all that we have erected in our hearts that is not of him. Once we have sincerely done this in repentance, he expects us to take the necessary actions to separate ourselves from whatever we need to separate from, based on God’s Word and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.
This may be excruciatingly painful and it may feel as if we are wounding our flesh. That is exactly what we are doing and it MUST be done if we are to make things right with God again.
The Bible speaks of this wounding by using the word: ‘mortify’, which means to kill. Whether painful or not, we MUST crucify the desires of our flesh and abandon the sinful practices, things, activities and even people that we have loved, as the Spirit of God leads us to do. We must completely obliterate them from our view and existence and re-set our eyes on the Lord.
For, as was stated in Romans 8:13: For, as was stated in Romans 8:13: “…if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”
- “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17)
(Written on 22nd June, 2020)
Dear Reader, if this Article has been of benefit to you spiritually, for more information, you should consider reading the following:
- Note 6 – ‘Backslidden? Idolatry Is The Culprit’
- Note 16 – ‘Come Away…To Jesus’
- Note 11 – ‘What Is Repentance?’