Keep Yourself from Idols
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen” 1 John 5: 21
I have been studying and meditating on the 8th chapter of the Book of Ezekiel. In this chapter, the Lord shows Ezekiel in a vision the abominable idolatries of the Israelites that have caused them to come under God’s judgment, and have caused the glory of the Lord to depart from them. This chapter contains a warning to us today, that idolatry in both the individual and the church body can cause the departure of the presence of the Lord.
We don’t hear much about idolatry today. The only mention of the word refers to people who are our heroes or who we want to pattern our lives after. The popular television talent search show named “American Idol” shows that the use of the word idol has very little negative connotations.
As Christians, having made God our God and having submitted to the lordship of the Lord Jesus Christ, we recognize that idolatry is a very serious matter that touches the core of our lives. We also recognize that both our flesh and the devil are deceptive and able to trick us into allowing idols to take a place in our hearts.
It is also important to recognize that God’s presence is dependent on our removal of idols from our lives. If we want to see God move, we don’t have to discover some new methodology or new approach to exercising our faith, but rather, we need to make sure that all idols are removed from our hearts and minds.
In previous blogs I discussed the first 2 of the 4 forms of idolatry that were show to Ezekiel in the 8th chapter, that is, the idol that provokes to jealousy, and the inner chamber of imagery. In that chapter, the Lord says that the abominations of the idolatry get progressively worse or greater as He reveals them to Ezekiel, so this next type of idolatry that I want to look at is greater than the previous ones discussed.
Remember also that God chose to record these types of idolatry in His word to symbolically represent similar abominations that we allow into our lives today. The physical temple from the Old Testament time of the Israelites is symbolic of the inner temple that God occupies in our hearts. Our idols today may not be physical statues or images, but they represent similar lies and deception the take away our attention and focus on the things of God, and therefore have the same detrimental effect. They too feed our flesh and keep us in a carnal state, impeding our spiritual maturity.
The next abomination shown to Ezekiel was the “women weeping for Tammuz”.
“And He said to me, ‘Turn again and you will see greater abominations that they are doing.’ So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the Lord’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.” Ezekiel 8:13-14
The Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, Samarians, and other Near East religions had a mother and son deity that they worshiped, having different names but were essentially the same characters. Tammuz was the son in the Babylonian deity pair, with the mother named Ishtar, or the queen mother. The story is that the son dies and the mother weeps for him, and is somehow able to bring him back from the dead. Tammuz is considered to be a life-death-rebirth deity, so as the mother wept for Tammuz to bring him back to life, the cult of Tammuz believes that the women weeping will bring the cycle of life to the vegetation and crops for a better harvest. Also the ritual time of morning is followed by a time of celebration that includes overindulgences in food, drugs, sex, etc.
So how does this relate to us today? It seems that this stage of idolatry could be referring to a person who has allowed the desires and coveting to enter into the emotions causing sensual feelings and strong lusts to take root. The inner imaginations have now conceived and brought out our strong desires and emotional longings.
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desire and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived my beloved brethren.” James 1: 14-16
I find it telling that these practices were done right in the house of the Lord, and not in some remote area. Apparently, these women were in the place where people usually wept for the sins of the people of Israel, but now they are weeping for a false deity, expecting some power to be released to help them be more prosperous by having better crop production. I’m sure that this was only part of the ritual and these women’s husbands and families were also involved in the full cult practices. This suggests to me that they may have actually deceived into thinking that they were involved with the true God, or that God worked with all of these methods, but this is obviously not the case.
It has been the desire of men throughout the ages to have the power and favor of God, and at the same time to feed the passions of their flesh. They desire to indulge their flesh with sex, drugs, fame, the praises of men, wealth, creature comforts, or whatever other form of indulgence, and yet to be guilt free and able to have God’s power on their side to help them with the things that are beyond their power to control. But God has clearly revealed that the indulgence of the flesh leads to a selfishness that is contrary to love, and that the flesh cannot be satisfied and therefore we are unable to curtail these desires. They must be put to death.
If we examine our motives, and see that the source of our actions is rooted in the flesh, we can then determine that our religious activity is intended to cover over our fleshly desires and falsely override our conscience. It is clear that false religious practices and idolatry are used to give the false allusion of favor with God and to give a false indication of a clear conscience, while indulging the flesh. Jesus spent much of His efforts during His earthly ministry exposing and rebuking the religious Jews of that time for this same type of hypocrisy.
I believe that the warning here is to keep your flesh in check and to avoid the deceptive allure of false religious activity that really just feeds your flesh in some fashion.
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
Ezekiel’s warning is pertinent today. We need to be on guard, examining our heart and thought, making sure our motives are pure and holy. We need to strengthen our spiritual man, making sure our fleshly desires are put to death appropriately. This is a battle that must be fought daily.
“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord; looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;” Hebrews 12: 12-15
Hopefully no one reading this will ever be tempted to join a cult that worships Tammuz, but I believe that we all will be tempted to allow some area of our flesh to be fed or supported, and also be deceived into thinking that some religious activity is acceptable to God, but it’s really just covering for our flesh. Let’s not allow the enemy to gain this ground, but let’s kill this root before it even springs up.