Idolatry

Is the iOS 8 Comparable to the False gods of the Bible?

imageJoshua was a noble leader and a man of God. After the death of Moses, he led the Israelites on a military conquest, waging war against God’s enemies. He fought in many battles and conquered numerous cities, including Jericho (Josh. 12:10), Ai (Josh. 8), Hebron, Kedesh, Tirzah (Josh. 12:10), and 27 more. According to the Bible, Joshua was able to lead the Israelites to several victories, securing much of the land of Canaan.

Historical Background

Toward the end of Joshua’s life, at the age of 110, he admonished the elders and chiefs of the Israelites to have no fellowship with the neighboring cities because it could lead them to be unfaithful to God. During a general assembly in Shechem, he exhorted the men to be loyal to Yahweh since He took great care of them and protected them from evil. As a witness of their promise to serve God, Joshua had the Israelites verbalize their commitment and set up a great stone under an oak by the sanctuary of God as a visible reminder.

After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of God. They abandoned the Lord, who brought them out of the land of Egypt, to serve and worship the false idols of Baal and Ashtaroth (Judg. 2:12-14). God’s faithfulness was the counterpoint to Israel’s apostasy. Despite Israel’s continual disobedience, God continually delivered his people by raising up judges. This was not because Israel was sorry and repentant, but because of God’s compassion and pity (2:16) and his promises to Abraham and his descendants (Deut. 6:10-11).

Application

When I read this story, I am amazed at how quickly the Israelites turned away from the living God. Their trustworthy leader Joshua led them from victory to victory against their enemies, securing their confidence that God would protect them from their enemies. Moreover, Joshua constantly warned them not to serve false gods and even set up a stone under an oak as an extra reminder of God’s grace. Despite these efforts, they fell into sin. The same was true when Moses led his people out of slavery in Egypt.  Shortly after the Israelites witnessed the parting of the Red Sea and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army, a miracle by God, they created a golden calf and worshipped it instead.

Is it possible that you and I are just as easily tempted as the Israelites to serve false gods instead of the living God? I believe so. Today, the Huffington Post wrote an article entitled, “iPhone Fans are Deleting the Bible to Make Room for iOS 8.” The iOS 8 is an operating system produced by the Apple company for phone, computer, and tablet devices. Apple states on their webpage, “This new operating system has functions that let you do things you could only imagine before, like using Siri to control the devices in your home or using your health and fitness apps to communicate with your doctor.” Many people are heralding it as the next savior for the followers of apple.

A professing believer wrote on Twitter, “Literally had to delete everything for iOS 8. Sorry God.” Another individual said, “Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. I deleted my Holy Bible app to make room for the iOS 8.” Lastly, a man named Elliot posted, “iOS 8 is greater than the Bible.” To me, this sounds like people are willing to compromise their relationship with God to serve the false god of Technology and innovation. Even the secular media has stated that apple is the new god of worship in our culture today. I pray that none of us would get to the point where we find more satisfaction and hope in a tiny device that fits in our pocket than the God who spoke the universe into existence.

Avoid the False gods of Power, Fortune, and Fame

imageThe Bible addresses 4 categories of people as it pertains to their socioeconomic status and relationship with God. First, there are the godly rich. In the Old Testament, Abraham was a godly man of great wealth. Lot and Him owned so much land they decided to separate in peace because “their possessions were many, and they could not dwell together (Gen. 13:6).” Abraham continued to trust in God and chose to focus his attention on the promised land while Lot’s decision was based upon his covetous desire to possess land that would not honor God. In the New Testament, Joseph of Arimathea was described as a “rich man and disciple of Jesus (Matt. 27:57).” He donated his own prepared tomb carved out of rock for the burial of Jesus after the crucifixion. Tombs carved out of rock were expensive and therefore purchased only by wealthy families. Job, King Josiah, King David, Solomon, and Lydia are just a few more examples of godly rich people in the Scriptures.

The second category includes the godly poor. Ruth was a poor and godly Moabite woman who married an Israelite family and eventually converted to Judaism. Their family was so poor that during a famine they gathered food that had fallen on the ground while harvesters gathered the crops (Ruth 2). The gospel of Luke mentions a beggar named Lazarus who was covered with sores and longed for scraps from the rich man’s table (Lk. 16). When the poor man died, he went to Heaven, demonstrating His good relationship with the Lord. Of course, the greatest example of a godly poor man was Jesus Christ. His parents were so poor that they sacrificed two turtle doves in the temple, which, according to the Book of Leviticus (Lev. 12:2-8), was the sacrifice offered by poor people. Moreover, Jesus did not have a home to call his own. Jesus once said to a religious leader, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have no home of my own, not even a place to lay my head (Matt. 8:20).”

The third category involves the ungodly poor. These were people who wouldn’t work, drink and gamble, and were jealous and envious of one another. Proverbs 10:4 condemns the ungodly poor for their laziness. It states, “Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.” In addition to this, the Apostle Paul states in his epistle to Timothy that if someone doesn’t provide shelter, food, and clothing for their own family, they have denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim. 5:8).

The final category comprises of the ungodly rich. This pertains to the Pharaohs, wicked Kings, and rulers who worshipped the false god of power, fortune, and fame. Herod the Great was the epitome of a man of great wealth. He built pagan temples, amphitheaters, vast building enterprises, temples, a beautiful tower, royal palaces, and even built the holy temple in Jerusalem. However, money and power were his idols and this caused him to become a proud, boastful, and ungodly man. This idol culminated in his blasphemous statement of claiming that all that he built was his rather than Gods. God struck him dead for this.

The fourth category is who Pastor James is addressing, the ungodly rich. They were hoarding for themselves power, fortune, and fame on Earth. Instead of storing their acts of kindness, love, and generosity for treasures in Heaven, these people were accumulating material possessions for their own divine kingdom ( Prov. 30:8-9; Matt. 19:23; Lk. 16:13). James warned these rich people that their covetousness and riches will send them to Hell: their possessions will “eat their flesh like fire.” Moreover, James calls them out for taking advantage of the poor and not paying their laborers a decent wage. This type of injustice is the reason why many of these people were getting wealthy. They were holding back so much money and keeping it for themselves.

The two major points I want to address are this: First, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, but if you are godly or ungodly. You can be the poorest person in the world and worship the god of money more than the wealthiest person on Earth. I like what Solomon says in the book of Proverbs: “Lord, give me neither poverty nor give me riches, but give me only my daily bread (30:8).” As Christians, we are called to make enough money to provide for our family while resisting the temptation to worship money. Our security, satisfaction, pleasure, and safety should come from God first and not from what we have.

The second point I want to remind ourselves is this: Our possessions do not belong to us, but are owned by God. Therefore, we need to be good stewards of the resources God has given to us. This mindset is a paradigm shift. Instead of saying, “Nothing I have belongs to the Lord. I deserve all that I have. I only answer to myself, we should be saying: “I belong to the Lord (Rom. 1:6). Everything belongs to the Lord (Hag. 2:8). All I have is a gift from God (1 Cor. 4:7). I am the Lord’s steward (1 Pet. 4:10).

Application 

I want you to first ask yourself, Am I living with an attitude of ownership or stewardship? Then, carve out a time in your daily schedule to sit down with a pen and pad of paper. For 10 minutes, write out all the possessions that Jesus has given to you. Some examples may include family, health, work, this planet, my brain, etc. I hope that after this challenge you will be more grateful to God for the things that you have and not allow the idol of money to control your life. God bless!

The Idolatry of Micah in the book of Judges

Priest, High Priest, and Levite, illustration ...

Last summer I had the opportunity to visit my wife’s native land, the beautiful Ukraine in eastern Europe. During our stay with her family, we visited the capital city Kiev, journeyed through the evergreen trees and natural springs of the Carpathean Mountains, and went to a historical Church. It was coated with blue walls and round topped domes lustered with gold. After going inside the lavished Cathedral, we gazed at the intricate portraits of saints, marbled floors, and smelled numerous incenses burning around the entire square block of the building. To the left, there was this prayer box similar to one at a movie theatre. It had a priest dressed up in a black vesture with a long white beard. There was a line of fervent visitors emptying their pockets and handing their money in full to the priest. There was a sign which listed the price of how much each prayer cost. If you wanted someone to pray for your spouse or have a service in your name, it cost extra. The only exception was the one being prayed for could not be a harlot, drunkard, or any other denomination outside of theirs.

Right then, I realized that their god was not the living Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, but the idol of money and power. They were fashioning their god by creating  buildings with larger domes, pillars, and jewels, rather than sharing their earnings with the old crippled man and widow begging at the entrance of the gate. Jesus said that a pure and undefiled religion is to visit the orphans and widows in distress, and to be unspotted from the world. The same type of idolatry was also happening during the book of Judges between Micah and the Levite. Read Judges 17:1-13 and we will analyze the text and apply it to our own situation today.

The first aspect is the religious corruption in Israel. In the book of Joshua, God brought victory, giving Israel the land promised to Abraham through the conquests of Jericho, AI, Bethel, and the other Canaanite cities. After Joshua died in 1375 BC, the signs of unfaithfulness began to emerge. The Israelites were content with settling alongside the inhabitants, allowing other false gods to appear in Israelite worship with Yahweh. God continued to be patient, just, and merciful. When the Israelites were dominated by their neighboring nations, God would raise up judges or deliverers (warriors) in six cycles of events, demonstrating his forgiveness, rescuing them each time from their enemies. The key verse is Judges 21:25: “Israel had no King; everyone did as he saw fit.”

At the beginning of the period of Judges, the Israelites had difficulty with escaping the temptation of foreign gods in the land, but now their moral compass completely collapsed. In chapter 17, a new idea emerges. God’s people are manufacturing their own idols and false gods, starting with Micah the Ephramite, the help of his mother, the Levite who attended Micah’s shrine, and the Danite tribe. Israel became much different than it was during the time of Joshua. Instead of cult sites on hills being destroyed in Israel they were being constructed. Instead of idols being cut down, they were being manufactured. Even the central shrine for Yahweh is placed by Micah’s false god.

The second truth is the corruption of the Levitical Priesthood. The Levite was a young man from the clan of Judah. Although this young man was a descendent of Levi, he violated his call in many ways. First, he did not determine to dedicate his allegiance to Yahweh, but worship any deity that would give him prestige, which was Micah’s god of ten shekels and a shirt. Third, he does not serve at the place of Yahweh’s choosing but at a place chosen by a man. Moreover, he does not receive an honorarium (Deut. 18) where the Lord is his inheritance, but worships temporary silver, food, and clothes. Lastly, he lusts for power just like Micah did when he was captured by the Danites. They said to him, “Is it better for you to be a priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?” Then it states here: “The priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod and household idols and the graven images and went among the people. The Levite not only worshipped Micah’s false god but encouraged others to do the same. This man has no passion for God. In the end, you notice the wandering Levite succeeds as the high priest of the Danite cult shrine, and the Danites succeed in conquering land even though they never called on God for help.

How often can we be like the Levite. It is easy for us to point our fingers at the secular realm when they build multimillion dollar stadiums to house their sport gods, buy LCD flatscreen Televisions and sit to worship the entertainment god, or attend the innumerable fast-food chains to serve their idol of gluttony. Is it possible for us to be like the Levite, who will be an actor of religion for ten shekels and a shirt in order to have a good salary? Are you finding a ministry position, not because you are called to go somewhere, but because it offers full-benefits and are tired of having menial jobs? Can we be tempted to grow our church attendance, not for King Jesus’ sake, but so we can have more Danites worshipping us, following our tweets, and broadcasting our sermons?

What kind of change does God want from us? He doesn’t want us to worship idols because He knows they can’t ultimately satisfy our heart’s desires. We are created to worship God and enjoy Him forever. King Solomon had everything that the natural man could want: power, fame, fortune, but he ultimately said in the end that all of it is meaningless and chasing after the wind (Ecc. 1:14). Instead, pursue Christ by reading His Word, obeying his commands, praising Him in spiritual songs and hymns, and letting Him be the King of your heart. He is the only God that truly loves us because He took the wrath of God in our place so that we could enjoy eternity with Him.