Tag Archives: idolatry

Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (chapter 12)

In I Samuel 12, we have Samuel describing his readiness to die. He has helped Israel find a human king, and now he wants to know if he has been honest in his dealings with God’s people (vv. 1-3). The people respond that Samuel has been honest in his life with them (v. 4).

Samuel gives a history lesson, reviewing the “evidence” of “all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors” (v. 7). He reviews the stories of Jacob entering Egypt, the sending of Moses and Aaron, the deliverance out of Egypt, and the settling in the land of Canaan (v. 8).

But Israel forgot the Lord who then turned them over to the Philistines and the Moabites (v. 9). God answered their cry for rescue by sending Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah, and Samuel, granting His people safety (v. 11).

But then Israel demanded a human king. Samuel then warns the people to obey the Lord or “his hand will be against you” (v. 15).

Samuel then tells them to stand still and see a great thing that the Lord will do before their eyes. Samuel calls on the Lord who sends thunder and rain, showing that their demand for a king was “an evil thing” (vv. 16-18). Thunder and rain come and the people ask Samuel to intercede for them so that they will not die! And they say, “for we have added to all our others sins the evil of asking for a king” (v. 19).

Samuel agrees with them, but challenges them not to turn away from the Lord to idols, but to serve the Lord with all their hearts (v. 20). Idols will do them no good, cannot rescue them, “because they are useless” (v. 21). He then says, “For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.” (v. 22).

Samuel then says, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.” (v. 23). He then issues a warning: “But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”

Some takeaways from this chapter:

(1) It is critical that spiritual leaders lead lives of integrity! (vv. 1-5).

(2) It is beneficial to do a history review of all the Lord’s “righteous acts” which He has done in our lives! (vv. 6-7)

(3) God is certainly capable of punishing His people when they forget Him (vv. 9-11).

(4) We need to warn ourselves and others not to turn away from the Lord to idols. Idols can’t rescue us (as God can) and they are useless! (vv. 20-21).

(5) God was pleased to make Israel His own people (v. 22).

(6) I sin against the Lord when I fail to pray for the ones God wants me to pray for (v. 23).

(7) We need to hear and to heed warnings about not serving the Lord faithfully with all our hearts (vv. 24-25).

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Posted by on November 22, 2018 in I Samuel 12


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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (chapter 5) Superstition or Sovereignty?

The ark captured! The symbol of the very presence of God — gambled away and now possessed by pagans!

The Philistines park it beside their idol Dagon in their temple. Overnight Dagon was on his face before the ark of the Lord (v. 3). They set Dagon back up “in his place,” but the next morning he was again on his face and his head and hands had been broken off! (v. 4).

“The Lord’s hand was heavy” on the people of Ashdod, bringing devastation and tumors (v. 6). They move the ark of God to Gath where the Lord threw the city into a great panic, afflicting all ages with tumors (v. 9). They tried to send the ark to Ekron, but the people begged the ark to be sent back to Israel. We read that “God’s hand was very heavy on [the city of Ekron] and that “those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven” (v. 12).

How are we to understand this account?  We know that there was nothing magical about the ark.  It was made by humans.  But it was used by the true God to show His presence and to punish those who opposed Israel.

The ark brought great affliction to the Philistines who had captured it.  Why had it not brought great victory to the Israelites who deployed it in battle?  In Joshua 3, the ark caused the river to become dry for passage as Israel moved into the Promised Land. The ark was carried around the city of Jericho — and the walls came tumblin’ down.

What we can say is that God was in sovereign control.  We don’t control Him.  To think that He could be managed or manipulated by a religious symbol is blasphemy.

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Posted by on November 12, 2018 in I Samuel 5


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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (4:12-22) Idolatry, Superstition, and Departed Glory!

After such a crushing defeat — 30,000 soldiers lost, the ark of the covenant captured, and Eli’s two sons killed — Eli hears the town’s outcry from the news and asks “What is the meaning of this uproar?” (v. 14).

Blind and 98 years of age, the man reveals the details of Israel’s defeat. Upon hearing of the ark’s capture, Eli fell backward off his chair, broke his neck, and died — “for he was an old man, and he was heavy.” (v. 18). He had led Israel 40 years.

Phinehas’ wife goes immediately into labor upon hearing all the bad news. She is told as she is dying, “Don’t despair — you have given birth to a son.” She named the boy Ichabod, a name meaning “the glory has departed from Israel” because of the ark’s capture and the deaths of her father-in-law and husband. Her last dying words? “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured” (v. 22).

There is an extensive article on the Ark of the Covenant in Wikipedia ( Briefly, the Ark was a gold-plated chest containing the two stone tablets of the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna (Heb. 9:4). God had Moses construct the Ark a year after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

It was carried by staves in advance of the people when on the march (during the 40 years in the wilderness) or before the Israelite army. Its dimensions were approximately 53x31x31 inches (around 4 1/2 feet long by 2 1/2 feet wide by 2 1/2 feet tall). The Ark was carried by the priests into the Promised Land (led by Joshua) (Josh. 3:3), causing the river to become dry for passage. The Ark was carried around the city of Jericho and the walls “came tumblin’ down” (Josh. 6).

We saw in I Samuel 4 that the Ark was captured, but eventually (because of several plagues) was returned by the Philistines to the Israelites (I Sam. 5). In the days of King David, Uzzah, one of the drivers of the cart, was struck dead for touching the ark (2 Sam. 6). David put the Ark in the tabernacle (I Chron. 16).

King Solomon housed the Ark in the newly constructed Holy of Holies in Solomon’s Temple (I Ki. 8). We are not sure what happened to the Ark after the Babylonian invasion in 587 B.C.  [It becomes the primary focus of the movie “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

Very quickly a symbol of God’s presence can degenerate into a good luck charm.  Superstition can replace genuine spirituality.  A relic can become a substitute for the reality of knowing the living God!


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Posted by on November 11, 2018 in I Samuel 4


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Cadillac commercial — Listen to the Lyrics! (your comments?)


Hands to the sky, show me that you’re mine
Hands to the sky, show me that you’re mine
And baby, worship me
Worship me
On your knees
Patiently, quietly, faithfully, worship me

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Posted by on March 24, 2018 in idolatry


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Back to the Basics! Theology Proper #4 The Issue of Idolatry

The true God of the Bible wants to be sought.  He wants us to know Him!  He has revealed Himself to us in Scripture.  But, as the Reformer John Calvin said, “man’s nature is a perpetual factory of idols.”  Idolatry is a big issue in the Scriptures, and we want to look at several verses on this topic.

But first, I’d like to share with you a short video my daughter Amy did for me a number of years ago on the issue of idolatry:

Idolatry is very much alive with us today.  I’m not talking about the silly worship of entertainers like “American Idol,” but our propensity to elevate good things to the level of ultimate things.

Timothy Keller in his book screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-6-42-23-amCounterfeit Gods makes the point that “[an idol] . . . is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…”

We must constantly check our view of God with what God Himself reveals to us in His Word!  Or . . . we might be guilty of . . .

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Posted by on March 5, 2018 in doctrine of God


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 23)

Let’s recap just a little.  Jonah was commissioned by God to go preach against the wickedness of the Ninevites — and he wordlessly fled in the other direction from God.  God tracks him down, sends a massive storm, and forces the pagan sailors to dump their cargo and their disobedient Jewish missionary.

The sea becomes calm and Jonah is saved from drowning by a large sea creature.  He gets swallowed but not eaten.  In that fish’s belly Jonah finally decides to talk to the Lord.

In his somewhat elegant prayer, Jonah leaves no doubt that he was certain his life was OVER.  But God spared him and rescued him from his idolatry.   What was Jonah’s idolatry?  He wasn’t tempted to join those pagan sailors in worshiping their gods, was he?

It seems to me that Jonah’s idolatry was, in a sense, much more subtle.  He worshiped his own perspective, his own evaluation of the situation.  He placed more value in his running away from God than his willingly submitting to the “God who made the sea and the dry land.”

This kind of idolatry comes much more naturally to us — and there are no large, hand-crafted statues to carry around!  Internal idolatry is the most lethal.  It may be difficult to recognize and even more difficult to abandon.  Especially if we don’t have any terrified sailors threatening to toss us overboard! (to be continued)



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Posted by on August 23, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 22)

Analyzing another person’s prayers is always a dangerous thing.  But Jonah 2 was given so that we might learn some valuable lessons.  And his prayer meeting inside the sea creature’s gullet assures us that wherever we are, we can pray!

I pray when my distress meter is starting to max out.  How about you?

I know that I need to see my circumstances in life as actions of God in drawing me to Himself.  True, I’ve not been tossed overboard by newly-converted formerly pagan sailors to calm an angry sea, but I am living in the world God made — and He wants me to serve Him with all the energy I can muster.

Often, however, I resort to IDOLATRY!  Yes!  A veteran, 67-year-old theologian who ought to know better!  I value other things more than the Lord and make decisions based on what I think are my best interests!  You don’t think you lapse (or dive) into idolatry from time to time?  Check out Tim Keller’s book and read it with an open mind.

Clinging to any idols today?  Some of my more dangerous ones are: self-sufficiency, autonomy, respect, pride, etc.  Got any that you dare to list in the Comment section below?  (to be continued)



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Posted by on August 22, 2017 in Jonah


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Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior (Part 21)

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with prayer.  I guess I see it as a passive, last-chance option.  But prayer is never portrayed that way in the Bible.  I really need to train my mind and heart to see prayer as one of the believer’s greatest weapons — a tool to be used against discouragement, confusion, and uncertainty.

Jonah was pretty certain he was going to drown.  But then God saved him!  Prayer gave Jonah the opportunity to reflect on his distress and his banishment from God.  [I’m not sure Jonah’s heart ever really changes as we’ll see in chapter 4.]

What difference would it make if I looked at my life as one which had been “brought up from the pit” (v. 6)?  Do you feel that your life is “ebbing away”?  Not a one of us is going to escape death (unless the Lord returns).  Aren’t you glad you’re reading this blog this morning?

What is crystal clear to Jonah is that IDOLATRY is foolish!  He says, “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them.” (v. 8).  IDOLATRY or GOD’S LOVE — your choice.  And mine.

G.K. Chesterton said it best: “He who does not believe in God will believe in anything.”  But we’re not in danger of idolatry, are we? (to be continued)



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Posted by on August 21, 2017 in Jonah


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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord (Psalm 115)

Psalm 115

Not to us, Lord, not to usscreen-shot-2016-11-06-at-5-25-16-am
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.

Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

All you Israelites, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
10 House of Aaron, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.
11 You who fear him, trust in the Lord
    he is their help and shield.

12 The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
    He will bless his people Israel,
    he will bless the house of Aaron,
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord
    small and great alike.

14 May the Lord cause you to flourish,
    both you and your children.
15 May you be blessed by the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

16 The highest heavens belong to the Lord,
    but the earth he has given to mankind.
17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
    those who go down to the place of silence;
18 it is we who extol the Lord,
    both now and forevermore.

Praise the Lord.

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Posted by on March 11, 2017 in idolatry


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Loving the Lord with Our Minds — The Apostle Paul in Acts 17 (Part 2)

We are preparing our messages for Emmaus Bible College’s “Christian MInistry screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-5-57-12-amSeminars” for February 6-7.  Here in Acts 17 Paul is our example in using his mind to reach his audience with the gospel.  Our text is Acts 17:19-34.  Let’s look at the first few verses, make some observations, and draw some tentative conclusions.

screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-6-30-46-amPaul is waiting for his friends (presumably Timothy and Silas, although Luke might have been with him on this missionary journey [see Acts 16]).  But Paul is not just waiting around.  He busies himself as he waits.  He becomes culturally aware of his surroundings.  In Athens he “was greatly distressed” to see that the city was “full of idols” (v. 16).

The word used for “greatly distressed” is παρωξύνετο which means “stirred up, incited, provoked, distressed, irritated” (only used 2x in the New Testament – here & in I Cor. 13:5- that love “is not easily angered”)

Are our cities not “full of idols” today?  Timothy Keller in his book screen-shot-2017-01-17-at-6-42-23-amCounterfeit Gods makes the point that “[an idol] . . . is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give…”

Are we “greatly distressed” by the idolatry that we see in our culture?  Do we even notice how people’s hearts and imaginations are absorbed by everything . . .  but God?

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Posted by on January 21, 2017 in Acts 17


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