Scripture Studies

Coming to Grips with Pain


mattea2This week, my family remembered a very fragile and innocent life that was taken away from our midst. We remembered the life of our baby we named Mattea.  If not for her delicate birth, a brain injury that she suffered, she would have been three years old by now, probably walking around, trying to find her place in this life.

Her memory comes to us in a bittersweet way. It was sweet because we were able to hold her, see her, glance at her face for the four months that she was with us (she was born June 1, 2010). It was ‘bitter’ because of the pain of losing her.

From then on, I realize how pain can be such a unifying force of emotion. If music, they say, is the universal language and our feeling of happiness or joy maybe unique or subjective to each of us, pain is the most common of all emotions.

Someone has said,” Man enters the world with a cry and leaves it with a moan”.

Such is the universality of pain and at various times in our lives we felt pain – may it be severe, physical pain or emotional pain. Sickness brings pain. Accident brings pain, cut or wounds, even a broken tooth can be painful, etc.  Of course, there is also the issue of mental and spiritual agony, which are often more difficult to bear than physical pain.

Is there some purpose for our pain? Does it serve some good reason?  

How can one explain pain or suffering?

One of the most common answers we get from the theologians of today is that “God suffers with us.”  However, no matter how valid such reasoning, the idea is inadequate in providing comfort to some real pain. It is like going to a doctor and after saying, “Doc, I am in pain…” and the doctor replies, “Oh, I have many pains, too.”

Still, one of the most puzzling of all man’s troubles is human pain and suffering. It seems very unreasonable. For example, why must the innocent people –even children –suffer in such horrible ways. Why the need to go through pain? And even death?

One of the news headlines this week in the aftermath of the earthquake in Bohol – parents are still looking for their four children in the town near the area of Maribojoc, Bohol. Apparently, those children were just swimming and playing in a creek when the earthquake struck and they were in an instant covered with boulders and mud. They have not been found until now. They are still missing – the rescuers have given up their search.

C.S. Lewis, a British born writer, spiritual thinker and theologian, famous for his children’s books such as Chronicles of Narnia, also wrote a fine book entitled The Problem with Pain. In his book, he cited a common question about pain: “If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy, therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”

Is there an answer to this question?

As a general understanding, pain and suffering is often a result of man’s own sin. We can find that from the beginning of man’s history. When sin entered, what came along with it was pain and sorrow.

"To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.” Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: “Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it, All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
And you shall eat the herb of the field." Genesis 3:16-18 (NKJV, all throughout)

The context here is that when Adam and Eve sinned, pain ensued such as childbearing, and the “sorrows and toil” in life –these are the resulting effects or consequences of man’s wrong choices.

There are other physical evidences of pain as a result of man’s own sin. For instance, when a person abuses his/her body, by drinking alcohol, smoking, taking in drugs and other addictive substances, these will inevitably cause sickness to his/her body – bringing upon himself/herself pain and suffering that will even lead to death. Because of wrong choices and sinful behavior, a person suffers – these include the murderers, the corrupt, the liars and the cheats. In the long run, they will suffer the consequences of their actions.

This is what we call the freedom of man’s choice and will. God determined in His infinite wisdom that man must live according to his own choices. The decisions that man makes for this freedom also included the possibility of choosing evil, as well as good. Thus when man chooses “good and life”, it has real significance.

On the other hand, when we say that the consequence of our sin is suffering, this explanation is incomplete. While it explains much suffering, it does not explain ALL sufferings. How can we answer those pain inflicted on the innocent, for example? Pain and death caused by accidents or natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons?

In the 13th chapter of Luke, Jesus faced this question:

"There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.  Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”Luke 13:1-5

In other words, Jesus was saying that catastrophes sometimes happened to some people not because they were more sinners than the rest. But accidents may it natural or man-made “terror” can happen anytime and in any place, therefore the necessity to consider oneself. Consider our life and the choices we are making and ultimately our standing before God because in the end, this is what matters before God.

In the gospel of John, this same subject is raised by Jesus for a lesson:

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. John 9:1-4

So instead of just sulking in a corner, so to speak, we turn to God for His works of reparation, redemption, healings and restoration. These are the continuing works of God and messianic works of Jesus Christ until all is completed in His Kingdom.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”Luke 4:18-19

That's the gospel of the Kingdom—receiving healing and deliverance from every pain is one of its focal message.

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Does Your Faith Work?

field_workAsk the question, “What is faith?” to some popular preachers nowadays and you will receive familiar yet confusing replies such as, “Faith alone saves” or similar answers like, “that’s all you need brother, to be saved!” It is a very common religious expression but I guess ordinary people would find it hard to explain—let alone understand its practical meaning and application.

 

What faith really is all about according to the Bible? Does your faith work for you?

According to Vine’s Concise Dictionary of Bible Words (W.E Vines) the English word “faith” was taken from the New Testament Greek use of the word pistis. By Vine’s definition, faith is “primarily, ‘firm persuasion,’ a conviction based upon hearing (akin to peitho, ‘to persuade’)…”   Further it says, the word is used for “trust”, “trust-worthiness” and “fidelity”, or “a pledge of fidelity.”

But somehow this definition can only help us in so far as knowing the conformity of a certain word as to its usage in the Bible.

Still, there is no substitute if we read through the Bible’s own meaning and application as to what faith really is.

Hebrews, the Eleventh Chapter, defines pistis this way:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1">Hebrews 11:1

Faith, it says, is that substance (or our assurance), the evidence of things we are hoping for.  Faith is our proof of things not yet apparent, not yet seen or even felt. Hence, faith can be contrasted to the things that our naked eyes normally see.

Verse 2, explains thus,

“By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”

In order to have faith that will work in us, it must begin somewhere. There must be a starting point for that faith to be trusted or relied upon.

The apostle Paul in Romans 10:14-17">Romans 10:14-17 hinted this way:

14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

So there must be proper hearing of God’s word in order for faith to begin and increase. True faith comes by hearing from the word of God. The word of God is that evidence—of our faith. After hearing comes obedience to what it tells us to do. Hence, faith has its saving power through the works of Christ as we yield and submit to His will and “workmanship”.

Thus, Paul told us in Ephesians 2:4-10">Ephesians 2:4-10, the following:

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of [our] works, lest anyone should boast.10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Faith must be shown in the workmanship of Christ. This means that contrary to the typical understanding that “faith alone saves”, the true faith of Christ is shown as we “walk in them”—as we follow His every words—this includes obedience to the Commandments (as Jesus amplifies in His “Sermon on the Mount”—see Matthew 5">Matthew 5). Faith and works should not to be pitted against but rather should be viewed as mutually dependent to each other when applied to practical living—that’s what living faith is all about!

Moreover, while faith has its basis in hope (which is not seen yet), it can also be contrasted to a “blind faith” or “dead faith” that believes in all life’s “whatevers” (an expressions which means "whatever comes”).

Apostle James, the half-bother of Jesus Christ, wrote of a type of faith that is commonly encountered. James asked,

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:19-20">James 2:19-20.

James went on to explain how both faith and works was manifested through the obedience of Abraham:

“Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?” James 2:21-22">James 2:21-22.

Thus, applied practically to our daily living, James advised what real faith can do:

“14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” James 2:14-18">James 2:14-18

True faith then is more than just an avowed confession—of believing in God alone. It means acting on that faith in one’s life by serving God and doing His Commandments. This is saving faith—at work.

Wherefore The Law?

What is the Law for?Question: Please explain what Romans 7:25b says “...So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”

(An excerpt from the Sabbath Q&A Bible Study, elder Raul de Asis-Hipe presiding...)

“There’s that immediate take on this that “We’re keeping law in our mind, but in our bodies we do what we please...”

This is the danger, when people think they are Paul, when they are not...

We need to know Paul in writing this letter to the Romans-The Paul, who knows the Law of God, lives the laws and commandments of God, whose life revolves by doing, affirming the law of God...

So for any random person, or even for me to say "Oh I understand Paul" is presumptuous. I am not even a Jew, I am a Gentile...

Paano natin maiintindihan si Paul?... Paul is Paul. Paul is not Peter... God called different people to communicate the good news about His plan for mankind...

Even Peter himself wrote in 2 Peter 3:14

14Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
15and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation --- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
16as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures...”

God gave Paul that privilege to understand the law, not as a layman, but as a lawyer... so that he could use language, craft phrases previously unused to expound on the law...

Thus it cannot be interpreted by untaught, unstable minds who twist God's Word to their own destruction...

Paul was known to write in what scholars would later call an “elliptic” manner...
Not stating directly what he wants to say... but securing the elements which surround the matter until the reader, being in a stable mind, having that background of high regard for the law, considering it good and perfect, would not be able to twist.

Speaking to people whose mind is not unstable, he writes, “...So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” The unstable mind would for example reason “Ah we can now keep the Sabbath with our mind, and do all the pleasures of the flesh otherwise...”

What is the key verse for us to know where chapter 7 is coming from? Romans 3: 19,

19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law,

Whatever we read from thereon about “the law”, he refers to those who are under the law – “under the penalties of law”. All sinners, those under the law, not those who are keeping the law... sin for which the penalty is death,

“that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

So this is the premise for the writings of Paul. His writing is actually condemnation for the ways of the world, of the flesh, the carnal mind.

We can see that apostle Paul is not talking about the sentiments experienced by a life abiding in the law but the life of being under that curse, that penalty of the law... so that continuing v.20 “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight,” the flesh being under the penalty of the law...

Now this is the purpose of the law: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Para saan yung law? Para makita natin kung ano yung mga kasalanan. Ang batas ay hindi maglilinis sa atin. Ang batas ang magpapakilala sa atin kung ano tayo, anong ang kinalalagyan natin. Parang salamin, “Eto ka!”

Fast forward to chapter 7. How can it be possible now that Paul wrote “in the mind we serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin”?

Romans 7:7 “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

So here is the function of the law in the life of a person. Pinapakilala yung kasalanan. Once the flesh commits sin, all the more the law reveals what is wrong and why it is.

This is now how sin reverts back to the function of law. Romans 7:8

8But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire...” So what we have here is the law, the mirror of our sin, and the continuing desire of the flesh. “...For apart from the law sin was dead.” Without even that law, we will not know that we are in thate state of destruction. 

9I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.” Paul writing this in the context of describing the interplay of the law and the effects of sin on the flesh.

10 “And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.”

Why is that? The commandment reveals the penalty, the consequence, bringing us to the realization that this is the consequence of our sin–we DIE. Ang salvation natin hindi doon sa law. There is something more that Paul wants to introduce. In a normal human life what functions are our own desires physical/carnal as opposed to the spirit and intent of the law. What is the spirit and intent of the law? We shall read later in Romans 8.

So this is now the struggle, not in the Christian context, but in the fleshly world. v.12 “Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.” If you do them. Kung hindi mo nilalabag, it will do you good.

13 “Has then what is good become death to me?...” So bakit nagiging yung dapat ay mabuti eh pinapatay ako? Because we are living in a fleshly carnal state of mind. Wala pang nag-rransom, nag-jjustify sa iyo sa iyong sitwasyon. A message to all those yet condemned under the law, still under that state of being carnal, not those who are already followers of Christ...

Unfortunately today, this is being read by “Christians” who want to justify NOT BEING ABLE TO KEEP THE LAW. When this message was about those who are still under the law, not those who are walking in the law.

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The Third Commandment: “Honoring God’s Name”

honoring_gods_name02Just how important to you is your name?

Do you value your name? Think of how it would be like to have no name. Worst still, you carry a name that your neighbors, or people on the street ascribed to you (without  asking your consent) calling you names or aliases such as: “bata”, “boy”, “amang”, tanda” “manong” “totoy,” and even “hoy!” While some of these names may sound endearing, it is not a name you would want to grow up with, right?

Time was, when there were still few people living on earth, every person was given just one name. For instance, if you were named “Miguel”, “Flores”, or “Argallon”, etc. then this name will be unique to you, this will become your personal identity for the rest of your life.

Thus, if you only carry one name, you will be careful about it, you wouldn’t want it tarnished.

It is not surprising then, that even famous biblical personalities like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (who was later re-named ‘Israel’), David, Solomon, etc. were known only for their single names. Until the time of Jesus Christ, people were either identified through their parents (particularly their father’s name, e.g. ‘James son of Joseph’, thus, the common Hebrew suffix ‘bar’ for son); or by the place from where they came from (e.g.  Judas Iscariot [‘Iscariot’ means ‘a man of Keriot’ a city of Moab], or Mary Magdalene also called ‘Mary of Magdala’ (a town).

This was also true in our country before the Spaniards came and colonized the archipelago, the natives then had only one name like Datu Lapu-lapu, Rajahs (Datus) Humabon, Sikatuna, Sulayman, Lakandula, etc. all royalty names, very famous and exalted during their time. (Hence, if you are carrying these names today, you should be proud of it, for it shows your royal parentage).

It was only later, of what was started as a governor decree (Claveria Decree of 1849) to systematically enforce taxes on the natives, that most Filipino names ended up bastardized by the Spanish authorities. Today, we still find funny and oddly sounding surnames: Batungbakal, Cuno, Cubeta, Makahiya, Mosquito, etc.

Even the name ‘Philippines’ was considered derogatory, as it was derived from an infamous Spanish king named Philip II of  Spain. A known philanderer, and a bow-legged king, who died of venereal disease (syphilis).

Thus we’re doubly humiliated through our names and until now we are carrying some of its stigma in history. Hence, even in our present Congress, a bill seeking to change the name of the Philippines does not die down. But to no avail of course, because once a name was given – it becomes not only part of your history but also your unique identity and character.

No wonder therefore, when God uttered and declared the Third Commandment, He underscores the importance of reverencing His name and with immediate consequence and finality.

7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

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The Second Commandment: “God’s Reality, Man's Idolatry”

reality_idolatryJust how real is God to you?

Gaano katotoo sa inyong buhay ang Panginoong Diyos? Is He really real to you?

Is God “all around you?” Is He “everywhere”, as the lyrics of our offertory song “God’s Coloring book” this afternoon describes?

When you wake up in the morning, is He the first thought that comes into your mind?

How about in the evening or at night as you are about to lay your head on the pillow as you rest and sleep? Is He still in your mind?

Kailan nagiging totoo ang Diyos sa inyong buhay?

Karaniwan na natin naririnig at obserbasyon na rin sa mga tao- nagiging “real” or totoo daw sa kanila ang Diyos kungg sagana ang kanilang buhay. . . pero kapag oras ng kagipitan, eh parang ‘abandoned’ na sila.

Kabaligtaran naman sa ilan – kapag puno ng kasiyahan at kasaganaan ang buhay, aba! Nawawala o nakakalimot – masyadong sinusubsob ang buhay doon sa success sa buhay, pero kapag naghihirap o naghihikahos na, doon lang naalala, aba, may Diyos pala!

So, in our series on God’s Ten Commandments, if the first commandment that says “I am the LORD your God. . .you shall have no other Gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3)  is God’s own personal declaration of Himself and about Himself, His majesty and works, the second commandment talks about what?

It talks about idolatry. Let’s read:

Exodus 20:1-9

1 And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage….
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

While the word “idol” itself is not directly mentioned here, it talks about making a “carved image or likeness of anything”- you shall not bow down to them or serve them.

“Carved image” in Hebrew is “tselem (Strong’s 6754) meaning, “a phantom”, “false representation” or “shade” or “illusion”, a representative figure—hence, an idol.

In other words, a “tselem” is any representation, symbol, figure, object, subject, work, devotion, service that you attach too much to yourself in place of the real God—that’s idolatry.

It is interesting to note that the 2nd commandment is also the second longest commandment, composed of 89 words, yet, just like the longest commandment, the fourth commandment, it is one of the most neglected, misinterpreted and ignored of all the commandments.

The biggest religious organization in the world – Catholicism – lumped it with the first commandment, undermining its essence and substance  for obvious reasons. Thus, making the Sabbath commandment the third commandment, splitting the tenth commandment on covetousness into two – neighbor’s house from neighbor’s wife. Not realizing that covetousness according to God’s definition is also idolatry.

But what’s wrong with idolatry? What’s wrong with making a seemingly harmless object as a subject of our affection? Or devotion?

The short answer to this can be found in the correlation of the 2nd commandment to that of the first.

As I have said earlier, the first commandment is God’s personal revelation of Himself, and the 2nd commandment should be our proper response as to how we believe and understand God and thus, how we behave in the presence of a majestic God. In other words, the second commandment goes to the heart of our relationship with our Creator God. It deals with a very real question such as : How personal is He  to you? How do you perceive Him? How do you know Him? Is He even real to you?

So our response as to how real and personal God is to our life can be proven and tested by how much we understand God’s prohibition against idolatry.

Dito tayo masusukat : Why? Because it is the natural tendency of man who lacks faith/belief in a true God to turn himself to every animate and inanimate object.

Thus if God is not real to you, then the next thing that you will do is to trust every visible thing and make it as a god.

This was the main reason why idolatry caused Moses to break the tablets of the commandments. This was  how the heathen nations surrounding Israel, for lack of proper revelation turned to sun, moon, stars, crocodile, calf, and other animals as objects of worship.

That’s why of all the prohibitions of God, idolatry is on the top of the list because it destroys the foundation God wanted to build in us – faith in our God alone.

So in Leviticus 19:1-4, the prohibition against idolatry was repeated contrasting it with our being “holy” to the LORD.

Leviticus 19:1-4 1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 ‘Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.
3 ‘Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.
4Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves molded gods: I am the LORD your God.”

In Leviticus 26:1-2,

1You shall not make idols for yourselves;
neither a carved image nor a sacred pillar shall you rear up for yourselves;
nor shall you set up an engraved stone in your land, to bow down to it;
for I am the LORD your God
.

2 You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary:
I am the LORD.

Again the command was connected with proper worship during God’s Sabbaths. So if we pay reverence to God’s sanctuary, it is just proper that we remove all objects that we perceive or declare as “sacred”.

Deuteronomy 4:15-20

15 “Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. 19 And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the LORD your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. 20 But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be His people, an inheritance, as you are this day.

Idolatry corrupts your perception of the true God.

Now if we go back  to Exodus 34:11-17

11 Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I am driving out from before you the Amorite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 12 Take heed to yourself, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land where you are going, lest it be a snare in your midst. 13 But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images 14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), 15 lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, 16 and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.
17 “You shall make no molded gods for yourselves.

We read the purpose as to why they must eliminate idolatry – it destroys the very essence of our covenantal relationship with God. Idols are “snares” that can turn a person away from God. Idolatry’s by-product – immorality.

This parallels with Deuteronomy 4:23-29

23 Take heed to yourselves, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of anything which the LORD your God has forbidden you. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
25 “When you beget children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything, and do evil in the sight of the LORD your God to provoke Him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you will soon utterly perish from the land which you cross over the Jordan to possess; you will not prolong your days in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Idolatry results in God’s people’s scattering and confusion, becoming servants of other nations. Slavery, another by-product of idolatry.

But that was then when it was so easy to identify idolatrous practices.

How about today?

I am sure there are people out there , upon reading all these passages who will say, “but these idols are gone today!”.

First, let us understand how idolatry can be pervasive or expansive in the Bible:

1 Samuel 15:23

23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He also has rejected you from being king.”

Rebellion and stubbornness equated with the sin or idolatry – Saul trusted his people and own instinct more than God – this is idolatry.

1 Corinthians 10: 7-10,14

7 And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” 8 Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; 9 nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; 10 nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer…

14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

From the above verses, the apostle Paul identified at least four (4) actions or activities that are related to idolatry :

  1. "Eating and Drinking" or Gluttony
  2. Sexual Immorality
  3. Tempting God/Christ
  4. Murmurings and Complaining

I Corintihians 5:9-11, also preceded I Corinthians 10:7-10, 14 in identifying things relating to idolatry—

9 I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person.

Galatians 5:19-21, mentions idolatry as part of “works of the flesh”—

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery,[a] fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders,[b] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Colossians 3:5 identified the by-products of idolatry—

“5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

So with all these verses and warnings, we can identify at least four (4) major characteristics and reasons why God abhors idolatry:

First, Idolatry makes us exalt ourselves more than the true God – idols make us feel important, it feeds on our ego. Idols are always a false representation of ourselves and therefore it is a form of self worship. Idolatry narrowly defines God and we exalt the man. Thus worshipping the creation rather than the Creator.

Romans 1:18-24

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Second, idols consume us, it makes our life senseless and useless. One pervasive and insidious effect of idolatry is that it consumes us away from focusing on the most important things in life – time with the family, friends and service to God.

That is why one important antidote for idolatry in the Bible is how we use our time for the service of others. Self-sacrifice creates and gives life. While idolatry controls our life, sacrifice gives us life. It frees us from idols.

Romans 12:1-2

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Third, idols blind us from the devices of our enemy—

I Corinthians 10:19-20

“19 What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? 20 Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. 22 Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?

2 Corinthians 4:3-4

“3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

Fourth, Idols rub us of our true identity, the 2nd commandment is a reminder for us to always connect with our Creator who is far greater than anything we can see or imagine. He created man originally to become like Him – in character and spirit which is the purpose of our being, of why God created us in the first place.

Hebrews 2:6-13 –6 But one testified in a certain place, saying:
“ What is man that You are mindful of him,
Or the son of man that You take care of him?
7 You have made him a little lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And set him over the works of Your hands.
8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”

For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying:
“ I will declare Your name to My brethren;
In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.”

But idolatry destroys the true image God wants us to have.

So knowing all these, how glorious God is and His plan for us, isn’t it about time that we again go about searching these hidden “idols” in and around us and smashing these idols whenever they appear?

Idolatry today can be found in our quest for personal satisfaction, needs, power and egotism. It reduces God to a mere object that serves our desire, fears and weaknesses. That’s why God abhors it.

Thus, the second commandment “You shall not make for yourself any carved image” can be a stumbling block, a frustration for people who look to religion as a means to an end –satisfying their personal needs, happiness, goals and pleasure.

When we become interested in God, when God becomes our need and concern, when God’s intent becomes our desire, when God’s way or commandment becomes our way, only then can idolatry will be eradicated in our lives.

1 John 5:19-21

“19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.
20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.”

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