I made this devotional to read aloud at one of my First Priority meetings at school. (FP is a nationwide Christian ministry to high-schools.) I would like to credit much of the information to Paris Reidhead's "Dangers of Third Generation Religion." Constructive criticism would be nice!
THE WORSHIP OF FALSE GODS
The following bible passage is from a time in which the Israelites had rejected the supreme authority of LORD so they could chase after false Gods. Judges 2:10-15 says:
And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there rose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baal-im.
And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them our of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.
And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.
And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.
Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.
In this time, there were three major gods of the land: Baal, Ashtaroth, and Molech. The first were the Baals, and the word Baal means owner. Now, there was not just one Baal, but there were many of them worshipped in towns and cities. So we know that people of the land surrounding Israel believed the Baals were the owners of the towns which they inhabited. The people who worshipped Baal believed that they had to burn sacrifices in order to maintain their wealth and possessions. So the worship of Baal was the worship of pelf and possessions.
The second, Ashtaroth, was the goddess of the Canaanites, and they called her the queen of heaven, for she was the goddess of fertility and forbidden pleasures of the flesh. Her worshipers set up groves of trees as shrines, and sometimes they would adorn them with silver and gold, like a Christmas tree. (Jer. 10:3-4) The way they worshipped Ashtaroth was disgusting, it was sensual, and prostitution was one of the ways in which they honored her. The worship of Ashtaroth was the worship of erotic fantasy and forbidden pleasures.
The third was Molech, the Assyrian god of fire, and he was cast as the image of a king. People back in the day created huge fire pits in which they threw their children, their babies, so Molech would grant them higher position in the community and ascendency over other men. This practice was called "Passing Through the Flame."(Reidhead, Dangers of Third Generation Religion) The worship of Molech was the worship of human pride and self-importance.
And so Israel served their idols, which were a snare unto them. (Ps. 106:36) Now you know that God hates idol worship, for he issued the commandment: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto 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. (Deut. 5:9) Now you may think just because we live in the twenty-first century, that people no longer worship these idols, here in the educated and well-reasoned United States of America, but I tell you: these idols are more alive today than they were back then.
The late Paris Reidhead said, Satan has three weapons with which he has enslaved the race of man: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Let us look again at the idols which Israel served. As I said, the worship of Baal was to glorify ones own material gain- the lust of the eyes. The worship of Ashtaroth was to have grotesque, sensual experience outside the will of God- the lust of the flesh. The worship of Molech was to enjoy the position or control one had over men around him- the pride of life. Here are some examples of how these idols permeate in our culture today.
[b]The Lust of the Eyes:[/b] these are the things we set before our eyes to please us. These can be just about anything: clothes, cars, money. For me, videogames have sometimes fueled my lust of the eyes. Each time a new game came out, I just had to have it, and I wouldnt stop thinking about it until it was in my hands. Then, new and better games came out, and I flocked with the crowd after it too. It was a trivial pursuit that mocked Christians chasing after God, but I knew things couldnt make me whole. Now I never said "things" in and of themselves were bad, but when they become the object of a mans greatest desiring, then perhaps it is time for him to take a step back, examine himselfm and return to the LORD.
[b]The Lust of the Flesh:[/b] there are many perversions which are shown on television and are acted out around this very school, and even the middle schoolers indulge themselves by looking at pornography or watching certain shows. Even the smaller, less sensual things are distracting people away from Jesus Christ. Our very culture, saturated in these perversions, has become a tool for destruction and heartache, far from the romantic ideal of bringing two people closer together.
[b]The Pride of Life:[/b] This is the attitude of all people that makes them think they can defy authority, do anything they want, and be in control of their own lives. It is the attitude that makes them say, I am the master of my fate! I am the captain of my soul! (Invictus) I will, is the attitude of the sinner. But the LORD declares, I AM THAT I AM! Jeremiah 23:12 says, Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD. The sinners way, the passage says, shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness, so that they keep on falling and cant see where theyre going.
These things I have mentioned to you this morning- they are no different in Gods eyes than worshiping Baal, Ashtaroth, or Molech. They were all false gods, but more than that they were used by the Israelites to somehow justify their sin using religion as an excuse. It is sin, it is idolatry, and God hates it.
Remember that the LORD said, 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. But theres another verse after that: And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments. (Deut. 5:10)
You see, God hates your sin and idolatry, and, being the good and righteous Judge that He is, He knows there must be payment for your crimes. But He doesnt want you to perish in hell, because God made you for Himself. That is why He sent His son Jesus Christ down to earth to die on the cross: to suffer Gods holy and righteous wrath so you wouldnt have to. The Cross! The Cross! Is that not magnificent? We should worship Christ for His love, for His marvelous sacrifice, and His holy justice! Why, then, would any of you want to bow down to Baal, Ashtaroth, or Molech?
In Ezekiel 33:11, God says, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
James 1:22 says, "But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." Now you have a choice to make. You can throw the idols out of your house, repent of your old ways, and pray to the LORD for forgiveness, so that he will be glorified and will be your salvation, and so that He will heal our city, which has been overrun by spiritual darkness. It will radically change the way you live, the way you view God, and the way you view sin. If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Cor. 5:17) Nothing will be the same. Or you can wait for the politicians to fix everything. Your choice, but remember: time is scarce in this world. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. (Ps. 150:6)