Other Gods and False Idols- Identifying the Enemy

 

KLMX Ministerial Alliance

Bryan Kimsey

1st Baptist Church, Des Moines, NM

 

Using the 1st Commandment as a springboard, we’ve been looking at other gods and false idols this week.  Just to refresh your memory, the 1st Commandment says:

 

Exodus 20:1-6  And God spoke all these words, saying:  (2)  "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  (3)  "You shall have no other gods before Me.  (4)  "You shall not make for yourself a carved image any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth;  (5)  you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,  (6)  but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

 

Yesterday, I showed how the Hebrews, God’s chosen people, repeatedly chased after other gods, even after having just seen the glory of God Almighty in their lives.  We looked the example of Solomon, the wisest and richest man who ever lived, and how he was led by his foreign wives- which God commanded him to not marry- into idol worship.  We ended up with Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians that the Old Testament was given as an example for us.  Therefore, don’t think that you’re beyond worshipping false idols!  Our lives are loaded with idols, from gods with actual names like “Mother Nature” to sports and TV to even religion itself. 

 

God Almighty brought us out of bondage, whether it be the actual bondage of slavery, as the Hebrews, or the bondage of spiritual darkness, as Jesus did, and anything that takes us away from worshipping Him and Him alone is idolatry.   But, let’s go back and look at some gods of the Old Testament, specifically the Baals and the Ashteroth since these are the ones most frequently mentioned.  May God bless this message and use it to His glory, in the name of His only begotten son, the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.  Amen.

 

In the Old Testament we will find frequent mention of the names “Baal” and “Ashteroths”.  For instance:

 

Judges 10:6  Then the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines; and they forsook the LORD and did not serve Him.

 

Let’s start with the Baals.  The name “Baal” means “master” or “ruler of”.  The name “Baal”, used alone, is the name of the supreme god of the Canaanites.   For instance:

 

1 Kings 18:19  Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."

 

Baal is the Canaanite sun god and in control of all things.  On one hand, he is supposed to give light by which things grown, and on the other hand, he gives the withering summer heat.  Human sacrifices were offered to Baal and when you read the term “passing through the fire” as in 2 Kings 16:3 and 2 Kings 21:6, you’re reading about a human sacrifice to this idol.  Here’s:

 

2 Kings 16:2-3  Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done.  (3)  But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel.

 

Underneath this supreme Baal, people worshipped local deities. Thus, we’ll find names like Baal of Peor, Baal of Hermon, Baal-Lebanon, Baal-Berith, Baal-Zebub, and so on.  Each of these is worshipped as the ruler of something.  Some were rulers of a locality, such as Baal of Peor, while others were rulers of things. Baal-zebub, for instance, was ruler of the flies.  In that culture and time, flies were a big pest; therefore it was tempting to worship the Lord of the Flies that perhaps he might withdraw his forces. 

 

That’s a short history of Baal.   The other common names we see in the Bible with respect to idols is “Asherah” and “Ashteroth”.   Again, here’s the passage from 1 Kings 18:19.

 

1 Kings 18:19  Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."

 

While Baal was the Sun-God, Ashteroth was the Moon-Goddess.  The temple or sign of Ashteroth was frequently a tree-trunk, and called an “Asherim”.  Thus we read in Judges 6, the Lord speaking to Gideon:

 

Judges 6:25-26  Now it came to pass the same night that the LORD said to him, "Take your father's young bull, the second bull of seven years old, and tear down the altar of Baal that your father has, and cut down the wooden image that is beside it;  (26)  and build an altar to the LORD your God on top of this rock in the proper arrangement, and take the second bull and offer a burnt sacrifice with the wood of the image which you shall cut down."

 

The “wooden image” or “grove” in the KJV that Gideon is to cut down and burn is an ashteroth.  We know this from the Hebrew word from which the English is translated and that word is “asherah”.  In this place, there is an altar of Baal and a wooden image next to it- the Sun god and Moon goddess, together.  Gideon’s task was to destroy the altar and use the wood of the goddess’ temple to offer a burn offering to the Lord.   Don’t miss the irony of this!

 

Similar but different to the Ashteroth, is the name “Asherah”, which we saw in 1 Kings 18:19 where Elijah called forth the prophets of Baal and “the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel's table."  According to Canaanite history, Asherah was the wife of war-god Asir, from whom comes the name Assyria.  She was a goddess of fertility and, as such, the “prophets of Asherah” were usually prostitutes or sex-slaves of that temple.  Thus, Elijah calls forth the prophets of Baal who would be all men, and the prophets of Asherah who were likely all women (note that they eat at Jezebel’s table).   Asherah is also called an earth goddess, the thinking being that from the earth springs fertility.  Now does this ring a bell?  If not, let me ring that bell for you- “Mother Nature”.  When people say things like “Mother Nature has sent us rain” or “Mother Nature’s storm” to whom are they giving credit for the weather?  Certainly not to God Almighty!

 

The main point of all this discussion on these false gods is to show what sort of gods they are and how inferior they are to the true God.  The people worshipping them were “polytheists”.  The word “poly” means many- think of polyester (“many chemical”), or poly-unsaturated fats (“many unsaturated fats”) while “theist” relates to god.  An “atheist” is one who says there is no god, and  a polytheist is one who worships many gods.  A monotheist, by contrast, worships one god.  Even though Baal was seen as the supreme god, he was not the almighty god, but rather there were subordinate gods under him- thus, gods like Baal-zebub, the lord of the flies.  You should be able to see how sharply this contrasts with the statements that the God of the Bible makes:

 

Genesis 17:1  When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.

 

Exodus 20:1-6  And God spoke all these words, saying:  (2)  "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  (3)  "You shall have no other gods before Me. 

 

Exodus 3:14  And God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And He said, "Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

 

According to the Bible, God is Almighty.  He takes credit for creating everything.  The first words of the Bible are “In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1).   The first chapter of John says;
 

John 1:1-3  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (2)  He was in the beginning with God.  (3)  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

And:

Revelation 4:11  "You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created."

 

We also know from the Bible that God is a jealous god and I discussed Monday how this relates to His relationship with us- God wants all our attention, is worth of all our attention, and is jealous when our attention strays.  When we are lead astray to idols undeserving of our attention, God is angry.  And be sure that the idols Baal and Asherah are totally incomparable to God Almighty. 

 

Jeremiah 10:3-5  For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the ax.  (4)  They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers So that it will not topple.  (5)  They are upright, like a palm tree, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, For they cannot do evil, Nor can they do any good."

 

Habakkuk 2:18-20  "What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it, The molded image, a teacher of lies, That the maker of its mold should trust in it, To make mute idols?  (19)  Woe to him who says to wood, 'Awake!' To silent stone, 'Arise! It shall teach!' Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, Yet in it there is no breath at all.  (20)  "But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him."

 

Idols have no power.  We see this in Judges, after Gideon has destroyed the altar to Baal and has burned the Ashteroth.  The people are angry and demand his death and Gideon’s father says to them:

 

Judges 6:31-32  But Joash said to all who stood against him, "Would you plead for Baal? Would you save him? Let the one who would plead for him be put to death by morning! If he is a god, let him plead for himself, because his altar has been torn down!"  (32)  Therefore on that day he called him Jerubbaal, saying, "Let Baal plead against him, because he has torn down his altar."

 

And when Elijah calls the prophets of Baal and Asherah together, here’s what happens:

 

1 Kings 18:26-29  So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, "O Baal, hear us!" But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made.  (27)  And so it was, at noon, that Elijah mocked them and said, "Cry aloud, for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is busy, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is sleeping and must be awakened."  (28)  So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them.  (29)  And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.

 

There we have some characteristics of idols:

1)     they are created by man’s hand and imagination

2)     they have no power of themselves

3)     they are not worthy of our praise (being created, after all, by us!)

4)     our worship of them angers God, who is worthy of praise

 

Tomorrow we’ll return to Elijah and look at God’s power over these idols.  In the meantime, think about your own life.  What idols do you serve?   You may or may not bow down to a literal wooden idol, but is there anything that distracts you from worshiping God Almighty?  Work, TV, play time activities, sports?  Think about it.   This has been Bryan Kimsey from 1st Baptist Church Des Moines NM.   We meet in worship on Sunday mornings at 9:30 am in Des Moines.  Feel free to come join us in worshipping God Almighty through His son Jesus Christ. Amen!

 

False Idols- Israel Again Did Evil

False Idols- God's Power Over Idols

Home