It is in the context of idolatry that we read the important instructions we saw earlier.
“Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which YHVH God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of YHVH your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what YHVH did at Ba’al Peor; for YHVH your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Ba’al of Peor. But you who held fast to YHVH your God are alive today, every one of you” (Deuteronomy 4:1-4).
The best way to avoid idolatry is to be absolutely sure we don’t “add to” or “take from” the commandments of YHVH!
What is “Ba’al Peor”?
It seems a bit odd to me that I don’t remember hearing the story of “Ba’al Peor” during all my years of Sunday school. It’s as if it was subtracted from the official curriculum. I do somewhat remember hearing the part about Balaam and his talking donkey.
Balaam was a prophet of Babylon who was hired by the enemies of Israel to come and curse them, so that they wouldn’t be defeated by the Israelites who were entering the Promised Land.
Balaam tried everything he could think of to curse the Israelites, but because YHVH had made a covenant with Abraham that could not be overturned, Balaam’s curses were useless. In fact, every time he opened his mouth, blessings came out instead.
“Now YHVH had said to Abram: “‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed'” (Genesis 12:1-3).
When Balaam didn’t succeed, he came up with another plan. He advised the enemies of Israel to send their most beautiful women to seduce the Israelite men and to entice them to worship the god Ba’al (pronounced “Bah-all”).
“Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit sexual immorality with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Ba’al of Peor, and the anger of YHVH was aroused against Israel… And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand” (Numbers 25:1-3, 9).
So now we’re reading Moses’ instructions to those “who held fast to YHVH” and were still alive after the plague. Moses gave this warning only a few short weeks after this terrible incident.
“Only take heed to yourself, and diligently keep yourself, lest you forget the things your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.
“And teach them to your children and your grandchildren, especially concerning the day you stood before YHVH your God in Horeb [at the giving of the Ten Commandments], when YHVH said to me, ‘Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.’” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10).
The desire to be in covenant with the God of Israel is the exact opposite of idolatry.
Are you starting to see how important it is that the first and most important action of a new believer is to abstain from the pollutions of idols (Acts 15:20)?
First Things First
Idolatry creeps into all cultures, all nations, all homes, like yeast spreads silently through a batch of bread dough. We have to be extremely careful, or we too will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods!
“Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, lest YHVH’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which YHVH is giving you.
“Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which YHVH swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:16-21).
As we will learn in coming weeks, idolatry tries to sneak into our homes. I’ll show you some ways to recognize it and root it out, but we’ll also talk about ways to guard your home so that it can never come back in.
However, as the Spirit of God guides you and teaches you over the coming months and years, you’ll surely discover more idolatrous things in your home. What should be your response?
“These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which YHVH God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship YHVH your God with such things” (Deuteronomy 12:1-4).
The early disciples of Yeshua started well, but after a few years, their passion for holiness started to dim.
In the book of Revelation, Yeshua Himself sends a message to the church of Pergamus, which is in Asia Minor:
“These things says He who has the sharp two-edged sword: ‘I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith…
“‘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… Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth'” (Revelation 2:12-16).
By the fourth century, the worship of Yeshua was officially made the state religion of Rome, but idolatrous Roman worship was mingled with Christianity, to make it more acceptable to all who immediately became “Christians” simply because they were Roman citizens.
It was the official practice of the Christian leaders to send missionaries to the “barbarian” nations around the Roman Empire, forcing them to convert officially to Christianity but allowing them to keep their rituals, holidays, symbols, statues, saints, and music — all to make the worship of Jesus Christ more acceptable to them.
If they had followed the advice of the Apostles from the first century, they would have told new believers to immediately abstain from all idolatry. They would have then taught the Torah each Sabbath (rather than Sunday) to their congregations. They would have read that they were to “destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; …cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place” (Deuteronomy 12:2-3).
“When YHVH your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship YHVH your God in that way; for every abomination to YHVH which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deuteronomy 12:29-32).
Instead, believers in Yeshua got in the habit of adding to the Torah or taking away from it.
“When you come into the land which YHVH your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire [the sacrifice of babies], or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to YHVH, and because of these abominations YHVH your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before YHVH your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, YHVH your God has not appointed such for you” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14).
A very good place to start is to check each room of your home, every movie and video game, every book and song, every decoration, and every conversation and friendship for any of the practices mentioned in these verses.
Utterly destroy them.
NEXT WEEK: Mixing Idolatry with the Worship of the Creator
All Scripture in this blog post taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Well said, thank you.
It can happen in the most subtle ways, and that is why we must be on guard. We are in a war and the enemy would love nothing more than to destroy us.