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Bible verses about Idolatry
(From Forerunner Commentary)

God is not to be mocked (Galatians 6:7)! In several places in the Bible, He states quite unequivocally that He is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:14-15)—He will not be worshipped like any other god (Deuteronomy 12:3-4, 30-31). When He instructed His chosen people Israel in the method of His worship, He warned them neither to add to what He had given them, nor take away from it (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; see Revelation 22:18-19).

For example, notice His terrible wrath when the children of Israel tried to worship Him through the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:1-9). They proclaimed "a feast to the Lord" (verse 5), but He would have none of it! He was so enraged at the people's idolatry that He considered exterminating the whole nation and starting over with Moses' family.

That same God—Yahweh, the Lord of the Old Testament—became Jesus Christ! Will our Savior be worshipped in any way that is based upon a lie? Certainly not! And this in no way takes into consideration the non-biblical (dare we say "pagan"?) traditions and customs that have taken over the commemoration of His sacrifice and triumphant victory!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'After Three Days'


 

The Laodicean is not indifferent to making money or making his way in the world. He is not indifferent to improving himself through education or experience. Spending huge amounts of his time and energy pursuing his own interests, his problem is that he chooses the wrong priorities in life. He spends most of his time and energy achieving the wrong goals.

This pursuit of wrong goals restates the actual sin the Laodicean commits: idolatry, placing something above God in one's life. How? He serves himself within the church as if he did it for God. Perhaps he is involved in the work of God but only halfheartedly. Though probably attending Sabbath services faithfully, he is not personally involved with God on a day-to-day basis. He may serve within the church to be recognized, respected, maybe even ordained, forgetting that God called him to be a faithful and true witness of Him. Because he pays attention to the wrong things, his witness suffers terribly. Expending so much energy and enthusiasm in pursuing his own interests, he shows little or no interest in God or His goals. He is indifferent and lukewarm toward his relationship with God.

Because he has had such great success in amassing wealth, the Laodicean judges himself to be self-sufficient, which reveals that his faith is in what he can see, whether his own abilities or his wealth. He is not living by faith, but by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). To put more money in his pocket, he can become energetic, hard-working, and fervent, but he cannot seem to arouse himself about the things of God, which he cannot see. Such an attitude will incur the wrath of God every time!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Most people agree that for salvation a Christian needs more than just a theoretical knowledge of God. Over the course of our lives, we increase our knowledge of Him through life's varied experiences. We also come to greater understanding by studying God's Word. In both areas we can be snared by a major problem that traps many religious people in this world: emphasizing one of His attributes at the expense of others.

God is not one dimensional. Though we should study each of His attributes and think on them separately, we should not separate them from the complete personality that God is. Why? It distorts the model we are to imitate and grow into, and it can radically alter our expectations of what He will do. If He does not do what we expect, we are liable to become grieved because God "let us down."

For instance, the Bible emphasizes that God is merciful and full of grace. We should be thankful that He is! But we should not allow that to overshadow the fact that He is also just. If we do, His mercy can become a justification for failure to overcome besetting sins. Neither God's mercy nor justice can be separated from all that He is. Both are harmoniously applied to each situation and person He judges.

The same can be said of His compassion. Some see God as so compassionate that He disregards the causes of horrible problems and circumstances. If God acted in this manner, flaws with painful results would go uncorrected.

Still others construe God's sovereignty so that it greatly diminishes His goodness and portrays Him as rigid and inflexible. This person lives a guilt-ridden, fearful, and discouraged life, thinking that he will never please Him.

Probably the most familiar of God's attributes is found in John's statement in I John 4:8: "God is love." John states a fact, not a definition of God's essential nature. If he had declared that love is what God is, we would be forced to conclude that God is what love is. Literally, if God is love, then literally, love is God, and we are obliged to worship love as the only true God. This would mean God and love are identical. Fortunately, the Bible reveals God is a multidimensional personality. If we eliminate the idea of God's complex personality, denying outright all His attributes save one, the remaining attribute becomes God, a very subtle form of idolatry. This is not the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wholeness of God


 

The Bible uses "world" (cosmos) as man's system—of government, economics, religion, education, culture, etc.—established apart from the Creator God. This system is the source of much of what we believe and, along with its author, Satan, has been our god, though we did not realize it. Because Satan has been clever enough to include some of the true God's system, beliefs, stories, and practices within his, the Devil's system has an air of righteous authority. We can feel good, even joyous and inspired, while doing evil—like committing idolatry—in submitting ourselves as servants to his way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

The result of idolatry in our culture has been immorality on a scale unparalleled in the history of the United States. This will never change until the values, the system of morality that people use to determine right from wrong, change. This change will not occur until a governmental change of such magnitude sweeps aside all existing institutions and standards. We have seen in our lifetimes that the mere replacing of political affiliation, names, and faces of those in positions of leadership really changes nothing. It may temporarily moderate immorality, but it does not change the fundamental reasons for it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Worldly religion has conditioned us to think of worship as something that we do briefly once a week, and then we are free to do what pleases us. This is woefully inadequate for fulfilling God's purpose of creating us in His image. His purpose involves putting His mind in us that we may imitate Him in every area of life.

In this, the first commandment has very practical ramifications. If another crowds God out of first place in our thinking, affections, and conduct so that we admire, submit to, and imitate him, we will be in another's image, not God's. If we are not in God's image, will He allow us into His Kingdom?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

The most obvious form of idolatry is the worship of a false god using a material representation, an idol. The idol usually does not begin as the god, but as a symbol of the god. Its function is to make the worship of the god easier. But it usually does not take long before people cannot worship the god without the symbol. From this point, it is a short step to the symbol itself being worshipped.

A second kind occurs when a person deludes himself into thinking that as long as he is sincere, he can adapt almost any practice to Christianity, regardless of its origin. This is what Aaron and the Israelites tried to do in the Golden Calf incident; what modern "Christians" do when they insert Christmas, Easter, and Halloween; and what the Jews did by inserting a multitude of unscriptural rituals into the worship of God. In effect, these people created their own religions.

A third form of idolatry is an offshoot of the second, but it is more involved in secular areas than religious ones. It has an almost endless list of possible gods. People make a god of money, athletics, hobbies, traveling, or whatever they devote almost their entire lives to. These people may exclude God from their lives entirely because they simply have no time for Him.

This third one directly breaks the first commandment, but we must consider it here because it very definitely affects the way we worship. Notice the sobering ramifications of Colossians 3:5: "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." Covetousness is the unlawful desire to possess. A person sets up an idol in his mind when he wants to possess something and then devotes himself to achieving it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

The basis of all idolatry is that self-centered, rebellious human beings refuse to surrender themselves to worship the true God as He commands. The people of this world do not understand how to worship God because they lack His Spirit. Without God's help, human nature tries to limit God to the confines of physical objects that he understands. Men fabricate images or representations to aid them in worshipping a god that they themselves have concocted. These images are called idols, icons, symbols, or objects of devotion.

The first commandment expresses that it is a sin to place a higher value on anything than what we place on God. Building upon the foundation of the first commandment, the second forbids the use of physical "aids" in worshipping the invisible God. Such aids include statues or paintings of "Jesus" or "Mary," nativity scenes, crucifixes, steeples, stained-glass pictures of God or Christ, and many other things. Living in such a "visual" age, we need to be aware of such common idols in the society around us.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Genesis 4:1-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the well-known story of Cain and Abel, the first man born on the earth also becomes the first murderer. A few points in this account are significant:

  • Cain killed Abel after a quarrel over a sacrifice to God. Cain brought a sacrifice, but God would not accept it because it did not meet His standards. While Abel's offering showed his complete submission to God, Cain's hints at grudging worship of God - and that done in his own way.
  • Becoming angry and sullen over his rejection, he quarreled with and killed his brother. Then, he lied to God's face! He had no fear of God or the consequences of sin.
  • Cain's retort to God's inquiry as to Abel's whereabouts is also significant: "Am I my brother's keeper?" Cain's attitude of indifference toward his fellow man greatly influenced later generations.
  • Coupled with his entirely selfish attitude, Cain tried to take advantage even of God's curse upon him. Using a "woe is me" ploy, he "convinced" God to guard his life from anyone avenging Abel's murder.

The way of Cain - idolatry, murder, deceit, selfishness, hypocrisy - saturated Pre-Flood society to the point that God, seeing the wickedness of man, regretted He had even created humanity (Genesis 6:5-7).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'As It Was In the Days of Noah'


 

Exodus 7:14-15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Egyptians held the Nile River to be sacred, as they did with many of its fish and the crocodiles that lined its banks. God punctured this belief when He turned the river waters to blood, making it unfit to drink or use. Millions of fish died and stank, as did probably thousands of crocodiles.

Mike Ford
Animal Idolatry


 

Exodus 8:16-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The third plague, striking Egypt unannounced, hit the Egyptians in their religious ritual: They were a scrupulously clean people, believing that dirt and vermin made them impure and defiled. They bathed and shaved their bodies regularly to maintain their purity and superiority, but infected with lice, they could not worship in any temple. In addition, this plague struck the beasts also (verse 17), many of which were sacred animals kept in their sanctuaries. So, not only were the Egyptians defiled, but their gods and temples were defiled also.

Pharaoh's magicians could not duplicate this third plague in even a small way, so they admitted that Israel's God was greater than any of theirs (verse 19). God showed these pagan people that He controlled the creation and could do with it as He wished. The plagues on Egypt continued in this manner in sets of three, in which Moses and Aaron announced the first two and the third would descend unannounced.

Mike Ford
Animal Idolatry


 

Exodus 20:3  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The KJV and the NKJV both translate Exodus 20:3 as, "You shall have no other gods before Me." This translation is misleading, though, because it gives us room to think that other gods are permitted as long as the true God is first in importance. God permits no other gods at all!

Other translations more correctly catch the intent. Moffatt says, "You shall have no gods but me." The Knox translation has, "Thou shalt not defy me by making other gods thy own." The Spurrell translation reads, "You shall have no other gods beside Me." Finally, the New English Bible renders it, "You shall have no gods to set against me." These make it very clear God will not share His position, glory, and praise with any competitors (see Isaiah 42:8). It would not be good for His purpose to allow us to divide our loyalties.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 20:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The natural mind cries out for something to "help" it worship God, but nothing in man's limited imagination can measure up. So any time a man devises an image of god other than the true God, a predictable effect will occur. Asaph writes of this effect in Psalm 78:40-41: "How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel." A human mind will limit God. How can anyone rationally think that a creation of man can be any greater than man?

II Timothy 3:1-2, 5 adds a sobering note for those of us living at the end. "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will . . . [have] a form of godliness but [deny] its power. And from such people turn away!" Limiting God creates idolatry because we must turn to another source if we want to be delivered from what is unsettling us. Do we limit God by failing to use His counsel in dating, marriage, child training, healing, or tithing because we fear it will not work or by refusing to humble ourselves to try His way?

The real basis of idolatry, other than ignorance, is that self-willed man refuses to surrender himself to worship God as He commands. Remember, worship is our response to God, and it occurs in many ways every day. For example, to tithe is not only to obey, but also to worship, since it is our response to God's command.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 20:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Many do not perceive the difference between the first and second commandments. The first stresses the uniqueness of the Creator God, who is the Source of truth, right values, and standards that will produce right relationships. It deals with what we worship. An idol is something we make and assign value to here on earth, but God comes into our life from beyond this physical realm.

The second commandment covers a specific area of idolatry, God's spirituality. Jesus says we must worship God in spirit and truth (John 4:24). God wants us to worship, be devoted, and respond to what He is and what He is doing, not what we think He looks like. He wants us to emulate His character and the way He lives. The second commandment deals with the way we worship.

The second commandment's most obvious aspect governs the use of physical "helps" or "aids" in worshipping the invisible, spiritual God. It prohibits the use of anything that represents God or could become an object of veneration. It forbids any kind of likeness of Christ such as crucifixes, pictures, and statues.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 20:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God does not condemn every picture or image, but as the command states, "You shall not bow down to them nor serve them." It is the use of art or sculpture in worship that God condemns. Solomon had God's blessing to build a Temple, where he erected golden forms of two cherubim inside the Holy of Holies. On the walls of the sanctuary were carved figures of angels, trees, and flowers, none of which Israel worshipped.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Exodus 20:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Some do not perceive the differences between the first and second commandments. However, the first stresses the uniqueness, the matchless distinctiveness of the Creator God. It draws attention to our obligation to the One without whom there would be no life or hope at all. He is also the Source of truth, right values, and standards that will produce right relationships and peaceful prosperity so that life is not merely lived but has the potential to contain great peace, joy, and accomplishment. Thus, the first commandment deals with what we worship.

In contrast, the second commandment covers the way we worship. The Father and Son are unique Individuals who come into our lives from beyond this physical realm. They are absolutely holy, pure, and undefiled, uncreated and eternal. An idol, on the other hand, is someone or something of any other realm that we make and value, giving it devotion that rightfully belongs to the Creator.

John 4:24 instructs us regarding the way God desires that we worship Him: "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." The second commandment regulates a specific area of idolatry; it deals with God's spirituality. It thus involves our manner of worship in faith, most obviously in that it prohibits the use of physical "helps" or "aids" in worshipping the invisible, spiritual God.

John 1:18 states that no man has seen God at any time. Deuteronomy 4:15-16 provides an Old Testament parallel:

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, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female.

Since no one has ever seen God, whatever is made to picture Him would be a work of man's hands and a lie. It is helpful to recall that the Holy of Holies contained no representation of God. The Bible frequently uses the image of an altar to indicate the worship of God, yet, except for the Temple's brazen altar, even they were to be made of simple turf or uncut stones (Exodus 20:22-26). Additionally, the second commandment prohibits the use of anything that represents God or could become an object of veneration. Thus, it prohibits any kind of likeness of Christ such as crucifixes, pictures, and statues.

Numbers 33:52 commands the Israelites, ". . . then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places. . . ." This destruction was not to be wanton, but God intended it to involve only religious, worshipped things. Why?

Any representation of God changes Him into a different god from what He really is. Egypt, from whence Israel came, worshipped oxen, heifers, sheep, goats, lions, dogs, cats, monkeys, ibis, crane, hawks, crocodiles, serpents, frogs, flies, beetles, sun, moon, planets, stars, fire, light, air, and darkness. Very likely, an Egyptian could come up with "good" reasons why he did so. A man wrote in an email that he did not care whether the Bible said not to worship as the pagans do through the use of Christmas and Easter. He was going to do it anyway because it was his way of praising God. He is worshipping a god of his own design.

Idolatry, then, denies the true nature of God, so obedience to this commandment determines the way we worship. It must be in spirit and in harmony with His nature, which the Bible reveals. Knowing God's true nature is important because we become what we worship. Thus, this commandment covers idolatry in a form in which the true God is worshipped through either a false image or a corrupt practice. This false representation perverts His reality. If we idolize, we become the wrong thing.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment


 

Exodus 20:8-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When God created Adam and Eve, He gave them a law for community relationships. Did He say, "All of My commandments you must keep—except for one"?

The Sabbath is not a minor ceremonial regulation that rarely affects man's relationship with God. It is one of the major Ten Commandments, the laws that spell out God's character, defining love and sin for us. This is why James explained that the law is a package (James 2:10); if you break one law, you break them all. Once the package is broken up, it loses its effectiveness.

The fourth commandment is especially important in keeping the other nine. In Ezekiel 20, God specifies two specific commandments that Israel broke: the ones concerning idolatry and Sabbath-keeping. They are linked: If one does not keep the Sabbath, he will commit idolatry.

In one sense, these are the two key commandments around which all the others revolve. If we break the first one, we will certainly break the rest. If our god is not God, then we are off the track already. In the same way, if we break the Sabbath day, then the others will be broken. Without the Sabbath, contact with God is lost.

God has called a meeting of His Kingdom and Family to occur on that day. If we fail to attend, we are obviously absent and unable to benefit from it. God's commanding something that we do not really have to keep would not be beneficial. It would be double-dealing, like handing someone a biscuit with one hand and taking it back with the other.

People observe the practices of their religion because they matter to them. Yet, we have been told that one can be a Christian without keeping this beneficial day. Some people claim that it does not matter. If, then, we can meet the requirements of being a Christian without keeping the Sabbath, a law that does not fit the flow of this world's social, business, and religious activities, then why keep it? That would not make sense.

What has happened? They have bought into the Protestant notion that God is only trying to save people, and that His law only defines sin. Such a belief has ramifications: The law will be seen in a totally negative light, rather than God's intended positive purpose. Law not only defines sin, but also provides a guide that will produce character in us identical to the Creator's, if we live by the power of His Spirit.

Our small part in this entire wonderful purpose is not merely to say, "I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior," but it is to use our God-given free moral agency to choose the right in order to do our small part in producing godly attitude and character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Exodus 20:8-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The fourth commandment provides the means by which His Family members can guard and maintain things pertaining to His purpose, keeping them aligned with His creative purpose. The Sabbath provides a more formal environment for coming to know more clearly the truth regarding God's plan, His purpose, His character and personality, and the right and true goals toward which we are to expend time and energy. His Word shows that when Israel failed to keep the Sabbath, they lost track of the wholesome qualities of His purpose. Sabbath-breaking and idolatry go hand in hand.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment


 

Exodus 20:15  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The eighth commandment of God's law—"You shall not steal"—reflects our sense of responsibility toward others and their possessions. It exposes whether we understand the motivating principle and purpose of the entire law of God, the principle of give rather than get (Acts 20:35). This commandment, found in Exodus 20:15 and Deuteronomy 5:19, is interwoven with the other commandments. Breaking it usually begins with covetousness. Such greed can lead to physical or mental violence and murder. It often involves fraud, deceit, and lying. Stealing to acquire the objects of our worship is spiritual adultery and idolatry against God. Succumbing to Satan's "get" way of life dishonors our spiritual Father and elevates the self above God. Would we consider stealing if we truly and deeply respected God's power and office?

Martin G. Collins
The Eighth Commandment


 

Exodus 32:1-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Israelites gave their mind to a different god, and immediately things began to take place in their life. That is the principle involved here. On a nationwide scale, it will determine the direction, morality, government, art, literature, education, and economics of the entire nation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Exodus 32:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As this episode began, the people were not really asking for a change of gods but rather a new human leader. Moses had borne much of the brunt of Israel's discontent, and now he had disappeared! In their impatience, they wanted to entrust their leadership to one who could make a god. But this highly offended the true God and Moses! To them the golden calf was an attempt to redefine God's nature and control Him according to their desires.

In like manner, the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches say the ornaments, icons, crucifixes, Madonna statues, and Christmas trees are only to keep God in mind. But this is the same principle involved in Exodus 32! It is not long before people associate the image with God.

In the Golden Calf episode, the first and second commandments were directly broken. Aaron proclaimed it "a feast to the LORD." The churches say, "These things are dedicated to worshipping God." The true God says in verses 7-8 that they had "corrupted themselves . . . and worshipped it." This sounds like today's Christmas observance. The people corrupted themselves by redefining God's nature and His way of worship according to their desires and ends.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Exodus 32:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Moses had placed Aaron in charge while he received instruction from God on Mount Sinai. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, Aaron probably lacked the conviction or courage to fill Moses' shoes adequately in his absence. To stall for time, he asked the people to contribute to the cause, hoping to deter them. Understanding the principle of "where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:21), he asked them to donate some of their jewelry.

His plan failed. They eagerly gave of their treasure, showing where their heart really was. Now Aaron had to go through with it, and he did.

A major motivator in the process of apostasy is contained within the words, "Moses delayed his coming." Impatience, weariness with the way, and the constant struggle without any indication of relief are all included. God repeats this in the New Testament, when Christ warns that the evil servant says, "My master is delaying His coming" (Matthew 24:48; Luke 12:45). God emphasizes it just in case His children's endurance begins to lag. He does not want anyone to turn aside to some exciting distraction in the surrounding culture.

Unfortunately, that is what occurred here. The impatience and the weariness of their struggle moved the Israelites to take their eyes off the Promised Land, their goal. Instead they focused on a more exciting and stimulating practice from the world they had just left.

The key to this process is found in verses 4 and 5, in the words, "This is your god, O Israel" and "Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.'" Can God be worshipped in any form as long as it is dedicated to the Lord? Does that please God? Did this celebration become a feast to the Lord because a man in authority like Aaron proclaimed it? Is God pleased when His people worship Him in ways other than what He has prescribed? God's reaction to their idolatrous festivities plainly shows they had turned aside from what He had delivered to them through Moses (Exodus 32:10).

The world's theologians call this process syncretism, which means "the combination of different forms of belief or practice; the fusion of two or more original forms." The incident of the Golden Calf blends the worship of the true God with the worship of false gods, and the result is proclaimed to be worship of which the true God approves.

Predictably, God was indignant with the people for defining for themselves the nature of the god they wanted to serve. They were preventing the God of heaven from defining His own nature as revealed in His laws, His way, and His actions for and against them. Their experience with these things would teach them about Him. Instead, they decided to define that nature, and chose the form of a bull, a god commonly worshipped in Egypt.

Is God a bull? Of course not! Is God confined to what a bull can do? Of course not! To modern thought worshipping a bull seems silly and foolish, but the spiritual lesson involved is serious. The essence of idolatry is defining the nature of God, not according to His Word, but according to human experience and ideas.

What is the effect of man defining God according to his own ideals? His god determines his standards. These standards are immediately perceived in his conduct, which can rise only as high as his god, as exemplified in Exodus 32:6: "Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings [a form of worship], and brought peace offerings [indicating fellowship between God, the priest and offerer]; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play."

As one might imagine, they were not engaging in ordinary eating and drinking and playing. They were not throwing a ball around, they were not shooting a ball through a hoop, nor were they kicking a ball around a field. They were playing! These people were involved in a gluttonous, drunken debauchery! "Play" suggests conjugal caresses—fornication and adultery!

The symbolism is obvious. When the nature of the true God is falsely defined, the effect will be spiritual adultery. There will be a deterioration, a degeneration, of society expressed in peoples' conduct. Plummeting standards and moral laxity are the fruit produced. Writing of Christianity in the second century, historian Will Durant observes, "Much of this difficult code [of conduct, as practiced by the apostolic church] was predicated on the early return of Christ. As that hope faded, the voice of the flesh rose again, and Christian morals were relaxed" (Caesar and Christ, p. 599).

God handled Israel's debauchery at Sinai severely, but unfortunately, Israel failed to learn the lesson. They never understood the principle of worshipping God as He instructed. In fact, it led to their eventual destruction and captivity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Exodus 32:1-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

They did this in their ignorance and their impatience to get things moving. Even though most of the people wanted it, and a renowned religious figure proclaimed it "a feast to the LORD," it did not make it so. God was definitely not positively impressed, nor was Moses. In one of the gravest acts of presumption shown in God's Word, and one of the largest in terms of the number involved, they took it on themselves to add this to the worship of God. What they did was very seriously disrespectful to God; they attempted to configure the nature of God according to their own desires.

Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death." People say they keep Christmas and Easter to worship Christ, but they are also defining the nature of God according to their own ideas. Just as surely as the ancient Israelites blended paganism with what God truly revealed, so people do today. This is the basic principle of acts of presumption, and each of us has done this, not once, but sadly, repeatedly, even though we may know better.

Jesus says in John 4:24, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth," meaning we must worship to the fullest of God's intent as revealed in His Word, with every act guided and determined by His revealed truth. Yet, how many corners do we cut when we feel it serves us better at the time?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Presumption and Divine Justice (Part Two)


 

Exodus 32:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Exodus 32:1-4 illustrates how one can twist something into idolatry that is not directly connected to worship. On the surface, the Israelites were not really seeking a change of gods, but a change of leaders. Some did not like Moses, and besides, he had disappeared. In their impatience, they moved to entrust their leadership to one who could introduce them to a god similar to what Moses had done. However, they immediately regressed to a god of Egypt because that was all they really knew.

Nevertheless, God and Moses were highly offended because, to them, making the Golden Calf was an Israelite attempt to define God's nature and to control Him according to their desires. A man wrote in an email that he did not care whether the Bible said not to worship as the pagans do through the use of Christmas and Easter. He was going to do it anyway because it was his way of praising God. He is worshipping a god of his own design. He is doing the same thing the Israelites were, except that he carries his false image in his mind.

In a similar way, the pope takes the people's ornaments of gold, silver, ivory, and precious stones, makes a crucifix or Madonna, and says it is only to keep God in mind. The principle, however, is exactly the same. It will not be long before people associate the image directly with God, and they need it to perform their prayers of praise and request. In this, the first and second commandments are directly broken.

The carnal emailer wrote, "It is my way of praising the Lord" (emphasis added). The carnal Israelites in Moses day proclaimed "a feast to the LORD" (Exodus 32:5). Both justify themselves based on a false image of God's nature. In contrast, the spiritual God declared that the Israelites were corrupting themselves by worshipping the Golden Calf, and He showed His displeasure by destroying them. People corrupt themselves by defining God's nature to their own ends.

Mark 7:6-7 defines this travesty further: "This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." Jesus joined battle with manmade supplements to God's Word, the works of men's hands. People keep traditional religious holidays in God's name, but He is not in them. Despite the outward appearance of sincere piety in keeping them, they are a lie because they simply are not true to God's nature. Celebrating them contradicts a Christian's commitment to truth.

The traditions of which Jesus spoke directly distorted the law of God and thus the image of God. The law is a description of God's character, the image He wants us to carry in our minds and follow in our conduct. Christ repudiates every addition, subtraction, and distortion elevated to a specious "divine" authority.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment


 

Exodus 32:2-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Israelites' lack of faith while Moses was on Mt. Sinai made them feel insecure. Moses was gone less than 40 days when the Israelites fashioned a calf of molded gold to substitute for the invisible Creator God. In their own minds, they had reduced God to something they could control and call upon when convenient. Those who repented were ashamed at what they had done.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Exodus 32:7-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God was not faking His anger. To say He was mad is to underestimate the intensity of His anger. God does not mislead people by feigning a reaction. He was truly upset by what the Israelites had done. As this occurred early in their journey, it shows the concept of God's nature that they brought with them out of Egypt. They conceived His nature—His very Being—to be something no greater than an uncomprehending, dumb beast that had nothing in common with them, except that it was alive and a mammal.

In our Western cultures, we tend to see God very narrowly, which is quite different from the Bible's approach to His nature. What or who a nation worships is very important to the quality of life within that nation. It will determine the nation's morality, its kind of government and its operation, its educational system, and its economics. It will determine much of its entertainment, music, literature, architecture, art, clothing fashion, and its vision of the future.

What an individual worships will determine what he will do with his life, how it will be lived, and what will be important to him.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Nature of God: Elohim


 

Exodus 32:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Just mere months after God liberated the slave-nation Israel from centuries of bondage to Egypt through awesome and terrifying displays of power, capping their redemption by dividing the Red Sea and drowning their captors in its waters, they reconfigured the nature of Almighty God into the form of a bull! One has to ask, what were they thinking as they cried, "This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!"?

Is this not similar to what one may discover on the world scene today? People have created gods in their own image. They interpret God according to their own cultural biases, as well as what family, educational, and business associations have predisposed them to believe. They then attribute His favor to their political parties, athletic teams, motivations, and prejudices. All this is done with precious little careful study into, meditation upon, and especially wholeheartedly believing of His inspired revelation of Himself in the Bible.

At the worship service held in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., a few days following the attack of September 11, clergy from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim faiths participated. Which clergyman represented God? Which did God hear? Can they all be His representatives, even though they all believe differently? Do these differences not matter to Him? They must matter to those men; otherwise, they would not advocate their brand of faith. Certainly, God hears just as surely as He sees what is going on. He makes very clear that no one comes to Him except through Jesus Christ, eliminating two of those faiths immediately.

He also makes clear that those who approach Him with favor must be subject to His government. In other words, they must keep His commandments. The remaining two faiths keep none of His Sabbaths, and in fact, they tell people they do not have to keep the commandments—in other words, they need not be subject to His government in daily life—because His law is "done away."

Might God, as an act of mercy, nonetheless hear and respond by delivering us from future destructions planned for us? He might. It has happened before, for instance, when God mercifully forgave Nineveh after it repented at the preaching of Jonah, and He delivered Israel a number of times. Yet when that happened, it was accompanied by a wholehearted repentance that God was willing to accept. Have we as a nation repented? How deep must the repentance be? How many must repent before it tips the balance of God's judgment so that He moves in our behalf? In Genesis 18:32, God tells Abraham He will spare Sodom if He finds ten righteous people in it. Is God using the same standard of measurement for America today?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God to Blame?


 

Exodus 32:7-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These people were undoubtedly sincere, but God did not care for their sincerity one bit. Why? God saw this as an attempt by these people to control Him through redefining His nature.

When we turn aside from the path, whether we realize it or not, we are beginning to redefine what He is according to our own thinking. If we think this is not a prevalent sin, Jesus says in Mark 7:7, "In vain do you worship Me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." He is not saying that these people are not sincere, but they are not following the way of God. Like these Israelites, they proclaim their religion in the name of God though. Jesus also says in Luke 6:46, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not the things that I say?" That is what they were doing in Exodus 32.

What was their motivation? Does this have an end-time application to the church of God? The answer is in verse 1:

Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, "Come make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him."

Moses, the charismatic leader, the type of Jesus Christ, delayed his coming! That is alarming! What motivated Saul to make the sacrifice in I Samuel 13? Because Samuel's coming was delayed, Saul presumptuously took it into his own hands to do something he had not been commanded to do—to make the sacrifice. The problem was the delay he perceived.

Do we understand why Christ says, "Do not say in your heart, 'The Lord delays His coming'"? He knows from the experiences from the Old Testament that, if we begin to think that Christ is delaying, then we will turn aside to idolatry because we will use it as a justification for adjusting ourselves to the spirit of the times we live in. This has alarming ramifications.

What did the Israelites do here? Redefining the nature of God is merely the sin that led to them adjusting their lifestyle, to fall into idolatry. Will that be a problem for this generation? Are we going to think that Christ is delaying His coming?

Sincerity is good, but truth is needed with it. Jesus says in John 4:24 that God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. We need to examine ourselves to see whether we are making adjustments in our way of life to be in harmony with the spirit of the age. Do we keep Sabbath just like the world keeps Sunday? If we do, we have adjusted already. Are we careful in tithing? Are we concerned God will not come through with prosperity? If so, we are already beginning to make adjustments. Who is the idol? We are.

We change the image of God by saying, "He won't mind. He understands." He does understand, but He wants us to trust Him. He knows we are under pressure, but He knows we need to learn to do without, to suffer, to wait. Do we believe that?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

Exodus 34:14-16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God does not stop with one form of idolatry because He again specifically warns in Leviticus 17:7: "They shall no more offer their sacrifices to demons, after whom they have played the harlot. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations." And again in Leviticus 20:6, "And the person who turns to mediums and familiar spirits, to prostitute himself with them, I will set My face against that person and cut him off from his people."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Nine): Babylon the Great


 

Numbers 21:8-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The people came to regard the snake on the pole very highly, but their regard eventually turned to superstition and their superstition turned to idolatry (II Kings 18:4).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sin of Self-Deception


 

Numbers 25:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Israel fell into idolatry through fornication. The physical fornication produced spiritual fornication, which is idolatry.

In Revelation 2:14, within the comments to the seven churches, we find this problem still haunting the church. It actually surfaces in Revelation 2:6, where it speaks of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which God hates, but it is more clearly stated in verse 14 to the church in Pergamos.

But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

It is a problem in two of the first three churches, and it surfaces again in verse 20, this time in Thyatira.

Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

Today, we are bombarded on every side with sex. It is something that, even if one is blind, cannot be escaped because we hear about it. It is presented to us as an inducement to do something.

In Numbers 25, the inducement is to idolatry. Today, the inducement is to get us to buy, to get us in debt, to get us to be slaves of the lender. So sex is thrown at us in things in which it should not even appear—selling pipe wrenches or automobiles. It is used as an inducement, and we have to be very careful because it is so incessantly shoved in our faces.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

Numbers 33:51-52  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We should understand this in a religious sense since any representation of God changes Him from what He really is. Egyptians worshipped oxen, heifers, sheep, goats, lions, dogs, cats, monkeys, ibis, cranes, hawks, crocodiles, serpents, frogs, flies, scarab beetles, the sun, the moon, the planets, the stars, fire, light, air, and darkness. And they could come up with "good" reasons why!

A young man once said to me that he could see nothing wrong with the Christmas tree because he did not bow down and worship it. He misunderstood. Do we? The first commandment covers this particular aspect of idolatry. If one was bowing down to the tree, that would be what he was worshipping.

The second commandment has to do with the way we worship, in spirit and truth. Christmas—and its trappings like the Christmas tree—is not part of the way God commanded we worship. It is not part of the truth of God. Therefore, the Christmas tree is a component of an idolatry created when man desires to worship God as he devises rather than as God instructs. So he breaks the second commandment even though he never bows down to the tree.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 4:15-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Since they saw nothing of the God who liberated them and whom they now were commanded to worship, anything they contrived to represent Him would be a boldfaced lie. No one else has seen God in His glory either, so absolutely no one can even begin to catch even the essence of a true representation of Him. Nothing could even come close to a resemblance. Any representation by anyone throughout history is a lie. Do we want to worship a lie?

Even in the Holy of Holies there was no representation of God, and the altar was of simple turf or unhewn stones (Exodus 20:22-26). A meaningful lesson exists in this: From God's perspective, because man always infuses human nature into the objects of his worship, he always tends to ruin whatever he touches in his relationship with God. This is not good because the worshipper can rise no higher than the god he worships.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Deuteronomy 4:21-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is heat in God's relationship with His people. Within the Ten Commandments, in the second commandment, He says, "For the LORD your God is a jealous God." What is jealousy? It is a passionate intolerance, even a hostility, toward a rival. It is also defined as vigilance in guarding a possession.

In this passage, God is having a passionate reaction against a rival, idolatry. God will not permit idolatry without reacting because idolatry promotes divided loyalties. We are His, and He does not choose to share us with anybody or anything else.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prayer and Seeking God


 

Deuteronomy 5:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the first commandment (Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7), God tells us, "You shall have no other gods before Me." I used to think that this meant simply that I was to make sure God was my first priority. Put God first, then family, job, etc. I have come to see, however, that God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 5:9) and that what He means, I believe, is that nothing—absolutely nothing—can be worshipped in our lives except Him. God will not abide us placing family, work, or possessions in competition with Him.

The Amplified Bible words verse 7, "You shall have no other gods before or besides Me." In my opinion, the Moffatt translation has it best: "You shall have no gods but Me." How clear that is! None, nada, zip, zilch! One God and one God only. Anything that we put ahead of God is "another god." Anything that competes with God for the time that belongs to Him is "another god."

It is imperative that we examine our lives and rid ourselves of any other gods. This does not mean we should leave our families and renounce all material possessions, but we should determine if anything competes with God in our minds and begin to make the changes that will bring matters back into balance. God has a plan for each of us, and for that plan to come to fruition in our lives, He must be first. His overall plan will be completed with or without us. Our continued participation in it is due to His mercy and grace and our humble, yielded obedience.

Mike Ford
Abraham's One God


 

Deuteronomy 5:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Idolatry has an impact on later generations, and so it matters a great deal if we associate closely with idolaters. Children learn by example, and if their parents set the example that physical objects have excessive importance, then their children will pass down the same values. When we socialize with idolaters, we share in their ways. If we are not careful, we may also begin to share their idols.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Deuteronomy 7:2-4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This particular point of obedience is especially interesting because it is the first thing mentioned about our faithfulness to Him. This passage bans Israel from making covenants with the people of the land. Among covenants are marriage unions. A marriage is a covenant to be special treasures to each other and therefore faithful to each other. As we continue in the chapter, verses 4 and 6 begin with the conjunction "for," which tells us why something is to be done or is forbidden.

Here, unlike some other situations, He provides a brief reason or two why this is forbidden. In short, in verse 4, covenants—including marriages with the heathen—are banned because it is too spiritually dangerous. It is similar to playing with fire—the Lake of Fire. Interreligious marriages will work to destroy the special faithfulness to each other.

In verse 6, God's reason is that they—and we—are a special, set apart people for God's uses only. Entering covenants with the heathen, including marriage and honoring their gods, will work to destroy the special relationship. In other words, it will work to destroy our faithfulness to God and therefore our ability to proclaim God's praises.

Do we love God enough that we are willing to heed His commands, or do we love ourselves more than Him, making us willing to risk what He says not to do? Marrying outside the faith is a matter of idolatry.

The perspective through which we look at these things in the course of daily life makes all the difference in the world. A common way of illustrating this is to ask whether we consider the glass half-full or half-empty. Do we think of God's calling as a blessing that has opened a door to a fabulous eternity? Or, do we feel it bars us from areas of fulfillment, excitement, adventure, and fun in life, excluding us from those who have access to all the pleasure and glory this world can produce?

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

Deuteronomy 8:7-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There is no doubt that prosperity is good, but unless one is sufficiently focused in the right direction and disciplined enough, it can also be a demanding master because of its power to distract one into idolatry.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Deuteronomy 12:6-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Is there such a zealous fervency like this in the church today? Is it burning in us individually? Is there such a hatred of evil and a love for God and His Family within us that we will not permit even one iota of idolatry within ourselves? Or, are we tolerant of its existence within ourselves and within the church, convincing ourselves that it really does not matter? These verses show that it matters very much to God!

Beginning in Deuteronomy 7, He is systematically defining their relationship to Him and the terms of faithfulness. God is to be our God—exclusively. Please understand that we cannot literally conform to some of these details today because we have no civil authority. Nevertheless, His stern commands illustrate how serious God is about idolatry—faithlessness to Him and the covenant. He charged them with this because He loved them, because faithfulness would be good for them and would bless them within the relationship, whereas faithlessness would bring curses on them, just as it does in human marriages.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Priceless Gift


 

Deuteronomy 14:1  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 1, we see how God regarded Israel. Moses wrote Deuteronomy at the end of Israel's wandering in the wilderness, forty years after their release from Egypt. After spending many generations under Egyptian rule, the Israelites had absorbed certain aspects of Egyptian culture as their own, and many of these were wrong.

Idol worship, which the Israelites quickly returned to with the Golden Calf (Exodus 32:4), was just one of the wrongs that God needed to fix. He speaks here of not mutilating the body or shaving the head for the dead. The Bible does not clearly explain if the Egyptians practiced cutting themselves or shaving their heads for the dead, but many pagan peoples have done so as a sign of mourning or piety or to attract the attention of their god. God addresses it in a number of places (Leviticus 19:28; 21:5; I Kings 18:28).

Staff
Whatever Your Heart Desires


 

Deuteronomy 17:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this second guideline, God's instruction through Moses again leaves little room for interpretation or doubt. Israel's leader was not to "multiply wives to himself" (Deuteronomy 17:17). Solomon may have subconsciously reasoned, "If importing horses from Egypt has brought no immediate penalty, what is the harm of taking a second wife?" Yet he eventually took a third, a fourth, a fifth, and so on. Each new wife confirmed his decision to violate God's law.

By the end of his reign, he had 700 wives, not to mention an additional 300 mistresses or concubines (I Kings 11:3)! God's prohibition of royal bigamy was a means of protecting the king from having his heart turned away from Him. Solomon failed to heed this wise principle.

He compounded the problem even further by marrying,

many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites—from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, 'You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you'" (verses 1-2).

In Deuteronomy 7:3-4, Moses predicts the deadly results of marrying non-Israelite women: Such wives would lead their husbands "to serve other gods." Solomon disregarded these warnings. When he was old, he allowed his foreign wives to turn his heart "after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God" (I Kings 11:4).

From the "minor" infraction of importing horses from Egypt, he eventually condoned, or at least was an accessory to, the sins of idolatry and murder, sins he would not have contemplated seriously at the beginning of his reign.

Solomon not only "went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites" (verse 5), but he also "built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, . . . and for Molech, the abomination of the people of Ammon" (verse 7), whose rituals involved the horrible rite of child sacrifice by fire (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35). Archaeologists have found skeletal remains of infants at three sites where this brutal human sacrifice occurred. These Solomonic high places for Chemosh and Molech stood for three centuries before Josiah finally destroyed them (II Kings 23:10, 13).

As a result of Solomon's perverted disobedience, several of his corrupt successors to the throne even caused their children to "pass through the fire" (II Kings 16:3; 21:6). How degenerate can someone be to sacrifice his own child as a burnt offering to Satan's idolatrous creations?

Martin G. Collins
The Enduring Results of Compromise


 

Deuteronomy 18:10-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God considers these things to be idolatrous; they honor demonic spirits, and thus He calls them abominations or detestable things, things that He hates. Interestingly, He says these practices are a reason why He sent Israel in to dispossess these people. We do not want to practice customs that ultimately bring on God's wrath and destruction.

In Leviticus 20:6, God likens spiritism to prostitution, the physical counterpart to spiritual prostitution, idolatry. To God, witchcraft and occultism are similar to sexual immorality, but one is physical and the other is spiritual. Which is worse—physical or spiritual prostitution? Both defile the purity God desires in our flesh and in our spirit (II Corinthians 7:1). This linking of spiritism with sexual sins and idolatry occurs elsewhere (Exodus 22:16-20; I Samuel 15:22-23). Witchcraft is equated with them because it is both prostitution and idolatry.

When a Christian meddles in spiritism of any kind, whether witchcraft, sorcery, divination, consulting a medium or fortune-teller, or even reading a horoscope, he undermines his relationship with God—just as a man who visits a prostitute damages his relationship with his wife. Someone else is coming between the two covenanted parties, causing division. Occultism puts a wedge between God and the Christian; he might as well bow to an idol. It produces the same result: to drive him away from God.

The New Testament takes the same approach as the Old:

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, . . . 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. (Galatians 5:19-21)

The apostle Paul speaks of adultery, fornication, uncleanness, and licentiousness—all with at least overtones of sexuality—then he mentions idolatry and immediately thereafter sorcery! It cannot be just a coincidence that they all fall in this order. Those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God because they are not fulfilling their covenant with God.

"Sorcery," intriguingly, is pharmakeia in Greek, from which we derive our words "pharmacy" and "pharmaceutical." Diviners, enchanters, witches, and sorcerers employed drugs and other potions to put them or their clients "in the spirit" so their "magic" would work. The drugs, then, came to stand for sorcery of all kinds. For the same reason, drug use is part of the celebration among the more serious Halloween devotees today.

The Bible's teaching on this is consistent. Spiritism, the occult, is a form of idolatry, a kind of spiritual prostitution. Its end is separation from God and eventual destruction.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Halloween


 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God is urging us to make serious and deliberate choices to propel us toward the conclusion of His purpose. He requires us to commit and make decisions. In matters of morality, remaining neutral is not an option. The issues are sharply defined: obedience, disobedience; life, death; good, evil. He especially points out that He will not tolerate idolatry. Idols are useless vanities that people choose to submit to rather than the sovereign God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six


 

Joshua 2:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Symbolically, adultery is used to express unfaithfulness to God, and we can easily see this in Israel's idolatry. God is represented as the husband of His people. Ezekiel 16:15-59 gives a graphic description of Israel's spiritual adultery, and Hosea 1:1-2 shows the same symbolism in Hosea's marriage. We can fall into spiritual adultery by relying on the world and its false teaching rather than God.

Martin G. Collins
The Seventh Commandment


 

Joshua 23:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In the intervening years, from the time that Levi came into Egypt with his father Jacob, the Israelites had forgotten about God. They had given up their monotheism, their worship of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, they had copied the people of the land and began worshipping the gods of Egypt (their progenitors had also done so in other lands). Regarding this same period of time, Ezekiel says:

Say to them, "Thus says the Lord GOD: 'On the day when I chose Israel and raised My hand in an oath to the descendants of the house of Jacob, and made Myself known to them. . . .'" (Ezekiel 20:5)

Remember this phrase, "made Myself known to them." Had they forgotten Him in Egypt? Yes, they had. They did not know God any longer. Just a few did, like Amram and Jochebed, who retained the religion, the worship of God.

"'...and made Myself known to them in the land of Egypt, I raised [lifted] My hand in an oath to them, saying, "I am the LORD your God." On that day I raised [lifted] My hand in an oath to them, to bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, "flowing with milk and honey," the glory of all lands. Then I said to them, "Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the LORD your God." But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said, "I will pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt."'" (Ezekiel 20:5-8)

The Sabbath was forgotten. We know that circumcision was also forgotten because of what happened in the wilderness and when Joshua took them into the land. In the wilderness, they had to circumcise the men. Why were not they already circumcised? Because they had forgotten the covenant that God had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Instead, they adopted the religions of Egypt and were worshipping false gods and participating in heathen festivals.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Conviction and Moses


 

Judges 6:25-28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first thing God had Gideon do was destroy the altar, the place of worship, the false gods, and the false teachings. If there is a false god, the teaching will not be correct. If God's people do not have the right teaching, they cannot develop in His image! It takes a true minister, speaking the truth of God for people to be prepared in the image of God. As long as a false god is before them, they will be going in the wrong direction! The prophet Ezekiel points out in Ezekiel 20 that it was idolatry and Sabbath-breaking that caused Israel to go into captivity. The same pattern of sin repeats itself throughout its history.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unity (Part 1): God and HWA


 

1 Kings 3:5-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Did anyone ever have such a good start as Solomon? Perhaps the outstanding thing was his attitude when he asked this of God. Commentators feel that he was somewhere around twenty years old when this occurred. His youthfulness shows in what he felt about himself in relation to what had become his responsibility. He says, "I am a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in." In other words, "I don't know how to conduct the affairs of office. I feel that I am not adequate to do the job that has been given to me."

He began with such promise, and maybe most of all was that wonderful attitude. It was childlike. He was humble, willing to listen, willing to be admonished and commanded by God. This is why God responded as He did.

Jesus Christ said, "To whom much is given, much is required." Very few have ever been given as much as Solomon had. So, he is an excellent study case of one who neglected his gifts in favor of something of lesser value. The cause of his fall is here summarized in I Kings 11:1-10.

Solomon had very special evidence of God's love. There are four examples of this:

  1. He was chosen king contrary to the normal custom. He was hand-picked to do the job. Had the normal custom been followed, Adonijah would have been made king, but it fell to Solomon instead. Of course, God is the one who sets kings up and puts them down, and He chose Solomon to succeed David.
  2. He was given a change of name. Just like Abram's name was changed to Abraham, Jacob's name was changed to Israel, and Saul's name was changed to Paul, people who went through unusual experiences sometimes receive a name change to reflect the change that had occurred in their lives. Solomon's name was "Jedidiah," which means "beloved of the LORD." His name was a special assignment to him—someone that God really smiled upon.
  3. He received every benefit imaginable: understanding, wisdom, wealth, and power. Of course, the Bible indicates that these things flowed from God—for his benefit and the nation's.
  4. Twice he was visited by God—for encouragement and admonishment.

In addition, he had clear evidence of God's power working directly for him. Solomon was put on the throne in the face of the entrenched political power of the day, represented by Adonijah and particularly Joab. When David died, the most influential person in the nation was not a member of David's immediate family. It was Joab. In the face of Joab's support of Adonijah, however, Solomon still became king. Obviously, God manipulated things to put him on the throne.

He was also granted unparalleled, unchallenged power and prestige as a king. People came from all the nations to admire Solomon, his wisdom, his building projects, and his wealth. All these visitors gave all the credit to Solomon. In reality, the Bible shows that God's power was working on Solomon's behalf to produce these things.

He was given success in all of his endeavors beyond what anyone could normally expect. Whether it was in botany, biology, building projects, wine, women, and song, Solomon hit the top of the charts in everything he did.

But Solomon also had a problem. He was distracted by his interest in women. He was a great man, but he had feet of clay and succumbed to idolatry. Now, this did not happen overnight but by degrees. He never openly renounced God, but neither was he ever very devoted either.

It is reminiscent of II Thessalonians 2 and the man of sin. Apostasy is taking place, and God says that He was going to allow delusion to come upon people, a "blindness" to occur. A similar thing happened to Solomon. When we add what is taught in II Thessalonians, we find that the blindness is, in reality, self-imposed.

God did not make Solomon blind, and He will not make the people spoken of in II Thessalonians 2 blind either. But, because of their behavior, neither will He stop their progression towards it. It is not that the people utterly refuse to accept truth—just as Solomon never renounced God. The problem is that they do not love it!

The problem is one of dedication. What was Solomon dedicated to? He was not dedicated to God for very long after his good beginning. He was dedicated to his projects—to building Jerusalem, the Temple, his home, botanical gardens—things that only expanded his overwhelming vanity.

He ignored what God said in Deuteronomy 17, and that was sin. Unfortunately, unlike David, Solomon did not have the spiritual resources to recover from what he did. David recovered when he sinned because he had a relationship with God. Even though he sinned, he would bounce back from it in repentance.

I Kings 11:4 says that Solomon "clung to" his wives. Normally, that would be good. A man should cling or cleave to his wife. Solomon, though, cleaved to the wrong women, and his attachment to them led him astray. As he tolerated their worship of other gods right in his home, his resistance wore down, and he became increasingly vulnerable. Before long, he was participating in the worship of their gods. Once he was accustomed to it, it wore away his loyalty as each compromise made the next step easier. His vanity deceived him into feeling that his strength and resolve were so great that he would not fall. But he did, and he paid a bitter price.

One of the deceptive aspects to what Solomon did is something that any of us could fall prey to. It does not have to be foreign women or something like an all-consuming hobby. Religion, however, especially entrapped him through his wives.

Virtually every religion uses similar terminology. Every Christian sect uses the terms "born again," "salvation," "saved," and "redemption." We could add "justification," "mercy," "kindness," "forgiveness," and "grace." All Western religions (and maybe now even some of these New Age religions) share some of the same terminology, but the theology behind the terms is radically different.

In Solomon's day, the religions of Ashtoreth, Molech, Baal, Chemosh, and the other false gods used terminology very similar to what was being used in Israel, but the theology was vastly different. This is what trapped Solomon. Once a comfortable syncretism is accepted, God is gradually neglected and idolatry is adopted. Thomas Jefferson is credited with saying, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." This is just as true in regard to religion as it is to civil liberty under a government.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 5)


 

1 Kings 11:4-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that this occurred when he was old and his heart had almost stopped following the Lord. He did go after the Lord, but he did it in a haphazard way. Solomon is perhaps the most vivid example of a Laodicean in the entirety of the Bible (Revelation 3:14-22).

His downfall began with laxity toward being careful about keeping God's commands regarding idolatry. Laxity is the first stage of lawlessness. The more lax he became, the more double-minded he became. A double minded person loses his grip. It is like trying to grasp two different objects in one's hands. If one is not really sure which he wants to hang onto, and his mind is playing back and forth between them, his grip will loosen on one or the other, because he will want to let go of the one in order to secure the other, if he feels he has a better chance with the other.

In Solomon's case, it is his mental, spiritual grip that is suspect. He gradually came to the place where he was not really hanging onto anything but straddling between choices. This made him become increasingly unstable, unsettled, and even deceitful until he became completely reintegrated into the world. He began to be moved almost entirely by human nature once again.

Why is the first commandment listed first? It is the most important of all the commandments. God wants to draw special attention to it because it is the one that is also most easily broken.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Deception, Idolatry and the Feast of Tabernacles


 

1 Kings 11:9-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These three verses reveal that idolatry came to dominate Solomon's relationship with God. Also, they lead into the story of Jeroboam. What Jeroboam did had something to do with the holy days and idolatry. Notice in verse 11 God says, "Because you have done this and have not kept My covenant and My statutes." The holy days are statutes. Could Solomon keep the holy days of God and worship Milcom and Chemosh? Would they not have holy days too? Something syncretistic was going on here.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Deception, Idolatry and the Feast of Tabernacles


 

1 Kings 12:26-33  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The religion of Israel began with a man, Jeroboam I, who changed the true worship of God.

• He established a feast in the eighth month to replace the true Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh.
• He may have replaced the Sabbath with Sunday worship.
• He replaced the Levitical priesthood with men of his own choosing.
• Lastly, he replaced God with golden calves in Bethel and Dan.

A religion with such a beginning was doomed to fail, bringing the nation down with it.

When religion is ungodly, its power is destructive, and every institution in the nation suffers. For instance, Amos 2:7 describes a deliberate act of ritual prostitution in a pagan temple: "A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile My holy name." What was the rationale behind this perverse, immoral act?

Because Baal was neither alive nor a moral force, his worshippers felt they could communicate with him only by ritual actions that portrayed what they were asking him to do. Since Baal was, like almost all ancient deities, a fertility god, the human act of intercourse demonstrated that they wanted Baal to prosper them. But what was its real effect on the participants and the nation? Ritual prostitution only served to erode the family, eventually leading to the destruction of the nation.

Baal was different from his adherents merely in that he was above them. God's difference from us is that He is holy; He is moral and we are immoral. After we accept His calling, He commands us to become moral as He is.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

2 Kings 17:5-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

II Kings 17:7-17 catalogs the sins of Israel:

» Widespread idolatry. Israel "feared other gods" (verse 7). "They built for themselves high places in all their cities . . . . They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree; and there they burned incense on all the high places, as the nations had done whom the LORD had carried away before them." (verses 9-11). Further, they "followed idols, became idolaters, and . . . made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal" (verses 15-16).

» Pagan Religious Practices. The Israelites "caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger" (verse 17).

» Rejection of God's Law. Israel "walked in the statutes of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel." (verse 8). Verse 15 points out that the people "rejected [God's] statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them." The prophet Amos particularizes the epidemic of social injustice in the Kingdom of Israel. As an example, notice Amos 2:6-7, where Amos chides the Israelites: ". . . because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble." The Israelites displayed a pandemic failure to love their fellow man.

II Kings 17:5-6 relates the ultimate consequence.

Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. . . . The king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

Assyria, a kingdom known as much for its innovative weapons as for their brutal implementation, conquered the Kingdom of Israel in 718 BC. So it was that, about 250 years after it was established, the ten-tribed northern kingdom became extinct as a sovereign nation. The Assyrians deported the population en masse from its homeland in Canaan, transplanting it virtually in toto to the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. The Kingdom of Israel fell below the historian's radar.

Charles Whitaker
Searching for Israel (Part Six): Israel Is Fallen, Is Fallen


 

2 Kings 17:25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The circumstances are a little bit vague. Whatever the case, these people were not well received by the remaining inhabitants of the land—lions—which started killing them off. As a result, the people wanted to know how to propitiate the gods of the land, which is what the Gentiles did in their idolatries. They felt that, if they could propitiate the local gods, they would chase the lions away, and the people would then be able to live in the land. They turned to their pagan religion to get rid of the lions.

They appealed to the king of Assyria, who sent back an Israelite priest (verse 27). He, in his misunderstanding and deception, decided that a priest from the land would know how to propitiate the god of the land, and the lions problem would go away. All the people needed was to be taught how to worship the gods of that area.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 15)


 

2 Kings 17:33  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This chapter reports on the behavior of the people placed in Israel after Israel's conquest and deportation by Assyria between 722-720 BC. These people, who became known as the Samaritans, feared the Lord but worshipped their own gods. They were afraid of God, but they did not really change their way of life. Thus, they developed a syncretic religious system, a blending of the truth of God and outright paganism. The Jews of Christ's day clearly recognized this putrid blend and despised the Samaritans for it.

What is so interesting is that, by verse 36, God is no longer reporting on the Samaritans but is addressing Israel. In other words, God is saying that He was driven to defeat and scatter Israel because they were guilty of exactly the same sin as the Samaritans! They too had blended the worship of the true God with outright paganism, utterly corrupting the relationship He had established with them.

It is urgent that we understand what is involved here because it reveals the cause of God's anger that led to Israel's defeat and scattering. We must understand that our god is not what we say we worship but what we serve. Our god is what we give our lives over to.

Theoretically, the Israelites did not believe in idols, but in reality, they did. They believed in a Creator God, but they worshipped Him at the shrines they erected to the Baals. While they gave lip service to the Creator, they adopted most of the Canaanitish religion with its lewd immorality, and in actual practice, patterned their life after it. In daily life, they conformed to and reflected the Babylonish system just as Israel does today. This is exactly what God warns us to flee, and the only way to come out of it is by developing and maturing in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

2 Chronicles 33:2-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Under this wicked king, Judah became worse than all of those whom the Lord had destroyed before the children of Israel—the Canaanites, the Hivites, the Hittites. He seduced Judah into brazen idolatry and destroyed all of Hezekiah's good works. He used astrology, spiritism, wizardry, human sacrifice, erection of idol groves—and yet he repented in captivity. But apparently, he was not allowed to be buried with the kings. Despite all of his wickedness, he, too, is on the list of Jesus' ancestors in Matthew 1.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Three Kings Are Missing From Matthew 1


 

Ezra 10:10-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This breaking up of whole families, many of whom had perhaps been living happily together for many years, was a drastic but necessary step. Ezra, who seemed to have God-given insight into the divine plan, understood what had to be done and the reasons for it.

The spiritual reasons are, of course, the most important. God says many times in the Pentateuch that intermarriage with pagans is spiritually dangerous (see, for instance, Deuteronomy 7:1-4). It was far more likely that, rather than the heathen spouses being won over to the worship of Israel's God, they would influence their sons and daughters to worship idols. If this were to happen frequently, Israel would soon be entirely idolatrous.

Although there is a bit of physical purity involved in this, God's demands are not for reasons of racial superiority but because He had a purpose for Israel - and the most important purpose is Jesus Christ. To fulfill the prophecies of the promised Seed, He had to be directly descended from Abraham through Judah, Jesse, and David, and because of a curse on Jeconiah (Jeremiah 22:24-30), He could not descend from that wicked king's bloodline. Only these particular circumstances could fulfill the prophecies and establish His righteous claim as the Messiah. Thus, Ezra's action was taken in large part to preserve David's line in preparation for Jesus' birth.

In addition, God wanted Israel to be a holy and separate nation (see Leviticus 19:1-2; Deuteronomy 14:2; 26:19; 28:9). The Israelites were to retain as many of their distinguishing traits and practices as He had given them at the beginning, and they could do this only as long as they remained separate from other nations. In this way, they could be the model nation, a people others would want to emulate, not because of any so-called racial purity or superiority, but because the true God was their God.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Why Israel? (Part Two)


 

Nehemiah 9:13-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The record is clear. Israel rejected God and His way right from the beginning of their relationship. They not only rejected Him and His way but also became a major vehicle for facilitating the spread of the false ways of the heathen all over the world. Modern Israel has followed the same path as her ancestors. As Israel migrated into and through northwestern Europe and settled into the lands God had set aside for them, becoming wealthy, she has given the world a poisonous cultural brew to drink, influencing them through the power of her example. She has the wealth to enable her people to export it to other nations for their consumption and inevitable emulation.

God calls Israel's sins "fornication" because sexual sins are the most common way unfaithfulness in marriage is revealed to the public. Everybody can relate to it. However, the real spiritual sin behind all these sexual terms is gross idolatry. Israel simply did whatever she wanted to do, whenever and however she wanted to do it. The harlotry implied is clearly the breaking of the terms of the marriage covenant. Her harlotry is unfaithfulness and disloyalty, which are spiritual in nature. Her sin is primarily idolatry, but all other sins are included.

Israelites were unfaithful in conducting business both domestically and internationally, unfaithful in managing God's great, green earth, unfaithful in forgetting who their great blessings came from, and unfaithful in the way they treated one another in their personal marriages.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Seven): How Can Israel Be the Great Whore?


 

Nehemiah 9:15-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Nehemiah's prayer to God shows a legal description of what literally happened in real life and real times. He uses an economy of words. There are many things he could have gone into in great and specific detail, but he gives an overview of how they turned away from the one way that God showed to them.

This is what modern nations have done. This is what Israel has given the world to drink, influencing them through the power of our example, because we have had the wealth to enable us to provide it for them to consume, and thus they desire too to emulate us in our gross idolatry.

The sexual designation of what is written of her sin is used because sexual sins are the most common and the most disgusting way that unfaithfulness in marriage is shown to the public. Everybody can relate to it. However, the real spiritual sin behind all of these sexual terms is gross idolatry—idolatry on a massive, nationwide scale of people who should have known better. Israel simply did whatever it wanted to do, when and as it wanted to do it. Its harlotry is clearly the breaking of the terms of the marriage covenant. The harlotry is unfaithfulness, disloyalty. It is spiritual in nature. It is primarily idolatry, but all other sins are encompassed within the term "idolatry."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

Psalm 10:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is of major concern because the first commandment is the most important. A proper understanding of—and thus obedience to—the other nine depends largely on this one.

This does not mean "the wicked" never thinks of God. He may even "belong" to a church and attend fairly regularly. He is not an atheist, but he does not fear God. He has no regard for Him and may in fact purposefully avoid Him. This person has conveniently chosen to live without God except to meet society's conventions. He is effectively worshipping himself.

This nation has more and more frequently been led by men and women answering to this description. They have been largely responsible for impressing their concepts upon society, which has been swept along in absorbing their ideas. People may still frequently talk about God, but He is not feared and obeyed. Idolatry is doing its damage, and reaping of the whirlwind is not far off.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Psalm 115:3-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Once we get past the context of the times in which this psalm was written, its instruction becomes clear. In those days, idols of stone, wood, and metal fashioned into the form of an angel, man, beast, or half-man/half-beast were common. People worshipped before these figures and tried to conform their lives to what they thought its will was. The lesson is that a man can rise no higher or be no stronger than his idol. An idol—anything worshipped that is not the Creator God—is inadequate. It can do nothing to improve what the man is.

Compare this to those who allow their admiration for an athlete, entertainer, or politician to slide into idolatry. What are they worshipping? Just another frail and fallible human being. Conforming to their idol's way may earn them notoriety within their peer group or community—it may even earn them a great deal of money. In this life, they could even become "greater" than their idol, but in the end, what and where are they? They are still just frail and fallible human beings just like the one they worshipped. Worshipping anything less than God does not enable us to rise above being merely human.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Worship God?


 

Isaiah 1:4  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse says the same thing in more detail as what Peter writes in Acts 3:19: "Repent." That is how the breach, the separation, between God and man will be healed. That is how atonement is made. Atonment is not all something that Christ does. There will never be oneness with God until man does something with his free moral agency.

The problem in Isaiah 1 is a hypocritical people just going through the motions. They were observing the rituals: burning incense, making the sacrifices. Yet, at the same time, their daily lives were filled with all kinds of unlawful acts—business shenanigans—that, according to God's law, is taking advantage of others. They were lying about the weights and balances, selling shoddy products, and as a rule, not conducting business in an upright way. They were murdering one another's reputations through gossip, and lying to one another using charm and deceit. God is saying that there lives were full of hypocrisy.

In the same way, people who today claim to be children of God, who attended Sabbath services and holy days yet have a heart full of greed, covetousness, anger, hatred, bitterness, envy, and so on, are simply hypocrites.

As it pertains to us, what we see in Isaiah is that there must be a relationship between worshipping God and our character in its practical aspect out on the streets, in our homes, in the way that we conduct business. We might say our character away from church, out of the eyesight of God's people, must reflect what we profess to believe. How can those who treat their fellows with contempt, greed, envy, jealousy, anger, hatred, and revenge, do those things through the week and then come to church services before God, thinking that somehow or another they are not separated from Him? God says in Matthew 5, "If you have something against your brother, leave your gift at the alter and then first go to your brother and be reconciled, and then come back because the gift will not be accepted." That is quite plain.

Because of all these things, God treated His people Israel in the same way as pagan idols treated their worshippers. Remember, the idols are not alive; they do not have ears that can hear, eyes that can see, or mouths that enable them to speak. So idol worshippers made their lamentations, their prayers, and their praises to their idols, and the idol never responded. God says, "I am going to be just like an idol to you. When you talk to me, I am not going to talk to you, and when you look at me, I am not going to look back at you. I am not going to see you." So in this way, He became as one who is dumb and deaf. He did not respond to their prayers.

It is essential to note that God, in His wisdom, knew before creating mankind that mankind would sin. If there were to be both reconciliation and character building, He would have to provide a means that would not only satisfy the legal requirements, but also contain within it the moral and spiritual influences that would motivate a man to cooperate on his own.

We play a major part in this because God has given us free moral agency. By and large, the Protestant world has convinced Americans, Canadians, and Western Europeans that Christ did it all for us. It is a bald-faced lie! But sometimes, we who know better act as though it all depended on God. God gave us free-moral agency so that we can respond to Him, put His word into practice, and exemplify before others what God is like.

It would be nice to say that we live lives like Christ so much that we could say of ourselves what Christ said: "If you have seen me, you have seen the Father." There is a Person who was really at one with God.

What God is trying to do with the things that He has provided—namely, the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of His Holy Spirit—is to motivate man to repent—to change, to turn to God, to resist the desire to continue in sin—to work at building character and learn to live by faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Isaiah 1:10-17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Isaiah 1:10-17 chronicles the time before Ezra and Nehemiah when Judah observed the feasts, yet in a wrong spirit and with reprehensible conduct. Isaiah preached this to the Jews about one hundred years before they went into captivity to Babylon.

This is a clear indictment of their spirit and attitude, advancing strong proof of why God later said through Ezekiel that Israel and Judah went into captivity because of idolatry and Sabbath-breaking (Ezekiel 20:12-21).

There is no reason to believe that, just because God says "your" new moons and "your" feasts, they were not the ones He appointed, at least in name. He could rightly call them "your feasts" because their keeping of them was so abominable that they bore no resemblance to His intent in commanding them to be observed. They were completely discordant with His character, as the listing of their sins shows.

He calls their giving of offerings, which were part of the spiritual aspects of keeping the feasts, vain and trampling His courts. He designates their prayers as an abomination, and their keeping of the feasts wearying to Him. Clearly, He had "had it up to here" with their Sabbath and festival observances. Have we examined our conduct recently in relation to our attitudes, approaches, and expectations for the Feast?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles


 

Isaiah 2:5-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Isaiah 2:5-20 mentions a number of idolatries that are just as present in our society today as they were Isaiah's time. Enslaved by the superstition of astrology, they were more concerned about what the omens read than the judgment of God (verse 6). They craved the power of money and the recognition and influence it drew, and took enormous pride in their military, political, and economic sway in the world (verse 7). They worshipped "the work of their own hands" (verse 8).

The underlying motivation for these idolatries is exposed in verses 11: "The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down" (see verses 12, 17). Pride brings forth idolatry, and its destruction is idolatry's cure. Pride elevates its owner to find God and His ways as unnecessary, too restrictive, boring, or beneath his intelligence, station, or needs. It leads him to choose his own way, be his own man, and do his own thing according to his judgment. In short, even if a person of pride knows of God's way, he will not submit to worship God in the way He wants.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Isaiah 40:12-31  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Making and worshipping an idol is foolishness and a lie, because a manmade image can never truthfully represent the Eternal God. For a son of God, worshipping idols is irrational (Acts 17:29); to look to something physical as important or more important than God defies all wisdom. The way the world looks to physical objects is superstition (e.g., good luck charms, religious crosses, shrines).

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Isaiah 41:21-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Many people have made science and technology into idols, believing that with just the right amount of research, funding, time, and a little luck, they can solve all of mankind's problems. God's answer is clear: "You are nothing, and your work is nothing." He challenges them to produce, knowing that their attempts are futile and doomed.

They may indeed "do good or do evil" to some degree, but we should not be overly concerned. God sees their work, and He will send His Son to establish the Kingdom of God on earth before they can do massive, irreversible harm. Then, in His wrath He will direct His armies to "destroy those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:18).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Fooling With the Code


 

Isaiah 43:6-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We who bear the name of God are witnesses that our God is God. What do our lives declare about God? If we who bear His name fail to live up to that name's reputation, we break the third commandment and profane the name of God. We hallow or profane God's name by our conduct, no matter what member of our body errs. This commandment tests the quality of our witness. It changes hypocrisy from merely "bearing false witness" to idolatry, for which God holds the offender guilty, for He sees what men may miss in judgment.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Third Commandment (1997)


 

Isaiah 58:13-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

On this passage, commentator Matthew Henry writes:

On sabbath days we must not walk in our own ways (that is, not follow our callings), not find our own pleasure (that is, not follow our sports and recreations); nay, we must not speak our own words, words that concern either our callings or our pleasures; we must not allow ourselves a liberty of speech on that day as on other days, for we must then mind God's ways, make religion the business of the day; we must choose the things that please him; and speak his words, speak of divine things as we sit in the house and walk by the way. In all we say and do we must put a difference between this day and other days.

At the heart of Sabbath-breaking is idolatry, having other gods before the true God (Exodus 20:3). The basic, physical manifestation of idolatry is the worship of idols—graven images, statues, etc.—but its spiritual manifestation is much more subtle and dangerous. It is putting anything above God: money, a job, a house, or even a spouse! If anything becomes more important than God, idolatry is committed. Thus, if in the weekly observance of the Sabbath we do anything that becomes more important to us than our relationship with God, we have broken the Sabbath and committed idolatry. It could be said that idolatry is at the heart of all sin, as our willingness to esteem something higher than God and His way of life causes us to sin.

We must make a very real distinction between the Sabbath and the other days. The Sabbath was "made for man," as Christ points out (Mark 2:27), but that does not mean mankind has the authority to use it for his own purposes—rather, God made it on man's behalf, for his benefit. The seventh day still belongs to God, and He shares it with those whom He has called and sanctified. We have a key responsibility in esteeming the Sabbath in our conduct, in our conversations, in our attitudes, and even in our thoughts. By entering into this covenant with God, we have been entrusted with the knowledge and significance of this day, but we have also been warned, as stewards of God's truth, to be very careful with it.

David C. Grabbe
It's Not Our Time


 

Jeremiah 10:1-5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Jeremiah 10:1-5 reveals a principle that we need to consider in terms of Halloween. The context is the heathen practice of idolatry. In this sense, it is ironic that Halloween comes primarily from the Celts, descendants of the Israelites.

God commands us not to learn the way of the Gentiles, the nations who do not have the revelation of God. The Israelites were different from all the nations chiefly because God had revealed Himself to them and given them His law (Deuteronomy 4:5-8; Amos 3:1-2). The Gentiles invented their own futile, meaningless ways of worship because they did not have the truth.

This is the first reason why we should not keep Halloween. It adds nothing good, that is, nothing of God or godliness, to our character. Being devoid of God's truth, it is simply worthless and a waste of time.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Halloween


 

Jeremiah 14:22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is an example of the connection between idolatry and rain, saying that idols are powerless to control the heavens, yet it is an easy thing for God (see I Kings 18:20-46). The signs that we see (rain being given in due season or no rain being sent when it is necessary) can indeed be blessings or warnings from God. Only God is able to manipulate these things to these ends. We should not take these things lightly. Jeremiah's words here are very pointed.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

Jeremiah 17:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A person breaks the second commandment when he exalts himself against God by trusting in his own or another's reasoning and lives that way rather than the way God ordained and commanded. Too often, the heart is easily led to satisfy its own desires rather than follow revealed knowledge. But God faithfully searches and tests our hearts to rid us of all idolatries so we will follow His way as closely as possible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Jeremiah 17:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This verse is among the best known of all verses in the Bible. Though we know the words, could we perhaps not grasp some of the depth of what Jeremiah is trying to convey, particularly its practical, everyday application?

It is interesting that the Hebrew word translated "deceitful" (Strong's #6121) comes from exactly the same root as the name "Jacob" (which gives a bit of insight into the mindset of that famous Bible character in his pre-conversion days - God has a habit of naming things what they are). This word is used only three times in the Old Testament. It indicates "a swelling," "a humping up," and thus a knoll or small hill.

When used in relation to traits of human personality, it describes an inflated, prideful vanity, a characteristic that is distastefully useless, corrupting, and intensely self-serving. According to Strong's, it also indicates something fraudulent or crooked. In other words, it suggests an intentional perversion of truth intended to induce another to surrender or give up something of value. What Jacob twice did to Esau gives a good idea of its practical meaning.

Today, we might say our heart is always attempting to "con" us into something that is not good for us in any way. Its inducements may indeed appear attractive on the surface, but further examination would reveal that its appeals are fraudulent and risky. In fact, its appeals are not only downright dangerous, it is incurably set in this way.

In Jeremiah 17:9, the Hebrew word is translated "deceitful," but in the other two usages, it is translated "corrupted" and "polluted." This word should give us a clear indication of what God thinks of this mind that is generating our slippery, self-serving conduct and attitudes. In His judgment, it is foul in every sense, to be considered as belonging in a moral sewer or septic tank.

The King James translators chose to use "deceitful," and since it is a good synonym, just about every modern translation has followed its lead. Deceit is a cognate of deceive, which means "to mislead," "to cheat," "to give a false appearance or impression," "to lead astray," "to impose a false idea," and finally, "to obscure the truth." "Deceitful" thus indicates the heart to be brim-full of these horrible activities.

The term "desperately" (Strong's #605) also needs definition. It indicates something so weak, feeble, and frail as to be at the point of death. Thus, most modern translations, including the KJV margin, have opted for "incurable." Elsewhere, God calls it "a heart of stone," as if rigor mortis has already set in despite it still being alive. In other words, nothing can be done about it, as it is set in a pattern of influence that cannot be changed for the better. God promises, then, that He will give those He calls a new heart, a heart of flesh, one that will yield to Him and His way of life.

It is good to understand all these descriptors, but they only give us what amounts to book-learning on this vital topic. It is what its problems are in everday, practical situations that makes God so dead set against it that He declares it "incurable." It cannot be fixed to His satisfaction and is therefore unacceptable for His Family Kingdom.

We can understand why from this brief illustration: What are the two great commandments of the law? First: We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38). In other words, we are to love Him above all other things. We are to respond to God's wonderful, generous love toward us with a love that employs all of our faculties to match His love toward us.

Jesus says in Luke 14:26, "If any one comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." Do we grasp the practical application of this? He means that we are to make whatever sacrifice is necessary, even to giving up our lives, to submit in obedience to any, even the least, of God's commands. If at any time we put ourselves on equal footing to Him, we have actually elevated ourselves over Him and have committed idolatry.

The second great commandment is to love others as ourselves (Matthew 22:39). Though not quite as stringent as the first, it still is a very high standard. Jesus says that on these two commandments everything else in our response to God hangs (verse 40). Love and law are inextricably bound together in our relationship with God.

Yet, herein lies the problem. Keeping them is impossible for man as he now is, encumbered with this deceitful heart. Our heart will not permit us to do this because it is so self-centered it absolutely cannot consistently obey either of these commandments. Thus, no character of any value to God's Kingdom can be created in one with a heart as deceitful and out of control as an unconverted person. It is incurably self-centered, self-absorbed, and narcissistic in its concerns about life's activities.

This deceit has many avenues of expression, but none is more effective than to convince us we are far better than we actually are - but far better as compared to what or whom? Our hearts have an incredible ability to hide us from the reality of what we are spiritually and morally. It does this so effectively that it can harden us to the extent that we can be blinded to any and every failing in our character! It lures us into sin, hiding its seriousness from us and making us believe it to be a rather minor affair. It convinces us that "nobody got hurt" or "everybody's doing it."

In Hebrews 3:12-13, Paul issues a warning just as applicable today as it was in the first century: "Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called 'Today,' lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.'" Sin promises more than it can deliver. It assures us of pleasures it never imparts. Sometimes it does deliver some pleasure, but it conceals the boomerang effect that will surely come. It also obscures its addictive power, invariably leading us beyond our original limits. When we first sin a specific sin, we are under delusion, and it will lead us step by step until we are enslaved to it.

It can put on plausible appearances, even the mantle of virtue, convincing us we are doing ourselves and others a favor. Sin deludes us with hope of happiness, but what does the gambler feel when he loses his bankroll, or the drunkard after he is burdened with a death caused by his drunk driving, or the fornicator who discovers he has AIDS, or the adulterer who must live with the fact that he has destroyed a marriage and family?

Human nature will generate any number of excuses - self-justifications, really - to avoid any sacrifice, no matter how small, or to admit any guilt that might damage its self-assessment of its value. It sometimes manages to produce narcissism so strong that all activity must have it as the center of the universe, and it will work hard to make sure it controls virtually everything. Pride and self-gratification are its driving impulses.

By insisting on "tolerance" over the last several decades, human nature has deceitfully managed to produce an open-minded acceptance of what was once commonly known to be sinful behavior. It has succeeded by maintaining that no absolutes exist regarding conduct, thus one morality is just as good as another. The nation has been bulldozed into accepting this deceitful concept by cooperative media, good-looking celebrities, savvy politicians, and liberal judges.

Thus, a polite, secular paganism has overtaken our nation, and many have become convinced that the gods and ways of the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Taoists, occultists, or whatever religionists are all the same. In one way, they are correct. They all do have the same god, but it is not the God of the true Christian religion and the Bible, One who adamantly insists on purity, chastity, and integrity of life in harmony with His commands.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Two)


 

Jeremiah 25:5-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"The works of your hands" indicates something that comes from man's mind, not the Creator's. Their gods were their own creation, even as their standards were their assessment of right and wrong. Regardless of how men approached life, whether religious or irreligious, atheistic or agnostic, their gods and standards came from minds not in contact with the true God.

This has interesting and devastating ramifications. The nature of idolatry is such that its effect is more subtle than with other sins. The trauma it produces is usually obscured by the penalties brought on by other sins that spring from the original idolatry. Sometimes, the penalty comes so much later that it is virtually impossible for the carnal mind to connect it to the idolatry that began the process.

But the effect of breaking commandment number one is to break number two. Once a person is no longer worshipping the Creator, he must put something else in His place. Man will worship something, and as we have seen, what he worships is almost invariably himself! Even when he is worshipping the works of his hands, he is worshipping himself because he created his idol.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Ezekiel 8:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The branch He mentions is probably an Asherah, a tree or a wooden pole that stood for the fertility goddess. It was essentially a phallic symbol. God says that their wickedness was the same as sticking that idol (and what they were doing) right in His nose—right in His face.

However, we need to understand that they were committing their idolatry in private. In their minds, they thought it did not make any difference; it was not hurting anyone. If nobody could see them doing it, they thought, "Hey, I'm getting away with the perfect crime. I can have my cake and eat it too. I can go to the Temple and look like I'm really somebody in the community. But, you see, here in the dark nobody sees me bowing down and worshipping these idols."

Does it make any difference? It makes a great difference to God! He was offended by what was going on. In this context, these people were in captivity because of what they were doing—it was a matter of cause and effect. What they sowed earned captivity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Every Action Has a Reaction


 

Ezekiel 16:13-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice that, though described as a woman, she is in reality a nation that other nations admire. Israel's marriage to God bound her to keep His laws (Exodus 19:8), but she was not faithful. Harlotry entered the relationship. From this point on in the relationship, her harlotry—the fornication and adultery of the woman—is either implied or directly stated in virtually every remaining verse in Ezekiel 16.

The liberal Interpreter's Bible Commentary says that Israel is portrayed as a wife who became a pagan temple-prostitute. That is a possibility, but the conservative commentaries seem to be more correct. She is portrayed as an unfaithful wife whose faithlessness is displayed in a far wider range of activities than just worship. Israel, the nation and wife, is unfaithful in every area and activity of life in which a faithful wife/nation would normally be involved.

Her sins are described in sexual terms because sexual sins are the most common way infidelity in marriage is shown to the public. Everybody can relate to it. Despite the commands of her Husband, Israel simply did whatever she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it, and how she wanted to do it. Amidst the business of daily life, she simply ignored or completely forgot the vows of faithfulness given in former years to God.

The harlotry implied is clearly the breaking of the terms of the marriage covenant. Her harlotry is unfaithfulness, disloyalty, and is primarily spiritual in nature. The most ruinous spiritual sin behind these sexual terms is gross idolatry, but all other sins are included. Israel was unfaithful in managing God's green earth and in conducting business both domestically and internationally. She revealed her infidelity in the wreckage of millions of her citizen's marriages and child-training practices. She showed herself faithless when her people lied to, stole from, lusted after, and murdered each other. She proved herself to be disloyal and ungrateful by forgetting from whom came her great blessings and worshipping things made rather than the Creator who made them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Five): The Great Harlot


 

Ezekiel 16:14-63  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are obviously dealing with a marriage relationship between God and Jerusalem, representing all of Israel. The woman Israel was not faithful, and harlotry entered the relationship. From verse 15 on, the marriage relationship described here, the harlotry, the fornication, and the adultery of the woman is either inferred or directly stated in virtually every verse in this long chapter. In one verse after another, God is telling how she committed harlotry and why.

The liberal Interpreter's Bible Commentary says, "Israel here is portrayed as a wife who became a pagan temple prostitute." That is a possibility, but I think the more conservative commentaries are more correct. She is portrayed as an unfaithful wife whose unfaithfulness is displayed in a far wider range of life and activities than just religious.

Israel—the nation and wife—is unfaithful in every area and activity of life that a faithful wife or nation would normally be involved in. The sexual orientation of what is written of her sin is used because sexual sins are the most common way unfaithfulness in marriage is shown to the public. It is something that everybody can relate to. However, the real spiritual sin behind all of these sexual terms is gross idolatry. Verse 59 says, "For thus says the Lord GOD; I will even deal with you as you have done, which have despised the oath in breaking the covenant." She broke the marriage covenant and became a harlot.

Israel simply did whatever she wanted to do, when she wanted to do it, and in the manner that she wanted. Her harlotry is clearly the breaking of the terms of the marriage covenant, and it is unfaithfulness, disloyalty, and spiritual in nature. It is primarily idolatry, but all other sins are included. Israel was unfaithful in conducting business, both domestically and internationally. Israel was unfaithful in managing God's great green earth; unfaithful in forgetting who her blessings came from; unfaithful in the way they treated one another in their personal marriages; unfaithful in their childrearing practices.

We all know that the relationship being described here is between God and Israel, and the marriage entered into was the Old Covenant proposed and ratified at Mount Sinai. What God proposed to Israel, and to us under the New Covenant, is an entire way of life. It is not just religion. It is everything that the church ought to be, the example and teacher of things that are right and true.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 5)


 

Ezekiel 20:1-7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Ezekiel 20:1 reveals that while the Jews were in their captivity, the elders came to seek answers from God. What were their questions? They can be ascertained only by God's reply. Overall, the questions seem to have been something similar to, "Why are we having all this trouble?" "What is the problem?" "When can we expect to return to Jerusalem?"

God's answer begins to take shape in verse 7, "Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes." The last phrase literally means "the delight of the eyes." "His eyes" must refer to the typical Israelite's eyes. Recall that the Israelites did what seemed right or pleasurable to them but not necessarily what was delightful to God. Since God commanded them to throw away what was a delight to them, we must understand, then, that "the delight of their eyes" was to God idolatry and rebellion.

That brief phrase contains two contrasting perspectives. It identifies what God had against them: their idolatry. The delight of their eyes was the idol that they looked at and gave their devotion to.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Ezekiel 20:3-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Perhaps no other chapter in the Bible shows as clearly as Ezekiel 20 the critical importance for the people of God to keep the Sabbath. Ezekiel does not record the question or questions the elders asked of God, but we can ascertain them from God's reply. They seem to have been something like, "Why are we having all this trouble? Why are we in captivity? When can we expect to return to Jerusalem?" God specifically names part of the problem when He says that He commanded them to get rid of "the abominations which were before their eyes." These things, obviously abominations to God, were a delight to the Israelites because they did not cast them away.

God clearly shows that part of the answer is that they were committing idolatry. In Ezekiel 20:12-13, He involves the Sabbath in their problems. Six times in this one chapter, God links idolatry and breaking the Sabbath as causes of their captivity. It is accurate to understand Sabbath breaking as just another form of idolatry. God gave the Sabbath to Israel and to us that we might know the true God, be sanctified, fulfill our purpose in witnessing of Him before the world, and be changed and inherit His Kingdom. Israel failed utterly. God cut them off, and they went back into slavery and captivity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Ezekiel 20:10-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

To God, idolatry and Sabbath-breaking go hand in hand. Sabbath-breaking is shown to be idolatry because the Israelites were either using it in idolatrous devotion to a false god or not keeping it at all.

The Sabbath was given so that Israel would know the true God, so that they could fulfill their purpose, which was to witness for God before the world, learn more of His purpose, and work to build character so that they could inherit God's Kingdom. They failed miserably and totally.

God accomplished His goal of bringing them into their own land only to uphold the reputation of His name. But what was the overall result? The Israelites in the wilderness died there (Hebrews 3:16—4:2). Their descendants failed in the same manner, so God cut them off and sent them into captivity and slavery.

Israel's history reveals that the Creator God is the Source of the Sabbath, and God's children have the responsibility to honor Him by keeping it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment


 

Ezekiel 20:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this passage, God consistently uses a word translated in the King James as "polluted" and in the New King James as "profaned." Pollute means "to defile." Polluted air and water are, to some degree, defiled, stained, poisoned, contaminated, foul. It can imply desecrated, violated, and profaned. Profane means "to treat with irreverence and disrespect." It means "to treat as common": Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday are common days of the week, whereas the Sabbath is holy. It is special, set apart.

So, what motivated these people to despise and to pollute His Sabbaths?

Proverbs 4:23 reads, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Jesus updates this in Matthew 15:19: "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, . . ." and about half a dozen other sins. Yet, just as surely as these evil things come out of the heart, so do good things.

God says through Ezekiel that they broke the Sabbath because their hearts went after their idols. Spiritually, an idol can be anything to which we give our time or attention to the detriment of our relationship with God. However, we must understand that idolatry forces a person to do its will rather than God's. If the heart goes after an idol, the rest of the body will follow the heart. The heart—the thinking and emotional processes—imposes its will on the hands, the eyes, the ears, the mouth, etc., and they just follow what the heart wills to do. If our hearts follow an idol, God says we will surely break the Sabbath.

The idol does not have to be the same for each person, but in relation to the Sabbath, the result is always the same: All or some part of the Sabbath day will be used as one pleases—pursuing one's own interests—rather than what God intends. This is why God says in Isaiah 58:13 that we should not speak one's own words on the Sabbath. When we are speaking our own words, our tongue is following after the idol. Undoubtedly, we sometimes do this ignorantly. For most of us, we know better, but our hearts are still going after our idols.

So we can reach a conclusion directly from God's own Word: Idolatry is at the foundation of Sabbath-breaking.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Ezekiel 20:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In verse 18, God speaks about not walking in "the statutes of your fathers, [and] . . . their judgments," which means, in this context, "Do not follow the choices of your parents." He makes this statement in relation to the Sabbath commandment to the second generation of those who came out of Egypt. The whole first generation, except for Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness, so as Ezekiel 20 opens, He is speaking to that generation. By verse 18, the context has shifted to the generation which went into the land, and He warns them against making the same bad choices as the previous generation.

No other people are more influential to children than parents, so He tells them to avoid making the same unsound judgments, particularly regarding Sabbath-breaking that so-called influential people have made in the past. He also tells them not to follow their idols. Why?

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4, 20)

God holds us individually responsible. Just because influential people, like parents or ministers, made judgments in the past on how to keep the Sabbath, does not mean they were correct. Each person is personally responsible to God to follow His laws as God gave them, not as someone has interpreted them. Just because we saw a minister say or do something regarding Sabbath-keeping does not necessarily mean he was. Maybe it was. Maybe it was not. We must judge the situation and come to our own conclusions. He will not accept the justification that we were just following what our parents or minister did. If they did what was right, fine; but if they did wrong, then we must have the character to keep it correctly, despite what they taught.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Ezekiel 20:23-26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Notice the emphasis on the personal pronoun "My." The source of the law or the values we submit to is the sovereign. This aids us greatly in determining whether idolatry is present and how our conscience will respond.

God forcefully contrasts His laws with pagan commands and practices. He clearly implies that those who submit to pagan commands are guilty of putting another god before the true God. The Israelites—in sincerity and a clear conscience, perhaps even fervently—brutally sacrificed their sweet and innocent firstborn in the fires to Molech, and all the while they were guilty of a horrible, vicious idolatry!

Today, we may not throw babies onto Molech's altar, but we abort 4,200 pregnancies a day, ending the lives of these potential members of God's Family in the name of free choice and self-concern. The law of the land permits this atrocity! If that is not idolatry, what is? What kind of morality, what religion, permits men to enact such heinous laws? People have become blinded by focusing on their own pleasure, failing to see even that murder is involved, let alone the idolatry. God's law nowhere permits such a depraved activity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Ezekiel 20:24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God specifically draws attention to idolatry and Sabbath-breaking as powerful irritants to His relationship with Israel. The Israelites began breaking these commandments right from the get-go in the wilderness, and they apparently never really understood what He wanted from them regarding them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Ezekiel 22:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Idolatry and Sabbath breaking are accusations directed squarely at leaders (specifically at the ministry) for poor leadership and failing to live and teach the things of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Ezekiel 23:36-39  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

What vile things these people were committing on God's holy Sabbath days! They worshipped idols, sacrificed their children, even burning them in the fire, and afterward, they presented themselves at the Temple services. That is horrifying! God specifically mentions that they did these things on the Sabbath—on His day. It shows how far idolatry will take a person, imposing its will on the actions of an individual.

We need to be very careful about this. These people were guilty of the common Israelitish sin of idolatry—syncretism, the blending of the world's way with God's way. God, of course, does not accept it as true worship. How could He? The Israelites would attend services, supposedly in honor and out of respect for the Creator God after killing their children in the fires of Molech!

In Ezekiel 20-23, where a brief overview of the relationship between God and Israel is presented, idolatry and profaning the Sabbath are specifically named nine times as the major reasons God drove Israel into captivity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Sabbathkeeping (Part 1)


 

Hosea 1:2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The book of Hosea's dominant theme is Israel's faithlessness. Hosea is especially creative in his use of metaphors to describe the relationship between Israel and God, but the two dominant ones are suggested in this verse. The primary one is Israel as a faithless wife, and the secondary one is Israel as a rebellious child (rebelling against God's law). Harlotry indicates sexual wantonness. If the person committing harlotry were married, it would suggest extreme faithlessness to his or her vows of marriage. In a spiritual covenant relationship with God, however, it indicates idolatry.

In tandem with the metaphors regarding Israel, the prophet uses two main family-relationship themes. In the first, God is shown as a faithful Husband, and in the second, as a loving and longsuffering Parent. In each case, Israel is faithless in carrying out responsibilities within the relationship, which God calls adultery and harlotry. God's judgment was occasioned by Israel departing from duties agreed to in a contract, the Covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Seventh Commandment


 

Hosea 10:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The problem between God and Israel is clearly exposed. Hosea describes Israel as a luxuriant grapevine sending runners in every direction, indicating producing a bountiful crop. Great prosperity is indeed produced, yet it is consumed in self-indulgence.

Israel abused its prosperity by using it for purposes of idolatry. God is indicating that its prosperity played a part in corrupting the people's hearts. This is why the deceitful, divided, disloyal heart is mentioned in context with the multitude of its fruit.

Much of the world's appeal is that it seems to offer financial security. However, God shows there is a possible evil, secondary effect: As people become financially secure, their attention is diverted from His purpose to things that are vain and corrupting.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Hosea 10:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One would think that, if altars are increased during a period of prosperity, as verse 1 states, then religion must be flourishing. Indeed, religion was flourishing! Amos, Hosea's contemporary, clearly reports this in his book. However, what was flourishing was not the religion God gave through Moses but idolatry. Notice in verse 2 that God accuses Israel of having a heart that is divided.

Ironically, commentaries have divided opinions over what the Hebrew word translated "divided" means. Most modern translators render this word as either "false," "deceitful," or "faithless." None of these are wrong, including "divided," because the Hebrew word indicates "smoothness." It all depends on the context in which it is used. It can also suggest "flattering," which ought to give us a clue that it describes people who "talk the talk but do not walk the walk." Notice Isaiah 29:13:

Therefore the LORD said, "Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men. . . .

Isaiah lived just before Amos and Hosea. However, he was a prophet to Judah primarily, whereas the other two men were prophets to Israel—the ten northern tribes. What Isaiah says agrees with what Hosea says. These people were flattering God with their tongues, but their hearts were not really in what they were doing. Reverence for God, then, was merely an intellectual accommodation intended to appease Him. They acted as if God could not see right through them! It shows how far off-base and carnal they were in their thinking.

They used the name of God frequently, undoubtedly claiming that they trusted Him, just as we do today. All of our coins and paper money read, "In God We Trust." Yet, these people filled the nation with lying, stealing, murder, adultery, fornication, coveting, Sabbath-breaking, and idolatry, all the while giving Him lip service with their mouths—talking the talk but not walking the walk. This is why God says, "Your heart is divided. It is deceitful. You talk so smoothly, but your heart is false."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Hosea 10:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hosea exposes the problem between God and Israel. He describes Israel as a luxuriant grape vine sending runners in every direction, indicating a bountiful crop. It indeed produces great material prosperity, but it is consumed through self-indulgent gorging. This is God's way of showing that Israel abused its prosperity: It used its prosperity for the purposes of idolatry. Its prosperity played a part in corrupting the Israelites' hearts, which is why Hosea mentions the divided or disloyal heart in context with its bountiful fruit.

A large part of this world's appeal is its offer of financial security. However, God shows there is a possible harmful, secondary effect: As people become financially secure, their attention is diverted from His purpose to vain and unimportant things. In other words, prosperity turns people's heads. There is no doubt that prosperity is good, but unless one is properly focused and disciplined, it can also be a demanding master because of its power to distract one into idolatry. Recall God's prophecy in Deuteronomy 32:15, predicting that when Israel prospered, then it would rebel.

This connects with the curse of Laodiceanism because God shows in the Laodiceans what can happen spiritually as people increase materially. Because such people are drunk through riches' deceptive promise, their judgment is in danger of being radically altered. The Laodicean evaluates himself, saying, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17).

He is deceived into thinking that his material prosperity proves that God approves of his conduct and attitudes. His overall conduct may not be too bad, but his poor self-analysis persuades him that he has no urgent need to seek God any further. He then merely floats, going through the motions, even feeling good about himself as he neglects so great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). His opinion of his holiness as compared with God's judgment is so far off base, it causes Jesus Christ to regurgitate him from His body.

Recall the mention in Hosea 10:1 of increasing and embellishing altars just before Israel fell to Assyria. One would think that, if altars increase during this period of prosperity, then religion is flourishing. Indeed, religion flourished, as Amos, Hosea's contemporary, clearly reports (see Amos 5:21-27). However, it was not the religion God gave through Moses, but idolatry that flourished! It was a corruption of that religion, for the Israelites syncretized that holy way with Baalism and other idolatries.

In Hosea 10:2, God charges Israel with having a divided heart. Commentaries are at odds over what the Hebrew word translated divided means. Most modern translations use "false," "deceitful," or "faithless," and none of these are wrong, including "divided." The Hebrew word suggests "smoothness" or "flattering," describing people who "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk."

Isaiah 29:13 clarifies what God means: "Therefore the LORD said: 'Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men.'" Their reverence for Him was mere intellectual accommodation intended to appease Him. They used the name of God frequently, saying they trusted Him, but they filled the nation with stealing, lying, and murder.

II Kings 17:33 illustrates their worship: "They feared the LORD, yet served their own gods - according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away." This describes to a T what Israel did then and their descendants are continuing to do today. Moffatt renders this, "They worshipped the Eternal, and they also served their own gods."

This chapter reports on the behavior of the people placed in Israel after Israel's conquest and deportation by Assyria between 722-720 BC. These people, who became known as the Samaritans, feared the Lord but worshipped their own gods. They were afraid of God, but they did not really change their way of life. Thus, they developed a syncretic religious system, a blending of the truth of God and outright paganism. The Jews of Christ's day clearly recognized this putrid blend and despised the Samaritans for it.

What is so interesting is that, by verse 36, God is no longer reporting on the Samaritans but is addressing Israel. In other words, God is saying that He was driven to defeat and scatter Israel because they were guilty of exactly the same sin as the Samaritans! They too had blended the worship of the true God with outright paganism, utterly corrupting the relationship He had established with them.

It is urgent that we understand what is involved here because it reveals the cause of God's anger that led to Israel's defeat and scattering. We must understand that our god is not what we say we worship but what we serve. Our god is what we give our lives over to.

Theoretically, the Israelites did not believe in idols, but in reality, they did. They believed in a Creator God, but they worshipped Him at the shrines they erected to the Baals. While they gave lip service to the Creator, they adopted most of the Canaanitish religion with its lewd immorality, and in actual practice, patterned their life after it. In daily life, they conformed to and reflected the Babylonish system just as Israel does today. This is exactly what God warns us to flee, and the only way to come out of it is by developing and maturing in our relationship with God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

Hosea 10:1-2  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We can observe a connection between prosperity and the increase of altars and the Laodicean's making a poor judgment of his spiritual condition. The Revised Standard Version translates these phrases in Hosea 10:1 as, "The more his fruit increased the more altars he built; as his country improved he improved his pillars."

Both altars and pillars are references to religion - specifically, pagan religion. The plural terms reflect a typically carnal conclusion that numerical increase indicates growth and of a sort that is good because God must surely approve. Growth in the number of places of worship would convince most that religion is flourishing.

Religion, though, is different from secular pursuits. The greatest Teacher and Pastor who ever graced this earth preached to tens of thousands of people, yet ended His ministry with only 120 converts. Moreover, He calls the church a "little flock," signifying that it would never grow large (Luke 12:32). Using numbers as the standard, Jesus was an outright failure! Any large Billy Graham evangelistic campaign produces more "conversions" each night than Jesus had during His entire ministry.

Many comparisons are elusive and easily manipulated, not deserving to be depended upon as true evaluations of quality. For instance, Americans tend to rate the greatness of a city by the size of its population. But is New York City really the greatest American city? Does it really deserve to be called "the Big Apple"? In the public mind, the strength of a commercial business is measured by its income. If a business does a million dollars more business this year than last, then it is considered to be flourishing. Evaluating in this manner is one thing that gets the Laodicean in trouble. Religion, however, is not that sort of commodity at all; it is spirit.

We sometimes say, "So and so is a big man." What do we mean by this? The person may not be physically impressive, but we suggest the greatness of his influence. Isaiah 53:2 says of Jesus, "He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him." Likewise, according to tradition, the apostle Paul was not a physically impressive man. The spirituality of these men made them great, but this quality cannot be measured numerically because spirit involves many intangibles. Thus, the ultimate measure of a Christian is qualitative not quantitative. It is not a question of how many but of what sort.

Hosea 10:1-2 is an almost perfect foundation for understanding the erroneous judgment the Laodicean makes - and thus the substance of his spiritual problem. An additional historical reference in Amos adds perspective to this condition. Amos approaches Israel's spiritual problems from a somewhat different angle than Hosea. He shows the people as having all the forms of the true religion, yet because it lacks substance, they are well off but almost totally lacking in social justice. They take care of themselves but not their relationship with God or with their neighbors.

Hosea says that Israel "brings forth fruit for himself." In Revelation 3, Laodicea is contrasted to Philadelphia. The Philadelphian loves God and his brother, but the Laodicean loves himself as exhibited by what he spends his time doing. The Laodicean carries the name "Christian," but he is not serving the Lord Christ except in a most passive manner. He serves himself, which is why he says he needs nothing. He does not need even God! Laodiceanism is perhaps the most subtle of all forms of idolatry.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Be There Next Year


 

Amos 7:7-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In construction, the plumb line tests whether what was erected is perpendicular to the square, that is, if it is straight up and down, if it is upright. It provides a standard against which one can measure what he has built. Metaphorically, when God draws near with the plumb line, He is looking for those people who are living and abiding in His grace and His law. The Israelites' moral standards had degenerated, so their religious profession was not verified by the right kind of works. They were not upright; they failed the test.

Amos has no opportunity to intercede at this point. God will no longer relent. "I will not pass by them anymore" means that God would not overlook their sins any longer. And, if He will not pass by them, He must pass through them. The plumb line shows that He will pass through "with the sword" in judgment; His patience and forgiveness have finally ended. He could no longer defer the punishment for their sins—the time had come to destroy them.

God passes through by destroying "the high places of Isaac," the altars and idols of the false religions responsible for the moral, spiritual, and ethical decline of the people. They worshipped Baal and a host of other foreign deities (Judges 10:6). They set up sacred pillars and idols throughout the land (I Kings 14:23; II Kings 17:10-13). Some of them even burned their sons in the fire to Molech (Ezekiel 16:20-21). Through their spiritual harlotry, they abused grace—the free, unmerited pardon of God—and rejected His law.

"The sanctuaries of Israel," the religious shrines of Bethel, Dan, Gilgal, and Beersheba, would also be among the first to fall. They were the fountainheads of the attitudes of the nation. In them the people were taught to seek the material prosperity that characterized the nation, and in part they sought this physical abundance through cultic fornication and fertility rituals done in the name of the eternal God. The religions taught the people how to sin and do it religiously.

Next, "the house of Jeroboam" would fall through war. Amos refers to Jeroboam I, after whom Jeroboam II was named, and worse, after whom he followed in his sins. God selected Jeroboam I to become king of the northern ten tribes of Israel after Solomon (I Kings 11:29-31), however He made the continuance of Jeroboam's dynasty contingent upon his obedience (verse 38).

But Jeroboam did not trust God. He thought that the religious festivals and sacrifices would entice Israel to return to David's line in Judah (I Kings 12:25-27). To counter that possibility, he set up counterfeit shrines in Bethel and Dan and changed the Feast of Tabernacles from the seventh month to the eighth (I Kings 12:27-33). Jeroboam turned away from the law of God, causing the people to sin.

Historians examine economics, social conditions, and military strength to determine what causes the rise or fall of nations, but God shows that His purpose and the morality of the people are the true causes. Thus, God makes sure that the two major motivators of Israel's spiritual decline, the religious and political leadership, would feel His wrath first (Isaiah 9:13-16).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)


 

Amos 7:8-9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We need to remember that this was originally given to ancient Israel, and the wording applies first of all to the physical people of Israel. However, it contains a spiritual anti-type that we can apply to the end time. In both the type and the antitype, Christ is doing the judging. In the end-time fulfillment, this occurs right before the catastrophe of the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob's Trouble when things will get really terrible. When the Lord stands on the wall, He says, "Look, this is what you have to be like. You have to be able to stand here next to this plumb line and measure yourself to the vertical to see how upright you really are."

He also says, "I will not pass by . . . any more." This means that judgment is coming, and however this judgment falls, that is it! The first six verses of chapter 7 record two other visions. In those visions, the prophet had said, "Please God, Israel is such a small people. Will you please pass us by this time?" He means, "Will you please have mercy and not punish us?" and both times God replied, "Okay, Amos. Because you have asked Me for this, I will pass by." Now, in this vision of the plumb line, He says, "This time I am going to exact My judgment. I will pass sentence and execute the penalty."

What does He pass sentence on? The "high places of Isaac" indicates idolatry, as do the "sanctuaries of Israel." He says He will "rise with the sword against the house of Jeroboam," meaning that He will wreak a great deal of vengeance upon the leadership of the nation for leading the people away from God and into disaster as they have.

This is very serious. At the time of the end, when God appears with the plumb line, the end it at hand. His judgment will come soon. He is about to react violently, exacting the sentence that He thinks is fair and necessary.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 5)


 

Habakkuk 2:18-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Fifth Woe: Idolatry, particularly the second commandment, as God speaks mainly about graven images. Obviously, the first commandment also applies.

One can almost picture God pronouncing this woe with a shake of the head. How can any people be so stupid as to worship a gold- or silver-covered block of wood or stone? The idol is not even alive, much less can it give blessings or help in time of need! Yet, God is alive and active in the affairs of men. He is sovereign, sitting on His throne in heaven, and all everyone on earth should stand before Him in awed reverence. As Jesus says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Habakkuk


 

Zephaniah 1:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Zephaniah makes no bones about the fact that his prophecy deals with the Day of the Lord and His anger at humanity for its hostility to Him: "'I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land,' says the Lord" (Zephaniah 1:2). It is clear that He is most disappointed with His chosen people, who should have known better because He had worked with them for many generations (Amos 3:1-2). Yet, even they had become idolaters, worshipping Baal and Milcom and "the whole host of heaven," turning away from God and no longer seeking Him (Zephaniah 1:4-6).

In verse 7, God calls for silence; He wants no more protests or excuses. He has decided to prepare a sacrifice and invited guests to partake of it. The modern Westerner has little notion of what this entails. Under the Levitical system, not all sacrifices were completely consumed in the altar's fire. Some burnt sacrifices, as they were called, were annihilated, but others were strictly divided: Certain parts went on the fire, another part was given to the priest to eat, and the remainder—the majority of the animal—returned to the offerer. Usually, with such a large amount of meat to consume in a short time, the offerer would call a feast for his family and close friends.

From this comes a major principle of the sacrificial system. The altar symbolized a table and the giving of an offering represented the sharing of a meal among God, the priest, and the offerer. The three were united in fellowship, solidifying and strengthening a relationship. For Christians, this three-way relationship exists among the Father, the Son (who is our High Priest), and the Christian. As the apostle Paul enjoins us in Romans 12:1, rather than giving our lives in death to Him, we are to be "living sacrifices," holy and acceptable to God, continuing the relationship in service to Him.

However, Zephaniah reveals that God has something different in mind for the Day of the Lord. For His sacrifice—or sacrificial meal—He has invited guests from afar, and the sacrifice of which they will partake is His people, Judah! In verse 8, He is particularly incensed against Judah's rulers, the corrupt descendants of David, who have led the nation further into sin. He expected the royal house to follow the examples of David and Josiah, but they had instead pursued carnal habits and political expediencies, bringing Judah to the brink of war, captivity, exile, and destruction.

As the verse closes, He highlights the particular failing of listening to foreign influence, seen in the wearing of "foreign apparel." It likely refers to a trend among the aristocrats of the time of wearing the clothing style of the foreign nation he supported in the power-struggle over the strategic land-bridge that was the Kingdom of Judah. (The conflict over that bit of territory is still ongoing today.) At the time, it was probably the distinctive styles of Egypt and Babylon, both of which were quite different from that of the Israelites. The verse suggests that the nation's leaders had stopped wearing Israelite-style clothing altogether—symbolizing their departure from God and what He had commanded (for instance, Numbers 15:38-40)—and by donning the clothing of these powerful, competing empires, they were pledging their loyalties to the nations rather than to God. It could also mean that these aristocrats were worshipping the idols of these nations.

Behind the NKJV's translation of "punish," the Hebrew literally reads that God will "visit" the royal sons of Judah, which, in its negative sense, is a common metaphor for coming in judgment. It should come as no surprise that, when Judah finally fell to the Babylonians, Zedekiah's sons were killed before the eyes of their father, just before he was blinded and taken off to Babylon (II Kings 25:2-7). In addition, many of the aristocrats were killed and their children were dragged off to Babylon as slaves, as was the case with Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 1:1-4).

Judah's destruction in the early-sixth century BC is just a type of the Day of the Lord that will be visited upon the world just before the return of Jesus Christ. God will be just as jealous for the loyalty of His people, true Christians, at that time as He was 2,600 years ago. We need to be asking ourselves if we have allowed ourselves to be "clothed with foreign apparel."

Richard T. Ritenbaugh


 

Haggai 1:7-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This is quite pointed. When our ways do not please God, He says that He sends drought. These people were practicing a form of idolatry: They were worshipping themselves, their houses, and the works of their own hands. Basically, they were ignoring God by putting His work second or third or last.

They were getting the finest materials for themselves and not giving a hoot about God's House, which still lay in ruins after Nebuchadnezzar and his army had come through many years before. The ruins of God's House were still there, and nothing was happening on the site. It is not clear how long the people had been back at this point, but they should have done His work first, since that was the reason He had sent them back. The original command from the king was to go back and build a House to God. They should have tackled this job immediately, despite it being a command of a foreign emperor. The command was ultimately from God. So God took affront to it and really gave it to them to motivate them back to work.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

Matthew 4:9-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These two verses clearly establish the most basic element of why we must worship God: because He commands it! He must command us to worship Him because it is possible to worship others and things besides God. Satan was clearly attempting to get Christ to worship him—a being besides God—and to that Jesus replies, referring to the Father, "Him only you shall serve." Not only does He command us to worship Him, He also forbids us to worship any others. In addition, Jesus' statement shows the inextricable link between the worship and the service of God. It is as if they are synonymous. Worship involves highly regarding and then serving the One worshipped.

By definition, we worship what we choose to give the supreme devotion of our feelings, time, and energies to. God must command us to worship Him because we can choose to give our feelings, time, and energies to things other than God. Therefore, acceptable worship of God involves consciously choosing to worship and serve only Him even in the face of the temptation to give these things to others. Notice how Psalm 45:10-11 shows that we must choose between alternatives that will present themselves from time to time. "Listen, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people also, and your father's house; so the King will greatly desire your beauty; because He is your Lord, worship Him."

The first four commandments directly address worship. Worship refers to the supreme honor and veneration given in thought and deed to the Creator. Those four commandments plus the tenth directly influence what we are to do or not do to fulfill the minimum requirements of this duty. If we do not do so, we are guilty of idolatry. No other sin has such a direct and concentrated focus of attention. The basic requirement is that we are to worship Him alone, and to allow any person or thing to usurp that position of lordship over us constitutes gross disobedience. The first and most basic reason why we worship God is that He commands it and forbids the worship of others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Why Worship God?


 

Matthew 6:21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

He implies money, but the principle includes anything of such importance—apart from the Kingdom of God and His righteousness—that achieving it dominates our thinking, planning, and conduct. If it shapes our existence, we have a false god. The desire to "get" this thing replaces the devotion we should give to God and forces us into sins in other areas. Thus, we become idolaters.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Matthew 6:21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Treasure is what we value highly, what we take great pains to serve, honor, preserve, and embellish.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Two)


 

Matthew 10:37  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Hate in Luke 14:26 means "love less by comparison." If our love for our parents interferes with worshipping and obeying God properly, we do not genuinely love Him. Matthew 10:37 shows that Christ refers to those who place their father or mother above God in obedience and reverence; this is idolatry. The time may come when it is no longer necessary or right for us to obey our parents. Even so, we should never cease to honor them. Honor indicates a high respect for their worth, high esteem, and reverence. Without this, we cannot properly revere God. Just as our parents corrected us, so also God corrects us. As a result we honor and respect our parents, which is a shadow of our subjection to the Father.

Martin G. Collins
The Fifth Commandment


 

Matthew 19:23-26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This proverb has always been intriguing. Years ago, a friend related a story of a gate in the wall around ancient Jerusalem called the "Eye of the Needle," or the "Needle's Eye." This gate was designed in such a way that it could be used by pedestrians but not by marauding bandits on their camels. The only way a camel could get through this "Eye of the Needle" was to be unloaded and crawl through on its knees. This great story—and several variations of it—have made the rounds over the years.

The spiritual analogies were clear. The camel could go through the "Eye of the Needle," but only after being stripped of its baggage—its wealth!

The only problem with this story is that it is not true! There is absolutely no archaeological or historical evidence for the existence of such a gate. The story was first told several centuries ago and has been repeated ever since. It is yet another example of people trying to make Christ's words fit their own concepts of what He meant.

Jesus clearly says that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. Can this be done? Of course not! That is the point! Yet, people have tried in vain to make it happen. Some have suggested that there is a misprint in the Greek. The Greek word kamelos, meaning "camel" should really be kamilos, meaning "cable" or "rope." Still, passing a rope through a needle's eye is nevertheless impossible. Ah, but what if one uses a six-inch carpet needle, and the rope is actually made of camel's hair? Others have suggested that this was an Aramaic pun on the word for a camel and that of a gnat or louse, from the Aramaic kalma meaning "vermin" or "louse." It can become quite ridiculous.

All this maneuvering is unnecessary. Christ was using hyperbole, just as He did when He spoke of a plank being in one's eye while attempting to remove the splinter in a brother's eye (Matthew 7:3-4). Everyone seems to understand that this is exaggeration for effect; commentators do not claim, "Well, He really meant a toothpick, not a 2 x 4." In our own speech, we use hyperbole all the time, such as, "This book weighs a ton," or "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse."

Jesus' hyperbole in Matthew 19:24 is easily explained. The camel was the largest animal regularly seen in Israel, and its contrast with the small size of a needle's eye shows the utter impossibility of the effort to squeeze the former through the latter. In Babylon, where portions of the Jewish Talmud were written, since the elephant was the largest animal, it was substituted for "camel" in this common aphorism.

Why do so many want to act as apologists for what Christ "really" meant in Matthew 19? Is it because we secretly—or even openly—desire wealth and do not want any biblical negativity slowing us down? Just in case we inherit big bucks from the uncle we forgot we had, we would not want any spiritual stigma attached to the money! To reiterate, the wealth itself is not the problem, but our attachment to it or what it can buy.

Jesus' disciples were horrified at His words. "Who then can be saved?" they wondered. It is very simple. Christ is instructing them that, through his own efforts, no one can be saved. He does not mean just the wealthy cannot be saved, but no one can be saved through his money, his skills, his talents, his intellect, or his good looks!

During the time of Christ, the Jews believed that wealth and prosperity were a sign of God's blessing, so the reaction of His disciples is sheer incredulity. Later, professing Christians fell into the opposite ditch by portraying riches as a hindrance to salvation—which they can be—but so can many other things.

What if we are considered to be poor by this world? Are we somehow better than those with more physical goods? It would be just as dangerous for an underprivileged person to think that he had it made—that his poverty gave him some sort of piety—as it would for a rich man to trust in his wealth. We can be tempted from the path of righteousness by just about anything. Our downfall might be drink, food, television, or any number of things available to us in this world.

It is easy for us to look at the wealthy and judge them to be unfit for God's Kingdom, congratulating ourselves in the process for not having that particular distraction in our lives. While the rich young ruler walked away from Christ, extremely sad that he could not make that leap of faith, what in our own lives has the same hold on us? What is the anchor that keeps our spiritual ship from sailing?

In II Timothy 4:10, Paul writes, "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world." What caused Demas to leave Paul and Christ? Demas loved the world; the particulars are not divulged. Whatever it was is of less import than the simple, spiritual fact that a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle. Someone who loves the world, whether rich or poor, will not be in God's Kingdom (James 4:4; I John 2:15-17).

The point is that we do not achieve salvation through our own efforts; it is from God alone, by His grace. "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible," Jesus assures us. We have our part to play and are rewarded for our efforts, as Romans 2 explains, but when God takes us from this world, works with us, blesses us, and brings us into His Family, it is truly a miracle.

Mike Ford
The Rich Young Ruler and the Needle's Eye


 

Matthew 24:38-39  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In these verses, Jesus describes people involved in normal activities of life: eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. None of these activities are evil—in fact, they are necessary. He implies, however, that in focusing upon the everyday activities of their lives, they miss the signs, the evidence, which prove the imminence of Christ's return. The sad result is that they do not become aware until it is too late.

Laodiceanism is not a matter of laziness, but of spiritual indifference caused by giving attention to the wrong things. A Laodicean commits a subtle form of idolatry, paying undue attention to self-centered interests rather than the interests of our Lord. Setting aside those responsibilities to which he has been called, he favors activities and interests that Jesus simply describes as eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage. He has chosen carnal priorities over spiritual ones.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Mark 4:19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

A simple illustration helps understand this statement: A desire-driven "window shopping" for things to do in order to be "busy"—filling our time with meaningless, self-centered, carnal activities—crowds out God's Word. When we elect to do this, we risk many spiritual dangers.

When we covet carnal activities or material things, we serve them. If we give our time, energy, and money to them to the extent that we leave only the barest minimum of those things for God, we are practicing idolatry. It may reveal itself in us through a fear that, if we give ourselves to God, we will have nothing for ourselves. We live as if life in God cannot be full enough to make up for the loss of other things.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment


 

Mark 10:17-22  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It is not hard to determine that he feared the loss of his wealth, for that is where his security was. However, it kept him from loving Christ. Covetousness and idolatry reared their ugly heads and stopped him cold in his tracks because he feared the loss of what he already had, and he would not venture forth to lay hold on what Christ offered.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love's Greatest Challenges


 

Luke 1:26-30  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The references to Mary in Luke 1 are the core scriptures that Catholic scholars use to try to prove that Mary is worthy of our worship. It is evident that the verses say little more than that Mary was given grace and favor by God, as we all have. They simply cannot be used as a starting point for establishing a doctrine of worship.

Aside from the little that the Bible says about Mary, there are other significant biblical principles that directly contradict a doctrine of Mary-worship. We could examine a whole host of scriptures relating to human death and resurrection to show that Mary is in the same condition as the rest of the dead in Christ—awaiting the resurrection, without consciousness, and not in heaven (Psalm 146:3-4; Ecclesiastes 9:5; Job 14:12; John 3:13; Acts 2:29-34; I Corinthians 15:12-55; see also Is Heaven the Reward of the Saved?). We could look at a vast array of scriptures that show that Mary-worship is indeed idolatry, because only God the Father and Jesus Christ are worthy of our worship (Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10). We could delve into the singular role that Jesus Christ plays as Mediator of the New Covenant—a role in which He does not need any help (Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). These are not difficult concepts. Nevertheless, there is a vital lesson to be learned from this obviously erroneous doctrine.

The veneration of Mary, like many pagan practices, has its origin in the heathen religious system created by Nimrod and Semiramis, and more specifically, from the worship of the "Mother and Child." Through the millennia, the symbol of the "Mother and Child" has been endlessly repeated; one can find evidence of Mother-and-Child worship in all of the nations in ancient times. Though her characteristics varied from culture to culture, the common element is that the Mother was the Queen of Heaven, and she bore fruit even though a virgin.

In China, Semiramis became known as the "Holy Mother." The Germans named her "Hertha." The Scandinavians called her "Disa." Among the Druids, the "Vigo-Paritura" was worshipped as the "Mother of God." To the Greeks, she was "Aphrodite." To the Romans she was known as "Venus," and her son was "Jupiter." The Canaanites, and sometimes even the Israelites, worshipped "Ashtoreth" (Judges 2:13; 10:6; I Samuel 7:3-4; 12:10; I Kings 11:5, 33; II Kings 23:13), who was also known as "the queen of heaven" (Jeremiah 7:18). In Ephesus, the Great Mother was known as "Diana." T.W. Doane in his book Bible Myths sums it up this way: "Thus we see that the Virgin and child were worshipped in pagan times from China to Britain . . . and even in Mexico the 'Mother and child' were worshipped."

This false worship, having spread from Babylon to the various nations, finally became established at Rome and throughout the Roman Empire. James George Frazer in his The Golden Bough observes:

The worship of the Great Mother . . . was very popular under the Roman Empire. Inscriptions prove that the [Mother and the Child] received divine honors . . . not only in Italy and especially at Rome, but also in the provinces, particularly in Africa, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, and Bulgaria. (vol. 1, p. 356)

One of the repeated patterns of the Roman church is syncretism, bringing pagan beliefs and practices into the church to keep certain groups happy. This is the same mechanism by which Christmas, Easter, Sunday-worship, and the pagan trinity-god were brought into the Roman church—and which most of mainstream Christianity has accepted without question. The church allowed the pagans within it to continue their practices—in this case, the worship of the Great Mother—only in a slightly different form and with a new name. Many pagans had been drawn to Christianity, but so strong in their mind was the adoration for the Mother-goddess, that they did not want to forsake her. Compromising church leaders saw that, if they could find some similarity in Christianity with the Mother-goddess worship of the pagans, they could increase their numbers by bringing many pagans into their fold. Of course, Mary fit the bill perfectly. So the pagans were allowed to continue their prayers and devotion to the Mother-goddess, but her name was changed to Mary. In this way, the pagan worship of the Mother was given the appearance of Christianity, and the course was set.

Scripture cannot be used as a starting place for attempting to prove that Mary is worthy of worship. The true beginning for this practice lies with Semiramis and the Babylonian system begun by Nimrod. When the Catholic Encyclopedia presents as proof the historical fact that early Catholics venerated and worshipped Mary, it conveniently leaves out the fact that this adoration started in paganism and was shifted to the personage of the mother of Christ. Once the Roman Church adopted this practice, support had to be found for it, so it "interpreted" Scripture in a way that would lend credence to this practice. However, in these explanations it is apparent that Catholics start with a conclusion and then attempt to find support for it.

David C. Grabbe
Is Mary Worthy of Worship?


 

Luke 1:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Maybe the most blatant idolatry in Roman Catholicism is their adoration of Mary, the mother of Christ. On the basis of one scripture, Luke 1:28, Catholic theologians have built a major tenet of their faith: "And having come in, the angel said to her, 'Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!'" With this, they elevate her nearly to a goddess (if not in fact), pray to her incessantly, claim to see her in visions and hear her in dreams and trances, and worship statues of her in their churches and cathedrals!

Two quotations from supposed saints of Catholicism will suffice to illustrate how far Mary worship goes:

? There is no one, O most holy Mary . . . who can be saved or redeemed but through thee. . . . (St. Germanius, quoted in St. Alphonsus de Liguori, The Glories of Mary, 1931, p. 171.)

? As we have access to the Eternal Father only through Jesus Christ, so have we access to Jesus Christ only through Mary. By thee we have access to the Son, O blessed finder of grace, bearer of life, and mother of salvation. . . . (St. Bernard, ibid.)

The Catholic Church has elevated Mary to divine status and given her titles and responsibilities reserved to God the Father and His Son! In fact, she becomes the third member of a trinity modeled after the pagan trinities of ancient times. These heathen trinities, found in most polytheistic religions, follow the Father-Mother-Son pattern: Osiris, Isis and Horus; Nimrod, Semiramis and Tammuz; Zeus, Diana, Dionysus; Jupiter, Venus and Cupid; etc.

In like manner, some Catholics attribute to Mary the position and characteristics of the third person of their unscriptural trinity, the Holy Spirit. The official publication of "The Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima," boasting 22 million members, claims:

Mary is so perfectly united with the Holy Spirit that He acts only through His spouse. . . . All our life, every thought, word, and deed is in Her hands . . . at every moment, She Herself must instruct, guide, and transform each one of us into Herself, so that not we but She lives in us, as Jesus lives in Her, and the Father in the Son. (Soul Magazine, November—December 1984, p.4.)

If she has these powers and characteristics, then Mary must be God! There can be no doubt that this adoration of Mary is simply a modern manifestation of goddess worship that began over 4,000 years ago in Mesopotamia! In fact, one of her titles, as used by the present Pope, a devoted Marian, is "Queen of Heaven" (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-19, 25)!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Woman Atop the Beast (Part 1)


 

Luke 14:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At the beginning of our conversion, usually during counseling for baptism, we are asked to consider Luke 14:26-33 seriously. Verse 26 is particularly important because loyalty to Christ is the issue in this context. Loyalty to any other person or thing at the expense of loyalty to Christ constitutes idolatry.

This is extremely important because the character of every life is determined by the loyalty which rules it. If one's loyalty is to the wrong source—the wrong government, body of beliefs, laws, people, or religion, regardless of whether the person is ignorant of his idolatry, sincere, and has a clear conscience—his character will be shaped accordingly. It will not be in the image of Christ and will not be acceptable in the Family of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Luke 14:26-27  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

At the beginning of our conversion, usually during counseling for baptism, we are asked to consider this passage seriously. Verses 26-27 are particularly important because loyalty to Christ is the issue in this context. Jesus makes it plain that, after entering into the New Covenant, our highest loyalty is to Him.

This is extremely important because the character of every life is determined by the loyalty that rules it. Peter confirms Jesus' words in Acts 5:29, saying, "We ought to obey God rather than men." He made this affirmation following Jesus' crucifixion. Persecution was imminent against the fledging church. However, we must understand that the world is always a threat against our loyalty to Christ. Life is a mixture of choices and compulsions, and many of our values have their source in the world. These values exert an ever-present pressure to conform to them, thus we must be aware.

The pressure to make moral choices is the furnace in which character is forged. Our compulsions to make choices come in two varieties: 1) forced, as by a gun to our temple that demands, "Do this or else," and 2) unforced, the pressure of old habits, perspectives, and attitudes engraved in our character, hangovers from our past. Thus, the past and the present both push at us to choose. What we chose determines where our loyalties lie and thus whether we commit idolatry. If we are not thinking carefully, idolatry is an easy sin to fall into.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment


 

John 4:23-24  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God says we are to worship HIM in spirit and truth. The woman and Jesus were discussing the merits of their worship. Which was better, Mt. Gerizim or Mt. Zion? Jesus, after confirming the unique position of the Jews in God's plan, tells the woman that the Samaritans' worship was deficient. It was ignorant because they rejected all the Old Testament except the Pentateuch, and her ancestors were guilty of syncretizing what truth they had with forms of worship brought from their ancestral homeland.

God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship Him in spirit and truth. Being spirit, God is not confined to material things, so idols are totally irrelevant as worship aids. Being spirit, God is not confined to places, so even Jerusalem is irrelevant as a place of worship. His Spirit permeates the entire universe (Psalm 139)! Being spirit and a purposeful God, He is pleased only with what resembles Him. Thus, worship must be of a spiritual nature. The essence of true worship of God must be on His terms and in accord with His nature. It must spring from a knowledgeable, devoted heart under the influence of His Holy Spirit.

What God is looking for in those who worship Him is a demonstration in their lives of the fruits of His Spirit. Love of Him, love of the brethren, joy in living, peace through the security of living by faith, and faithful loyalty in keeping God's commands.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Thanksgiving or Self-Indulgence?


 

John 6:44-45  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The "something" that bridges the gap between us and God is initiated by God. Jesus plainly says that no man can come to Him unless the Father makes an effort to initiate a bridging of the chasm to effect a fellowship with us. Man will not do it, and indeed cannot do it. Why? Because he is so deceived. Mankind does not even know where to look for God. Satan has done his work of deception remarkably well. He has the whole world confused and deceived, according to Revelation 12:9.

If a man on his own began to look for God, where would he look? How would he imagine God's form or shape? What kind of ideals would he look for? What would the doctrines be like? What would the hope be? What would the purpose be? What would the plan be? Mankind is helpless in this regard; all he can do is come up with idols, false religions with false doctrines and false ways.

It is absolutely essential that God initiate the bridging of the chasm between us, since we would not do it and cannot do it, being too deceived. If it were up to man, then we could hardly expect to have fellowship with God, and even now, under Satan's deception, our fellowship even with other human beings is difficult.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 4)


 

Acts 14:8-18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church membership was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Paul's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities.

In Lystra, God healed a crippled man through Paul (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Paul, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan gods! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan deities.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

Acts 15:28-29  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Obviously, the Council's decree does not exempt Gentiles from keeping the Ten Commandments, for it is clear from many New Testament passages that Jesus and the apostles taught them to both Jews and Gentiles (e.g., Matthew 19:17-19; Romans 13:9; etc.). Two issues—idolatry and sexual immorality—became a flashpoint in the conflict between true Christianity and Hellenistic Gnosticism, and a person's stance on them exposed which side he favored. Thus, Nicolaitanism and Balaamism are biblical symbols or representatives of the larger Gnostic, antinomian influence on Christianity.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Nicolaitanism Today


 

Acts 19:26  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

When the apostle Paul first preached in Ephesus, his message caused a stir among the people. In Acts 19:26 they accused him of saying that "they are not gods which are made with hands," arousing the ire of the local idol makers. They resented what Paul said because his preaching was diminishing their incomes. Naturally, they responded by making an outcry against the apostle and those who were with him. They filled the streets in riot!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Romans 1:18-32  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In this passage, Paul gives a brief but appalling overview of the effect of people turning their backs on the Creator God. Mankind has worshipped the creation more than the Creator, and thus, God gave mankind over to vile affections and to a mind devoid of true judgment—his own natural mind. Since man's experiences shaped his judgment regarding conduct, his ability to judge truth became vague and led to the horrible perversions Paul lists. Today, the world groans with the weight of bearing the fruit of this idolatry.

Our own personal experience confirms the validity of these verses. Paul lists the consequences of a purely secular mind, which resulted from leaving the True Source of right standards out of our lives. He shows that when we follow the path described, we not only lose godliness but also true humanity.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 1:18-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul is describing the perversity of human nature. That a Creator God exists is evident. Every normally intelligent person, converted or unconverted, has enough capacity to be aware of God. The natural outgrowth of this knowledge should be to glorify Him through praise and thanksgiving. The perversity appears when mankind largely ignores or resists what should be a natural inclination.

However, not everyone suppresses this tendency. Those who follow the natural inclination to praise and thank the Creator and Provider usually give their thanks to something that is not really God, but an idol. Thus, while sincere, the inclination is wrongly applied, frequently resulting in a harvest festival, as history shows.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Thanksgiving or Self-Indulgence?


 

Romans 1:19-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God Himself declares that at least some knowledge—a basic, foundational understanding—is available to virtually everyone. However, an interesting danger is revealed here. Note how this unfolds: ". . . 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" (verse 21). These people knew God, just as the people addressed by Isaiah and Amos and in Hebrews had knowledge of God. Yet, they obviously did not honor God by conducting themselves according to what they knew of Him. They failed to put their knowledge into action, and instead, let their imaginations run wild and began worshipping things apart from what God had revealed of Himself. Their imaginings, Paul says, led them straight into idolatry. In other words, they did not hold fast to what God gave them.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Romans 1:21-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

"They knew God," that is, they experienced or were familiar with what He had done.

Rather than following truth, man rejects the knowledge of God. He willingly turns a blind eye to His creative powers, and instead, in his mind, replaces the faultless and perfect God with frail, perishable organisms: man, birds, reptiles, etc. He is willing to elevate almost anything above the true God.

And God allows this! In essence, He says, "If this is the way of life you choose, fine. Its consequences you bring upon yourselves!" The results are given in verses 24-25.

David C. Grabbe
What Evolution Really Means


 

Romans 1:22-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God wants us to worship Him directly—not through an idol. When we set up an idol, we are in fact sacrificing to one or more demons! God wants us to worship Him humbly rather than the way the world worships idols. It is degrading to worship an idol. Conversely, God calls us into His own spiritual presence to worship Him directly. Whenever we stop short of our face-to-face relationship and worship of our sovereign God by placing a visible entity before Him, we break the second commandment. God looks to those who worship Him in humility and respectful fear and despises those who choose their own ways.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Romans 1:22-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Does this not sound like a slice of Exodus 32? These passages teach us a principle: We cannot imagine God in terms of what He has materially created because what He has made is not God.

In the process that ends in idolatry, the first thing a person loses is his sense of awe, his reverential fear toward the majesty of God. This is what Paul means by "became futile in their thoughts." The result is that the person's former high standards concerning virtually everything begin to slip, and this corruption in turn gives birth to perversion. Romans 1:26-32 provides a partial list of these perversions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Romans 1:24-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In examining the central issue in each of the first several commandments, we find that the first concerns what we worship. Worship is the devoted service one gives to what he regards most highly. As these verses show, we can give devoted service to created things as well as the Creator. Additionally, the tenth commandment says covetousness is idolatry too (Colossians 3:5), clearly amplifying that we can give our devotion to things other than the true God.

How good can it be to exchange the truth for the lie? In this context "the lie" is that one can profitably worship someone or something other than the true God. Worshipping things other than the Creator turns the thrust and direction of our lives off the true path of God's purpose. Though those objects may be otherwise harmless in themselves, it is sin to give them the devotion that rightly belongs to the Creator.

John 4:24 proclaims that those who worship God must worship Him in spirit and truth. The worship of God involves the totality of our life, and therefore it cannot be confined to a particular location or a mere hour or two on a given day. Our worship must be guided, motivated, and empowered by His Spirit. Further, it cannot merely be sincere, but it must also be true. Attitude is extremely important, but it alone does not replace truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part One) (1997)


 

Romans 1:24-25  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The first commandment concerns itself with what a person worships. Worship is the devoted service one gives to what one regards above all, and what one regards above all is that person's God. The first commandment says what we are to worship, the Creator God. Nothing else is to be given that kind of devotion.

As this verse shows, one can give devoted service to created things as well as the Creator. The people Paul is speaking of turned their attention from the Creator and to the created. It is possible to worship the wrong thing. In Colossians 3:5 Paul writes that covetousness is idolatry too, clearly meaning that our devotion can be given to things other than the true God.

There is a common argument in the world that "all religions are good," that is, none of them teach you bad things. But, as these verses prove, that simply is not true.

Paul argues that God gave these people up—literally, that God abandoned them to uncleanness. Therefore, any religion other than the one true one is a curse! It is a kind of punishment. These people that Paul describes exchanged the truth for the lie. How can that be good?

Here, the lie is that someone or something other than the true God can be properly worshipped and be effective for the person's salvation. Worshipping things other than the Creator turns the thrust and the direction of our lives off the true path of God's purpose. Though those objects that individuals give all of their time, attention, and devotion to may be otherwise harmless in themselves, it is sin to give them that devotion because it is "missing the mark," which is sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part 1)


 

Romans 1:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

From the Revised English Bible: "Thus, because they have not seen fit to acknowledge God, He has given them up to their own depraved way of thinking, and this leads them to break all rules of conduct."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 1:28  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Romans 1 provides a brief overview of the horrific effects of mankind turning its collective back on the Creator God. Verse 28 from the Revised English Bible reads, "Thus, because they have not seen fit to acknowledge God, he has given them up to their own depraved way of thinking [reprobate mind, King James Version] and this leads them to break all rules of conduct." The term "reprobate mind" indicates a mind devoid of proper judgment. When God's judgment against Adam and Eve went into effect, mankind's choices in daily life became based almost entirely upon human experience.

This passage shows specifically what happens when people leave the Source of true values out of their lives. They become like a pinball, wandering aimlessly and bouncing from one jolting experience to another. Perhaps humanity can be described as a bull in a china shop, breaking things at every turn and causing an incredible amount of destruction and pain without ever being able to compose itself to create a lasting, peaceful lifestyle. Put another way, people become like animals in a jungle, competing viciously to survive and to eat before they are eaten.

Paul exposes the consequences of a purely secular mind. When God is removed or removes Himself, mankind not only loses godliness, but also true humanity. This degeneration occurs because man is not seeking God. Christ, however, did not seek His own will: "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him" (John 8:29). This is what made the difference between Christ and the rest of mankind, resulting in His judgment being completely unclouded.

This leaves us with the question, "How can a person discern truth in moral and spiritual areas if he already has the wrong source and is not consistently seeking the right One?" He cannot! John 7:15-17, 24 offers a biblical example of this truth:

And the Jews marveled, saying, "How does this Man know letters, having never studied?" Jesus answered them, and said, "My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. . . . Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

The people could not perceive their murderous intentions. It is hoped that this confrontation helps us see the vast gap in understanding between the people, whose main source for values was human experience, and Jesus, whose source was God. Those confronting Jesus did not realize that they were being misled by their idolatry, as Paul reveals in Romans 1.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment


 

Romans 3:20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Together, Romans 3:20 and Romans 4:15 produce a general principle that covers, not just biblical morality, but also secular. Laws reveal to us our religious and/or civic duties. In reference to God, law awakens us to a consciousness of sin. Through God's laws we become aware of the contrast between what we do and what we ought to do.

By enacting laws, our legislators tell us what is moral, right, and good in secular areas of life, but instead of calling a transgression of the state's laws "sin," we call it "crime." In many cases, crimes are also sins. The difference between secular law and God's law is that the latter contains clear moral values and reveals our duties toward the Creator God. Where do people get their ideas regarding what is moral?

We must conclude that religion, law, the state, and morality are each parts of the same family. Thus, every system of law is a system of ethics and morality. Since law establishes standards of conduct, those standards are the establishment of religion, a way of life we are to be devoted to following. Therefore, in truth, there can be no absolute separation of church and state.

This point escapes most Americans, but not every American. For instance, some journalists have clearly identified communism as a religion. In such a system, the government is the god. At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans made no bones about this principle, declaring and demanding under the penalty of death that Caesar be worshipped as a god. This is part of the "divine right of kings" principle. Beware, because this idea is about to be reborn:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth, and he had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. And he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence, and causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. (Revelation 13:11-12)

When the Beast arises, he will be accorded this honor that belongs only to God.

In the Western world, a new religion is rising. It is not really new, but it has a fairly new name: secularism. It is a type of idolatry, one that has been increasingly challenging this world's Christianity over the past century, and it is gaining ever more strength in numbers and devotion here in America. The war between it and this world's Christianity is virtually over—with Christianity rapidly becoming irrelevant. Persecution in the courts is already an established fact, and outright persecution on the streets cannot be very many years away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment


 

Romans 4:19-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

There was nothing vague about God to Abraham. His relationship with God was of such intimacy that he thoroughly understood His character and purpose. He knew that he could trust God to act and react within clear parameters. Abraham added up what he knew about God and about His promise that Isaac was the promised seed, reached a conclusion, and acted. He knew God would have either to resurrect Isaac or to provide a substitute. He chose to trust the One he knew has the power and is faithful.

What if, like most Americans, Abraham had just guessed, based upon vague remembrances of a Sunday school class, movies, fiction works, and paranormal inspirations? We can assume that he would have worshipped the idols of his father Terah. A right concept of God is a Christian necessity because a wrong notion of Him is the very foundation, the starting point, for idolatry. In brief, the essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.

God makes this clear at Mount Sinai after making the covenant with Israel and giving them His law. In Exodus 32, Aaron, confronted by the sinful pressure of his peers, became carried away and made a stupid Golden Calf to rescue them from their perceived dilemma. Aaron and the Israelites revealed that their false concepts of God remained. God had the idol immediately destroyed. Israel sinned in attempting to determine the nature of God based on their own reasoning, and many died in a punishing demonstration of the true God's wrath at this egregious sin.

The Israelites of today are still at it; modern Israelites are fantasizing about God. The idolater simply imagines a conception of God and then acts as though his conceptions are true. He is deceived and certainly does not know the true God as Abraham did.

God seeks out those with whom He desires to make the covenant. At that time, all they understand about Him is in broad terms. They are then to seek Him out to know Him more precisely. Those who make the New Covenant with God are required to seek out intimate details regarding His nature, purpose, and character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem


 

Romans 6:16-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

We are seen here as the servant of the one we obey; we are under its authority. If man is the source of the morality we submit to, then man is our sovereign. As long as this sovereign agrees with God's standards, then idolatry is no problem. If we broaden this to include the state, whether democratic or socialistic, then the state is the sovereign. But in broadening the scope, the chance that idolatry will enter the equation also increases.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Romans 8:7  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The core of life for us is government. The issue is who we will allow to govern us. We can govern ourselves in deciding to kill, commit adultery, steal, or lie—that is, break the commandments—or we can submit to God who says, "No," to every one of these things. The decision as to what is moral has already been decided by God. Our only decision is whether we will submit to what He says to do.

What are we to do when the issue is whether to break the Sabbath by working or keep it by refusing? What are we to do when we are in a financial bind and in debt? Should we submit to God and pay His tithes first? Will God be trusted to provide our needs in a tight financial situation even though we tithe? What are we to do when we desire to cover ourselves: brag, lie, or tell the truth? What should we do when we are sexually enticed: flee or commit adultery or fornication? What are we to do in any case when submitting and glorifying God are the issue?

Should we expect God to bless us when we choose to take sovereignty and control—we think—to ourselves, that is, when we introduce idolatry into the mix of the relationship? Once we are no longer ignorant of the choices before us and choose to take sovereignty to ourselves, sin becomes exceedingly more serious in its consequences, and we become the idol, because that is who we are serving.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 7)


 

Romans 14:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Romans 14, the subject is not clean and unclean foods but eating meat versus vegetarianism (verse 2). Paul admonishes Christians not to pass judgment on others for eating meat or for eating only vegetables (verse 3).

The question that confronted Paul was not that God's people were suggesting that somehow unclean animals had now been made clean, but the belief of some that no meat—even meat that had been created to be eaten with thanksgiving—should be eaten at all. The apostle points out that it would be wrong for the vegetarians to eat meat if they had doubts about it, as it would defile their consciences (verse 23). He concludes, "For whatever is not of faith is sin."

Verse 14 is a proof text used by the world to conclude that all meat is now fine to eat: "I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean." This is another verse that has been poorly translated to conform to preconceived notions.

The problem is with the word "unclean," which does not appear in the Greek text. To mean "unclean," Paul would have used akarthatos, but instead, the text reads koinos, which means "common," "ordinary," "defiled," or "profane (as opposed to holy or consecrated)." Peter uses both "common" and "unclean" to describe meats in Acts 10:14, so there is obviously a difference between the terms.

We know that the Bible defines "unclean" meat in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14, but when is meat considered "common"? The only circumstances in which clean meats are common or defiled are when a clean animal dies naturally or is torn by beasts (Leviticus 22:8) or when the blood has not been properly drained from the meat (Leviticus 17:13-14; 3:17). Such animal flesh was called common because it could be given to strangers or aliens in Old Testament times if they wished to eat it (Deuteronomy 14:21). Similarly, in Acts 15:20, 29, the apostles forbade the Gentiles to eat the meat of a strangled animal or meat that had not been drained of blood.

In the case of Romans 14:14, it is likely that "defiled" would be the best term, as the meat under discussion was probably that offered to idols then sold in the marketplace for public consumption. To paraphrase, then, the verse should read: ". . . there is nothing defiled of itself; but to him who considers anything to be defiled, to him it is defiled." The meat was not defiled in fact, just in the minds of various church members, whom Paul had earlier called "weak" (verse 2). These "weak in the faith" Christians believed that, because the meat had been offered to a pagan idol, it had become spiritually defiled.

Paul explains in I Corinthians 8:4-7 that the demon behind the idol is nothing, for "there is no other God but one" (verse 4). Thus, there is no "spiritual" taint to the meat.

However, there is not in everyone that knowledge; for some, with consciousness of the idol, until now eat it as a thing offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse. (verses 7-8)

So we see that in these verses that Paul is not in any manner doing away with God's laws concerning clean and unclean meat. The topic does not even come up! He is discussing meat defiled or profaned due to its association with a pagan idol.

John O. Reid
Did God Change the Law of Clean and Unclean Meats?


 

1 Corinthians 1:10-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Dictionaries define an idol as "any object of ardent or excessive devotion or admiration." If we obey the dictates of a person, church, or some other group contrary to the direct commands of God, we are guilty of idolatry. The individual or group becomes the idol, replacing God.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

1 Corinthians 6:9-12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

How can Paul give a long list of conduct forbidden by God, and then say, "All things are lawful for me"? Does he have a special dispensation to commit sin? Can any Christian have the same privileges Paul seems to enjoy? What does he mean, "All things are lawful for me"?

First, it is helpful to understand that the phrase is better translated as, "I have permission to do anything," "I am free to do anything," or "I may do anything." This removes the strict sense of law and legality that the word "lawful" suggests. Paul is referring to our God-given free-moral agency. This liberty to sin appears in Deuteronomy 30:15-20, where God says we are free to choose either death or life, but He commands us to choose life, clearly implying that we are also free to choose death! History reveals that mankind, under the power of Satan, human nature, and this world, has overwhelmingly chosen death, becoming slaves to wrong choices.

When God calls us, He opens our minds to our nature, the serious purpose of life, the certainty of death, and the sacrifice of Christ for us. We may freely choose to take advantage of God's offer, enter into a covenant with Him, and receive His Spirit, and He frees us from our slavery to Satan, human nature, sin, and death. This begins the process of becoming permanently free from our slavery to wrong choices. Once in this position, we can see why Paul says, in paraphrase, "As a son of God, I still have permission to do anything, but not everything is helpful, or expedient, to fulfilling God's purpose for me if I desire to fulfill the covenant and enter God's Kingdom."

He then makes the strong statement, paraphrasing verse 12, "I will not allow myself to be mastered by human nature's lustful desires. I will control myself because, otherwise, I'd just be serving myself, not God or my fellow men." I Corinthians 9:27 confirms Paul strong desire and efforts to guard himself against sin: "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."

He writes in Romans 14:22-23: "Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin." Happy—blessed—is the person who overcomes lust, which in reality is idolatry, because it affects the way he worships God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment


 

1 Corinthians 10:6-11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The apostle lists five major sins of the Israelite people here. In essence, though, there was really only one major sin, but the others led to this major sin, which was idolatry. The other sins they committed were just a step that took them into it.

These verses list lust, idolatry, fornication, tempting God, and murmuring. But the Corinthian church had another problem that Paul does not list here. It is something that we have to read between the lines to see. But once we begin to see it, it begins to become very clear. Their problem was a careless presumption that had its roots in pride. They were elevating themselves above their brethren, and their careless presumption that they were all right with God led them to treat their fellow man in a way that they ought not to have done. He is implying that behind this whole circumstance is idolatry. They themselves were the gods they were worshipping.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

1 Corinthians 10:11  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Understanding I Corinthians 10:11 helps us realize the significant position we maintain because of God's calling. "All these things" refers to God's experiences with Old Testament Israel. These events took place over a span of more than a thousand years and involved millions of people being moved about as God worked out His purpose. As the context shows, His purpose included recording these things for our spiritual benefit. God made massive preparations far in advance of our arrival to provide us witnesses of how to do or not to do things to please Him and prepare us for His Kingdom. Paul's powerful admonition tells us how important we are and why we must flee idolatry (verse 14)!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are


 

1 Corinthians 10:12-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

This passage appears in the midst of an epistle detailing the problems of a tumultuous congregation. Paul draws on the experiences of Israel in the wilderness as examples to us. He concludes by telling them, despite what manner of sin each individual was involved in, to turn their attention to overcoming idolatry. In others words, idolatry sat at the foundation and was ultimately the cause of whatever their sin happened to be.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment


 

1 Corinthians 10:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Flee from idolatry. Lust, fornication, tempting Christ, murmuring—all of these are sin that lead to idolatry.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Passover and I Corinthians 10


 

2 Corinthians 13:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

[Do you not know] that Jesus Christ is in you? - Paul exhorts these same Corinthians:

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 6:16—7:1)

Because we are God's children, we are special, but nothing of our own makes us special. It is only God dwelling in us by His Spirit that separates us from others. But what a difference that makes!

Jesus says in John 14:23, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him." This should make us think, "What kind of home am I providing for the Sovereign God and His glorified Son?" Our desire to give God nothing to judge as unworthy of His presence should run the gamut from our physical health to our most secret thoughts.

Clearly, every one of us falls short. But this is why Paul exhorts us to cleanse ourselves, continually maturing in holiness in the fear of God. We are to scrub deeply out of deep reverence for Him who dwells in us.

Staff
What Does 'Examine Yourselves' Mean?


 

Galatians 4:8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Before a person comes to know God, he serves those that are not gods by nature. Satan is the god of this world (I Corinthians 4:4), but he was not made to be so. In another place, I Corinthians 8:5, Paul says that there are many lords and many gods, but we know there is only one true God. Many beings attempt to pawn themselves off as gods, each of whom has a kind of "truth," or better, a "philosophy of life."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Truth (Part 1)


 

Galatians 4:9-10  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The common, traditional explanation of Galatians 4:9-10 is that Paul is reprimanding the Galatians for returning to Old Testament observances that were a form of "bondage." Insisting that Paul taught that the Old Testament law was "done away" (Colossians 2:14), they conclude that Christians should not keep the days that God had commanded Israel to keep. In verse 10, Paul mentions observances of "days and months and seasons and years." Some contend that these observances refer to God's Sabbath and holy days commanded in the Old Testament. But this interpretation overlooks many foundational points.

Galatia was not a city but a province in Asia Minor. The church membership was undoubtedly composed mainly of Gentiles, and the males were physically uncircumcised (Galatians 5:2; 6:12-13). In looking at Paul's initial dealings with these people, we find that they had a history of worshipping pagan deities. In Lystra, a city in Galatia, God healed a crippled man through Paul (Acts 14:8-18). The people of the area were so astonished at this miracle that they supposed Barnabas and Paul, whom they called Zeus and Hermes (verse 12), to be pagan gods! They wanted to sacrifice to them, and would have, if the apostles had not stopped them (verses 13-18). This shows that the people in Galatia were generally superstitious and worshipped pagan deities.

The major theme of the Galatian epistle is to put them "back on the track" because someone had been teaching "a different gospel," a perversion of the gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:6-7). The Galatians had derailed on their understanding of how sinners are justified. False teachers in Galatia taught that one was justified by doing physical works of some kind. The majority of evidence indicates that the false teachers were teaching a blend of Judaism and Gnosticism. The philosophy of Gnosticism taught that everything physical was evil, and that people could attain a higher spiritual understanding through effort. It was the type of philosophy that its adherents thought could be used to enhance or improve anyone's religion. In Paul's letter to the Colossians, we read of this same philosophy having an influence on the church there. It was characterized by strict legalism, a "taste not, touch not" attitude, neglect of the body, worship of angels, and a false humility (Colossians 2:18-23).

What, then, were the "days, months, seasons and years" that Paul criticizes the Galatians for observing? First, Paul nowhere in the entire letter mentions God's holy days. Second, the apostle would never refer to holy days that God instituted as "weak and beggarly elements." He honored and revered God's law (Romans 7:12, 14, 16). Besides, he taught the Corinthians to observe Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread (I Corinthians 5:7-8), and he kept the Sabbath and holy days himself (Acts 16:13; 18:21; 20:6; I Corinthians 16:8).

When the scriptures in question are put into context, the explanation of what these days were becomes clear. In Galatians 4:1-5, Paul draws an analogy in which he likens the Jew to a child who is waiting to come into an inheritance and the Gentile to a slave in the same household. He explains how, before the coming of Christ, the spiritual state of the Jew was no different from the Gentile because neither had had their sins forgiven nor had they received God's Spirit. Prior to the coming of Christ, both Jews and Gentiles were "in bondage under the elements of the world" (verse 3).

The word "elements" is the Greek stoicheion, which means any first thing or principal. "In bondage under the elements of the world" refers to the fact that the unconverted mind is subject to the influence of Satan and his demons, the rulers of this world and the authors of all idolatrous worship. Satan and his demons are the origin, the underlying cause, of the evil ways of this world, and all unconverted humans are under their sway. "Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be" (Romans 8:7). Paul is saying that both Jews and Gentiles had been in bondage to sin.

In Galatians 4:8, Paul brings up the subject of the idolatry and paganism that they had participated in before their conversion. "But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods." This obviously refers to the worship of pagan deities (Acts 14:8-18). He is making it clear that God had called them out of that way of life. Paul continues this thought in verse 9, where his obvious concern was that the Galatians were returning to the way of life from which God had called them. The "weak and beggarly elements" were demon-inspired, idolatrous practices, NOT something God had commanded. "Elements" here is the same word, stoicheion, translated "elements" in verse 3. An extension of stoicheion can refer to the heavenly bodies that regulate the calendar and are associated with pagan festivals. The apostle condemns the practices and way of life that had been inspired by Satan and his demons, the principal cause of all the world's evil. Paul recognized that the Galatians had begun to return to their former slavish, sinful practices.

It is evident that the "days, months, seasons and years" Paul refers to in verse 10 were the pagan, idolatrous festivals and observances that the Galatian Gentiles had observed before their conversion. They could not possibly be God's holy days because these Gentiles had never observed them before being called, nor would Paul ever call them "weak and beggerly." Rather, they were turning back to their old, heathen way of life that included keeping various superstitious holidays connected to the worship of pagan deities.

Far from doing away with God's holy days, these scriptures show that we should not be observing "days, months, seasons and years" that have their roots in paganism, such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day, Halloween, and any other days that originated from the worship of pagan gods.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Does Paul Condemn Observing God's Holy Days?


 

Ephesians 5:5-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

These verses clearly point to the seriousness of idolatry, but few seem to understand that the essence of idolatry is the worship of the self. A young man once said to me that he could see nothing wrong with the Christmas tree because he did not bow down and worship it. He knows the truth about Christmas, but he holds his opinion higher than the truth of Christmas' origins and intent. His words also reveal that he did not understand the meaning of "bow down" or "serve" in regard to this commandment. Bow down means "to bend the neck or waist," but when applied to a situation as in this commandment, it means "to give reverence, worship, give assent, or submit." Serve means "to work for, promote the interests of, aid, help, obey, wait upon, or satisfy the requirements of."

The ramifications of this are almost endless; it could involve every other commandment that men habitually break through lust. Suppose we ask God for something He has promised, such as prosperity. Prosperity is good; He wants us to be prosperous. However, if our desire for prosperity becomes greater than the desire to submit to the way God says we must live to be prospered, we will use a carnal means to acquire even the promised good thing. Abraham and Sarah used this justification in attempting to bear the promised son through Hagar. Their reasoning, combined with a weakening of their faith, led them to follow their own way over God's. An idolater serves himself at the expense of obeying God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Second Commandment (1997)


 

Ephesians 5:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Covetousness is a strong desire for and a seeking after material things that become objects of our worship if we hold them as more important than God. Someone else's house or car can be an idol if we covet them. This attitude is identified with idolatry because it replaces God with self-interest and visible things.

Martin G. Collins
The Second Commandment


 

Philippians 3:7-8  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we desire to walk as Christ walked, we have to strive with all our being to meet the requirements of the sacrifices that will arise in our lives. Christ personified the intent of the biblical sacrifices; they were an integral part of His life.

Did Paul follow Christ's example when sacrifice was required to confirm his devotion to Him? He says of himself that he was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews" (Philippians 3:5), a man of proper pedigree. He was instructed at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), so he was likely a rabbi, an honorable and exalted position he had to jettison. He may have been a member of the Sanhedrin, and thus a man of eminent authority and respect. If so, he would have had to be married, yet Scripture makes no mention of a wife. Did she leave him or die? Perhaps he had to give her up too. Apparently, he left no children. II Corinthians 11:22-33 gives an overview of the many sacrifices he made to serve the church as an apostle.

Our Savior gave more of this kind of sacrifice than anybody did. He gave up many of His prerogatives as God to experience life as a human. Abraham had to leave his home country and wander as a nomad for the rest of his life. Moses had to give up any dreams he may have had to sit on the throne of Egypt. What have we had to sacrifice—anything comparable to what these men gave up? Have we sacrificed houses, lands, families, or jobs? Paul says he lost everything! Philippians 3:8 records, "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ."

Many of us are similar to the rich young ruler of Matthew 19, who asks Jesus what he needs to do to be saved. When Jesus tells him to sell all he has and give to the poor, he cannot do it. We see that wealth was a major idol in his life, his high tower that he looked to for security. In like manner, we also consider wealth to provide security, and we try hard to keep it from slipping away. If this were not so, idolatry would not be such a major problem, but it is the most common and serious of all spiritual sins. It comes between God and us, greatly hindering us in conforming to His image.

When counseling a person for baptism, a minister almost invariably takes the candidate through Jesus' teaching in Luke 14:26-30:

If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, "This man began to build and was not able to finish."

This discourse lists many possibilities that may require sacrifice, but none is so common or costly as "yes, and his own life also." Though it may be a heavy condition and require deep soul-searching, we may give up an inheritance, job, title, or status with little regret. One can regroup from these losses and life goes on, but a person can never get away from himself. A person takes human nature and its enmity against God with him everywhere he goes. At all times, he faces the challenges and demands of bad attitudes, tempers, weak resolve, and weak character engrained in the past.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Nine): Conclusion (Part Two)


 

Philippians 3:18-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Paul writes in Philippians 3:18-19 that gluttons tend to concentrate on physical things, neglecting their spiritual relationship with God.

We may think such idolatry is rare among us, but the apostle says there are "many . . . whose god is their belly," their appetites, their physical senses. They break the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me," because their desire becomes a higher priority than their Creator and Sustainer. Gluttony breaks the rest of the commandments as well:

The second, when we serve or relinquish control to our physical desires. Colossians 3:5 says, "Therefore put to death your members which are on earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." We "bow down" to a false god when we gratify our lusts of the flesh and of the eyes (I John 2:16).

The third, when we fail to uphold God's name—and all that it represents—in glory and honor. Many call themselves Christians and claim to follow Christ, but lack the holy character God wants us to have (I Peter 2:5, 9). Is "Glutton" the name God wants His holy people to have? I Peter 1:15 answers, "He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct."

The fourth, when we use the Sabbath, a feast day, to crave and overeat. Sometimes we do this under the assumption that, since we are fellowshipping, we can eat excessive amounts. Eating or drinking too much is seeking our own pleasure, which Isaiah 58:13-14 warns against in the context of the Sabbath:

If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD. . . .

The fifth, when we do not wisely use the many years of support and training we received from our parents. A child of any age who does not have self-control is a worry and an embarrassment to his parents. The glutton, abusing his body with excessive food, may not live even as long as his parents, fulfilling the inverse of the commandment's promise.

The sixth, by systematically and continually destroying the body and mind that God has given into our care. It is slow suicide. If parents are gluttons, they teach their children to do the same, thereby eventually killing them as well. Since our bodies are the Temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), to destroy it knowingly is sin.

The seventh, when we over-eat, over-buy, over-accumulate as a "get" way of life. Our way of life is our religion, and if it is a lifestyle of excessive desire, our religion is in competition with God's way of life. This, in effect, is spiritual adultery, as seen in Jeremiah 3:6-10. God says in verse 9, "So it came to pass, through [Judah's] casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees." These idols, worshipped on the high places, became the object of Judah's excessive desire, just as food, drink, or any material thing can be.

The eighth, when we take more than what is balanced and needful, thus more than God has given. In addition, by hoarding for ourselves we steal from others. Certainly, when there are people without enough, for us to consume more than we need is wrong (Proverbs 22:9; 11:24-26). A society that over-consumes at the expense of others is, at the very least, greedy. Wastefulness is a by-product of gluttony, and Americans no longer live by sayings like, "Waste not, want not!" We live in a careless, throw-away society, but the day will come when this gluttonous nation will lose everything and be taken into captivity. Proverbs 23:21 predicts, "For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty."

The ninth, when we are gluttonous while calling ourselves Christians. This is a lie and hypocritical, misrepresenting God. Commonly, gluttons blame a thyroid problem or claim it is a disease, thereby relinquishing responsibility. If this is not true, it is a lie. It is also a lie if we think that giving into excessive desire will not hurt us. God speaks of such self-deception in Jeremiah 7:8-10:

Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know, and then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, "We are delivered to do all these abominations"?

The tenth, when we are not satisfied with what we have and desire the possessions of others. A glutton wants even more than he has. Children must be taught not to want the biggest piece of cake or the most ice cream. Solomon had one wife, then he wanted another and another and another until he had hundreds. Solomon was a glutton, which his power and wealth made easier.

As James says, if we break one commandment, we break them all (James 2:10). With gluttony, we can specifically break each one. It is not a trivial matter!

Martin G. Collins
Gluttony: A Lack of Self-Control (Part Two)


 

Colossians 3:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The word translated "covetousness" here is the Greek word pleonexia. It is an ugly word describing an ugly sin. It is ugly because it is idolatry and destructive. Lexicons describe pleonexia as "the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others." It suggests ruthless self-seeking and an arrogant assumption that others and things exist for one's own benefit.

Covetousness is idolatry because it puts self-interest and things in the place of God. A man sets up an idol because he desires to get some pleasure or satisfaction from it. So he serves to get, which is idolatry. The essence of idolatry, then, is to get for the self. Christians, though, must give themselves to God, and we do it by yielding to Him in obedience to whatever He says.

Colossians 3:5 says we are to "mortify therefore [our] members which are on the earth" (KJV). This does not mean merely to practice an ascetic self-discipline. It is a very strong word, meaning "to kill." The Christian must kill self-centeredness. He must radically transform his life, shifting the focus from himself to God. This is exactly what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:29-30. Everything that keeps us from fully obeying God and surrendering to Jesus Christ must be spiritually excised. The tenth commandment, like the first, serves as a governor, controlling whether we keep the others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment (1998)


 

Colossians 3:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

If we seek something contrary to God's will, we covet. If we lust after something, it can become an idol to us, and we will serve it (Romans 6:16). The Bible associates lust with pride and vanity (I John 2:16-17). When a man amasses possessions, he feels a false sense of security because they make him feel he is superior to others. He deceives himself into thinking that calamity will not touch him, yet covetousness is never satisfied and brings on many sorrows.

Martin G. Collins
The Tenth Commandment


 

Colossians 3:5  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Greek word underlying "covetousness" is pleonexia, which means "the desire to have more." This is among the ugliest of sins because it involves idolatry as well as its effects on others. The Greeks defined it as "the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others." It is further described as "ruthless self-seeking," the kind of attitude that the arrogant and callous person has, assuming that others and their things exist for his own benefit.

The desire for more money can lead to theft; the desire for more prestige, to evil ambition; the desire for more power, to tyranny; the desire for a person's body, to fornication and adultery. Paul identifies covetousness as idolatry because, in the place of God, it puts self-interest for illicit things. A man sets up an idol in his heart because he desires to get something from it. So he serves it to get that something rather than to obey God's commandment. That, very simply put, is idolatry.

The essence of idolatry is to get for the self in defiance of God. However, we have to give ourselves to God if we want to overcome illicit desires. Paul says to "mortify" (KJV) or "put to death" (NKJV) whatever is sinful. That does not mean to practice ascetic self-discipline—it means to kill. The Christian must kill self-centeredness. In his life, he must make a radical transformation, a shift of the center of his life. It is the same principle as described by Matthew 5:29. Everything that keeps a person from fully obeying God and surrendering to Jesus Christ must be surgically excised from his conduct.

The tenth commandment, then, has a function similar to the first. They both act as governors, controlling whether we keep the others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Tenth Commandment


 

Titus 1:16  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Modern Protestantism has lost the cutting edge it once had, resulting in the loss of a great deal of influence. A number of years ago, a Protestant pastor commented that the church has become good at turning wine into water. In many cases, modern Christian services and teachings are nothing more than entertaining paganism and in other cases, a Sunday morning fraternal organization. Morality has fallen in the streets. As one recent writer proclaimed, America, largely a Protestant nation, is being swept away in a homosexual and pornographic tsunami.

Satan's deception has created a problem for the true church because its members gradually tend to accept as true Satan's lie that Israel is "Christian," thus feeling a spiritual affinity with their countrymen that has no basis in fact. Israel's modern "Christianity" makes doctrine of little or no importance, leaving everyone free to do what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25). If gradually accepted, it will produce the same tolerant, nonjudgmental, just-do-your-own-thing, politically correct, multicultural Laodiceanism we see so commonly in Israelitish countries.

When this happens, faith in the sovereign God to govern His creation vanishes, and people generally find justifications for idolatry, for Sabbath breaking, for murder, for lying, and for adultery. The so-called "Christian" nation finds justification for murder on a massive scale by calling its young men and women to fight its "just" wars. Did Jesus ever use any of these methods to solve His problems?

Modern Israel's religious beliefs and practices are reminiscent of Paul's comment in Titus 1:16 about some people of his day: "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." Jeremiah 17:9 says, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." Thus, widespread spiritual adultery is committed by a nation that symbolically entered into a marriage covenant with God but whose works of faithlessness have become a way of life.

Idolatry on an unrecognized but huge scale, Sabbath breaking, dishonoring parents, murder in a wide variety of ways, breaking of marriage vows through adultery and multiple marriages, lying, and coveting have become a lifestyle, committed and justified for moments of self-absorbed gratification and ease. Today, it is packaged for export two ways: on the movie screen as "entertainment" for the masses, and through the combination of advertising and business practices. By these, we have drugged others with our wine into a way of life to be imitated if one desires to have personal fulfillment, wealth, and national political and military power.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Six): The Woman's Character


 

Hebrews 3:12  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

In Hebrews 3:12, the apostle Paul reports of Israel's "evil heart of unbelief," the fountain, the source, that gave birth to her irrational, erratic, unreliable spiritual and moral behavior. She could not be trusted to remain firm to her commitment to be faithful in keeping the commandments and thus God's way of life. Had the making of the covenant been a literal marriage between two humans, her conduct would have been as God called it, harlotry. However, this was an agreement between a holy, spiritual God and the human nation He chose.

Though she transgressed every commandment in multiple ways, collectively, the spiritual sin through which her unfaithfulness is most frequently demonstrated is gross idolatry. Israel simply serves herself, following the whim of the moment, so that she might "have fun." Her lack of belief grants her nature free rein to exhibit itself in the self-endowed liberty to follow the lust of her flesh, the lust of her eyes, and the pride of life. She rejects her divine Husband as her Ruler because she wants a king "just like" the other nations.

Except for the occasional times when Israel had good leadership, she conducted her affairs, whether personal, domestic, or international, in the Babylonian manner. Israel, despite her great advantages, became just another kingdom of this world. While God has remained faithful to His agreements and promises through the centuries, she has maintained a hypocritical "God's people" stance toward the world, palming herself off as a "Christian nation."

With the founding of the church following Christ's resurrection, God's spiritual focus turned to the church. Having made the New Covenant with God, our charge now is to be faithful while living surrounded by Babylon the Great. Though it is literally physically impossible, we have the responsibility to come out of her, and we can come out spiritually by being faithful to God and His commandments. We must not fail as Israel did, for the stakes for us are much greater. The New Covenant is a better covenant than Israel made; it contains better promises, enabling us a much better opportunity to be faithful and grow. However, those greater advantages also render us more responsible than even Israel, God's only chosen nation, because the church of God is God's only chosen church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beast and Babylon (Part Eight): God, Israel, and the Bible


 

1 Peter 1:18  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Before repentance, our "love" for God was like what the uncalled in the world have for Him to this day. We loved a concept of God given us by tradition. We even had some part in devising it because we really did not know Him. If we acknowledge this reality, we will discover it was an idol! In principle, it was tantamount to bowing before a statue as the ancient pagans did. Those in the world cannot enter His Kingdom until they worship the true God, which is why the second resurrection is necessary. It is also why God says in such verses as Ezekiel 37:6, "I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord."

The God of the Bible says in His Word that not a single person has ever known Him until He chose to reveal himself because before this happens no one knows what to look for in God. Both testaments say, "There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God" (Romans 3:10-11; Psalm 14:1-3).

Human nature likes to think of itself as possessing certain virtues—that we were generous, kind, good-tempered, sincere, etc.—and that God saw these in us and chose us for His side. How can this be in light of these scriptures? Who is telling the truth? Though some do have virtuous qualities, God does not call such people because of them. Besides, these qualities fall far short of the image into which God is shaping us.

Some people like to say they have always believed God, yet what they believed was an idol, a syncretistic god devised by combining biblical truth and paganism. If what they say were true, Acts 18:27 could not also be true. We believe because faith is God's gift. We have what we have only because we are the objects of His choice. He chose the ones He did simply because He chose them. We can go no further. We have no claim to any praise in this regard. Instead, it should humble us, stun us, into overflowing praise, gratitude, obedience, and zeal that He has given so much to those so undeserving to receive it.

Humility begins when we properly recognize who and what we are in relation to the sovereign Creator and to fellow man, called and uncalled alike. We show humility by the choices we make, and these will largely be determined by our willing recognition of the immense value of God's loving revelation of Himself to us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Seven


 

Revelation 2:14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

No one in today's greater church of God overtly teaches we should worship idols of wood or stone (Exodus 20:3-5) and eat meat offered to them, as occurred among the early churches Paul administered. Nor does anyone openly teach fornication as a personal or religious practice, as happened in the Temple of Diana at Ephesus. However, anything that comes between us and devotion to God, including self-worship, is an idol, and any concourse with this world that diverts our attention from Him is spiritual fornication. Paul slew the idol of self daily (I Corinthians 15:31). We too often tolerate spiritual idolatry and fornication in ourselves and others, giving Christ plenty of fodder for His criticism.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Pergamos


 

Revelation 2:20-21  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The world's corrupt, godless society influences God's people beyond our realization, and spiritual fornication and idol worship in particular have long been the bane of both physical and spiritual Israel. For instance, when Judah's exile ended, only a remnant of the people (42,360) returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 2:64); the vast majority chose to remain in pagan Babylon. How many of us today put the things of this world ahead of God? The Bible suggests only a small faithful remnant will pay the price to return to God with their whole hearts and "come out of her" in the end time (Isaiah 1:9).

Staff
The Seven Churches: Thyatira


 

Revelation 2:21-23  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

God mercifully provides time and opportunity for repentance from idolatry and spiritual fornication with this world (II Peter 3:9). If He does not receive a proper response, He promises great tribulation and martyrdom—not necessarily as punishment, but as an inducement to repent.

Staff
The Seven Churches: Thyatira


 

Revelation 3:17-19  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The wealth of the Laodicean is not the problem. His problem derives from allowing his wealth to lead him into self-satisfaction, self-sufficiency, and complacency. His heart is lifted up. These attitudes lead him to avoid self-sacrifice by which he could grow spiritually. People normally use wealth to avoid the hardships of life, and although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, a person not spiritually astute will allow the comforts of wealth to erode his relationship with God. In his physical wealth, the Laodicean is poor in the things that really count and blind to his need. He no longer overcomes and grows. His witness is no good - and useless to Christ.

God reveals His love for the Laodicean when, rather than giving up on him, He gives him a punishing trial. He allows him to go through the fire, the Great Tribulation, to chasten him for his idolatry, to remind him of his true priorities, and to give him the opportunity to repent.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 3:17  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

From the beginning to the end of its history, Israel's great sin was trying to get the best of both worlds. They professed that God was their god, but they proved their insincerity by not honoring Him with their attention, their time, their energy. He was low on their list of priorities. God was always on the back burner, so to speak. This is idolatry.

In regard to Laodiceanism, we have to be concerned about the same sin. Laodiceanism is the most subtle form of idolatry. A Laodicean is a Christian who has turned inward. Though he is a part of the church of God, his worship is self-centered. He worships himself and his interests in God's name, while going through the motions of worshipping God. Such is idolatry. What sin is the most distasteful to God? Undoubtedly, it is idolatry! And seeing that sin so skillfully embedded in the Laodicean, He spews them out of His mouth!

Laodiceanism is also the most refined form of worldliness. That worries God. Beginning with an attraction to the world, and building through self-concern that overpowers spiritual concerns, the Laodicean unwittingly worships himself in the place of God. The Laodicean has misjudged what is important in life, and therefore he prioritizes wrongly. He gives his attention to pursuits that are not intrinsically evil, things God desires to bless His people with, but because his priorities are wrong, he merits God's scathing condemnation.

Probably all of us have slumped into Laodiceanism somewhat. Because it is so prevalent in the world, it is almost impossible to avoid. But it can be resisted! We still have time for repentance. Each of us can make a greater effort to study, pray, fast, grow in love for each other, unselfishly help our neighbors, and follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit while we have the time and opportunity. We must not allow this opportunity to slip away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church and Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 11:6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Although the Two Witnesses can do other miracles, two particular curses are highlighted here: lack of rain and water turned to blood. When looking at the Old Testament record where these same curses are present, we see them in context with idolatry, not knowing the true God, and the need for forgiveness. These are subjects that the world needs to hear about, and these miracles will be used to illustrate them.

These miracles show just how far the world is from God and why the judgment of Christ as He returns must happen. Remember, these men are witnesses, sent to warn the world, to give them the knowledge they need to understand what is happening, so that they are without excuse before God's throne when they are finally judged. The Witnesses tell them—by these signs, as well as through words—that they are utterly rebellious against God. They tell the world's people that they do not know Him and that they need to know Him—and quick! The Witnesses provide evidence to prove the people to be utterly defiled and sentenced to death unless they make some drastic changes.

It is a very scary scenario. The Witnesses are given carte blanche authority to do whatever is necessary to get these points across. The three years of their ministry will not be fun times, especially if they must make curses like this happen around the world with any frequency.

It is also notable that both of these plagues concern water, which is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. One curse points to a lack of water, and the other is the defiling of it. In a way, these signs show the spiritual state of mankind. They either reject God totally—corresponding to the lack of rain—or they twist and defile what they know of His truth, turning it into an abomination—symbolized by the water turned to blood. Water is present, but it is defiled.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part 6)


 

Revelation 12:9  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

One of the greatest end-time deceptions that Satan has perpetrated has been to convince people that the Israelitish countries are Christian. A direct result of this has been the impulse in Israelites to colonize partly in order to spread, and thus share, its gospel with those who are considered by them as heathen. In so doing, she has spread the wine of her idolatrous religious influence worldwide. But all it has succeeded in doing is to give Christianity a bad name, and at the same time, to spread lies about the true God and the purpose that He is working out.

The Dutch were the first of the modern Israelitish nations to carry the Babylonish/Roman brand of Christianity to other nations that they colonized, seeking raw materials and markets for their manufactured goods. They in turn were followed on the world stage by the French and then the British. In our day, it is Americans who are doing the bulk of the influencing. They have all prepared the way for the end-time revival of the Great Whore.

Most Americans believe that the Founding Fathers of this Republic were Christian men. They indeed, for the most part, were men of considerable education, wealth, and high moral character who had a wonderful vision of what a nation should be and how it should be governed. Their morality was largely in agreement with biblical morality. Undoubtedly they were religious men, but true Christians they were not, even though they and others would identify them as being Christians.

But neither were they secularists. Secularists are people who believe in no God, or even if they believe there is a God, that God has no direct influence in their lives. Most of these men were what we would call today "deists," who believed that God exists and that He created all things, but they did not truly believe God as a Christian does. They did not believe that He is actively involved, participating in, and governing His creation. They did not believe that this great God is moving history and time toward a pre-determined end. They essentially believed that God created, stepped aside, and is merely watching what is going on. There was to them no real purpose being actively worked out by the Creator, except that He is "saving" men, and thus they were not subject to Him in their understanding and loving cooperation with Him.

America's Constitutional foundation, which places the greatest burden of government on individual responsibility, as good as it is—and I personally believe it is better than any other nation's that has ever existed, with the exception of ancient Israel at Mount Sinai—is still nonetheless flawed by the Protestant Reformation.

The Protestant Reformation burst from Catholicism, and it was the same Catholic Church that all the reformers thought of as the true church gone corrupt. But the truth of the matter is that the Catholic Church was NEVER the true church, and the Protestant Reformation did not re-establish the true religion. The Catholic Church is exactly what it has always publicly called itself: the Roman Catholic (Universal) Church. It stands identified by its own words! It is not the Christian church, but the Roman Universal Church. It is a syncretistic religion, having its roots in Babylon. It is not the church of God.

The Protestant Reformation simply established more forms of the Roman Catholic Church. It established denominations of false religion masquerading as the true religion. The Reformation simply reformed the Roman Universal Church into many varieties without a Pope. They altered ceremonial requirements and modified many of the more obvious corruptions. The Israelitish people then proceeded to spread these hybrid religions all over the world in their colonization of other areas. They were better than the Roman Universal variety, but they still were not of the truth.

Now consider this: Was God involved in this? Absolutely, He was! He is the sovereign, omnipotent Ruler. He did not raise up these churches, but He permitted them to form. He could have stopped it at any time, but it was within His purpose to allow these things to occur and to build toward the end time. God governs all of His creation, and something of this magnitude could not have happened without His oversight. If He has oversight, and it happened without Him giving permission for it to occur, then He is not sovereign! Somebody put one over on Him! But nobody puts anything over on God.

One good thing that the Protestant Reformation did produce was to release many people from a great deal of religious confusion and political slavery. But today, Protestantism has lost its cutting edge. In many cases, it is nothing more than entertaining paganism. In other cases, it is a Sunday-morning fraternal organization. We are seeing its effects on the streets.

Morality has fallen in the market place, in the business area, and in the streets. America especially is being swept away in a homosexual and pornographic tsunami, as one writer recently proclaimed. All of this in turn has created a problem of massive proportions for the true church, because church members gradually begin accepting as true Satan's lie that Israel is Christian, and thus they feel a spiritual affinity with their countrymen that has no basis in fact.

Israel is not Christian and never has been! What some may feel an affinity with is a lie masquerading as the truth. Herbert Armstrong read this verse so often because he could see it. He could see the danger to God's people to think that what the people are practicing in Israel is part of the true church. It is not! Do not be deceived! It is a corruption of the Roman Universal Church, which syncretistically adapted some aspects of true Christianity into it and became a major counterfeit of the truth. But it never was the true church, not for even one second of its existence. We have got to understand that.

Israel's modern Christianity makes doctrine of little or no importance, leaving everyone free to do what is right in his own eyes. In the true church, it will produce the same tolerant non-judgmental "just do your own thing," politically correct, multicultural way of deism that we so commonly see accepted in Israelitish countries, and faith in trusting the sovereign God to govern His creation vanishes. People in the church find justification for idolatry, for Sabbath-breaking, for murder, lying, stealing, just as the so-called "Christian" nation finds justification for those things.

It was no accident that James writes in James 4:1, "From whence come wars. . . ." God's people making war? They were. Those things can creep into the church and into us individually if we allow them.

Did you ever hear of Jesus using any of those methods—murder, lying, stealing, making war, committing adultery, breaking the Sabbath—to solve His problems? He said, "I always do the will of My Father." He did not resort to those things, because they are not Christian, even though He was surrounded by people (the Jews) who ostensibly were God's people and ostensibly keeping the commandments.

The gospels say that "He trusted no man," and He kept Himself separate from them spiritually even though He was among them constantly, healing, teaching, and receiving abuse and persecution because He was peculiar to them and a threat. How did He threaten them? By making them face up to their justifications, their lies to themselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 6)


 

Revelation 17:1-6  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

As the head of gold, Babylon's alluring qualities are manifest in the world, and we must avoid these to keep from being ensnared. These traits are clearly delineated in Revelation 17 and 18, and they are these broad areas of possible temptation or trial for us: idolatry, prostitution, self-sufficiency, self-glorification, pride, complacency, reliance on luxury and wealth, avoidance of suffering, and violence against life.

Especially emphasized in these chapters is pride ("she glorified herself"), and the second is satiety, to seek the fullness of everything. It is especially used in regard to seeking food—to become full and then go beyond that. It is to become over-full in everything. However, satiety can apply to other things as well. Some people lose themselves in entertainment: A little bit of entertainment is not enough—their whole lives must consist of entertainment, practically from morning to night. Revelation 18:7 says that the great harlot lived luxuriously. Then there is the avoidance of suffering, seen where she says in the same verse, "I shall see no sorrow."

These three are interrelated, and when combined with the other attitudinal factors, they become the perfect matrix for producing Laodiceanism in the careless Christian. The world is already largely caught up in these things, but they are a temptation to us.

A matrix is described in the dictionary as "the environment in which something is developed." In some cases, it is synonymous with another better known and more frequently used word, "womb." The womb is the perfect matrix for the development of a baby. We in this society are living right in the midst of the perfect environment for developing Laodiceanism, which is why it is so important that we understand the origin, nature, and fruit of the Israelitish culture that has become the very epitome of the Babylonish system.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism


 

Revelation 18:11-13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The merchants, who gained wealth and perverse pleasures from this world's system of religion and commerce, cry and lament because it satiated their greed for materialistic acquisition and their lust for self-pleasure. As the Babylonian system incorporates every expression of corrupt government, so its prostitution includes every corrupt economic system and idolatry. Even human beings are reduced to cargo, traded as slaves to drive the engines of production, prosperity, and sinful pleasures.

Sadly, the modern descendants of Israel have promoted and become part of this self-serving, perverse world system. Sin inevitably brings its own punishment, and there are always consequences to disobedience. Thus, when today's Israelites go into captivity in the last days, they will have no excuse for their sin and no freedom whatsoever.

Martin G. Collins
Slavery and Babylon


 

Find more Bible verses about Idolatry:
Idolatry {Nave's}
Idolatry {Torrey's}
 




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