In our church study group, we have been looking at background characters in the OT, such as Caleb, Abigail, Uriah, and Rizpah. Many of the characters we’ve been studying are to be found in the book of Judges, among more renowned characters such as Samuel, Samson, Gideon and Deborah. In my personal study of that particular book of the Bible, a picture formed in my mind of the tremendous potential and promise that the young nation of Israel had so long as they remained faithful to their calling and obedient to their God. The book of Judges in the OT canon is a history of Israel’s emergence as a nation in the Middle East. What could have been a history of victory, of establishment, and one that brought knowledge of the love and power of God to all the nations round about, sadly, turned out quite different. The Bible, if anything at all, is almost brutally honest.
The Canaanite tribes, descended from Canaan, son of Ham son of Noah, had devolved into a nation wholly given over to idolatry, accompanied by an array of abominable practices ranging from temple prostitution to child sacrifice. The Canaanites were occupying land at the center of the then known world, the crossroads between the great continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia. Their influence therefore was very great, and their practices and traditions, evil and wicked as they were, became known throughout the world and were spread onward to other nations.
I believe it was because of the geographic location of that particular parcel of land that God chose it to be the home for His people. God intended that Israel be established in that land and that they would be empowered to share the knowledge of the true God, the Creator of all things, with all the surrounding nations and thus bring God glory in all their life and worship. Their calling was to plant a banner of righteousness, holiness, and power in the midst of what had become rampant idolatry. The Book of Judges reveals that Israel failed miserably in their duty. The Canaanites were to be ousted from the land. If they resisted, they were to be destroyed. This may sound cruel and unfair to the unbeliever, however apart from one or two individuals that the scriptures tell us about, the Canaanites had become so hardened in their lifestyles there was no longer any hope of a change of heart. To remove the Canaanites from this land was not an arbitrary decision on God’s part, but rather was an act of love and a form of protection for His people. God well knew that if Israel lived side by side with the Canaanites, they would be infected with their wickedness, and God’s plans would be greatly compromised and the love and blessings He intended for mankind remain unkown, and over time, so it proved.
Israel, after a promising beginning during the leadership of Joshua, soon after his death became entangled in the affairs of their neighbours and instead of overcoming, they were overcome. In contrast to what God required, Israel lived peaceably with their neighbours, worshiping the same idols, giving their sons to the Canaanite women and their daughters to the Canaanite men, and practicing the same abominations as the Canaanites. Later on in their history, during the time of the kings, matters didn’t improve, but steadily grew worse, to a point where Israel exceeded the Canaanites in their wickedness, paricularly under the reigns of Ahab and Manasseh. The Canaanites and surrounding empires such as Assyria, Babylon, Midian, Ammon, and Egypt were quick to take advantage of this situation, for Israel, weakened in their resolve to war, weakened both physically and morally through disobeying God’s commandments, became easy prey to their enemies, who “became pricks in their eyes and thorns in their sides” .
God is just so merciful and gracious however, and when Israel would finally take stock of their plight when in trouble, earnest prayer and repentance would always bring salvation. God would raise up a champion of faith such as Gideon or Samuel, and Israel’s enemies would be defeated. Israel would then remain faithful to God for a time, but invariably, when the judge died, Israel would revert back to their idolatrous and adulterous practices and the cycle would be repeated throughout their history.
We Christians living in the 21st century are seemingly far removed from such an existence, and we wonder how Israel could have been so foolish after all the miracles, signs and wonders God performed on their behalf. However, I would like to remind you that there are lessons to be learned from these ancient stories, and when we step back and take a look at the bigger picture, we see the same controversy between good and evil being played out with as much critical urgency today as it did then. The gods may be different , but gods we do have. We are more ‘sophisticated’, so we don’t call them ‘gods’ any more. We give our idols euphemisms or more culturally ‘relevant’ titles, but they still occupy our thoughts, they still impede our relationships with the true God, and they still lead us to sin. And, like the Canaanite gods of old and those who worshiped them, the modern gods also are destined for destruction.
So what are the gods of our modern sophisticated society? In a culture we think to be the ultimate expression of man’s advances in knowledge, science, and self awareness, surely we don’t fall down and worship gods today? Do we? Yes, we certainly do.
In fact, most today spend their entire lives devoted to their false gods. They spend more money, more time, and more energy in promoting, sharing, and worshiping the new gods than any Canaanite, Midianite, or Assyrian ever did. Modern society is as much devoted to idolatry as any pagan or heathen culture before us, if not more. It pervades our living rooms, our work-places, even the vehicles we use to go from one to the other. The apostle Paul spoke prophetically of our day, and described the time in which we now live perfectly.
In his second letter to Timothy, he wrote:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be (wait for it, here is the most popular false god history has ever known) lovers of their own selves…” yes, it is the love of self that is the greatest threat to our sharing truth, sharing the love of God and the gospel with mankind. Just as Chemosh, Dagon, Moloch and Ashtoreth displaced Israel’s affections in ancient times, it is self that does so in modern times. A little further on, Paul repeats this, saying that these people of the last days would be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God. And in between these two expressions, Paul lists the sins and abominations that result from this false worship. Let us look at the entire passage.
2 Timothy 3: 1-4. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.
If Paul was speaking of the people of the world, those who had no knowledge of Jesus and His saving grace, then we ought not be surprised at the above description. However, what is shocking is that Paul is actually speaking of those who professed to know Jesus; these people are professing Christians, for in the following verse, Paul says; 5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.
Self is not the only god of the modern age. The principle one maybe, but self is supported by a pantheon of lesser gods all dedicated to encourage, and manage the worship of self. These lesser gods are the stars of the entertainment industries, the celebrities whose faces adorn the many magazines in our supermarkets, the captains of industry which society lauds and awards with ‘knighthoods’ and like honours. We hang on their every word, we read of their daily lives, television replays their exploits, cheap magazines fawn over them one day and expose their scandals the next. We may not bow before them, nor ‘worship’ them in the traditional sense, but those things do not make them idols. What makes these people idols is our faith in them to give us what we desire most in life. Pleasure. It is our trust and devotion, even our praise that puts these people on the pedestals of fame because we derive from them our greatest joy and happiness, and they are the objects of our greatest affections. It is to them we look to in order to satisfy our every wish, and fulfill our hopes and dreams. That is what makes them gods. Entertainment, movies and music, sports, gambling, fashion, narcotics and alcohol, are all designed to give us pleasure and the movers and shakers within those industries are our role models and our examples. For the unchurched, that would be reasonable and expected. But the shame is that these industries and those who lead them have been introduced into the temple of God, the church. Just as Israel in their shame and adulterous relationships with the gods of the heathen, so Christians today welcome the above into their lives and just like Israel found of old, so we today are hamstrung in our missionary endeavours and witness.
What Christians do not realize is that the scriptures are adamant in their condemnation of these things. John warns us that love of the world automatically excludes love of God from the soul. John says,” for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of the God abideth forever.”
Dear friends, let us not be deceived. This world and everything that belongs to it, is destined for destruction. Just as the Canaanites and their gods were destined for destruction, so also are the gods of this world.
My friends, let us please learn from the lessons of the OT record that God was pleased to reveal to us as regards His ancient people, Israel. Do not think that because we live in a modern age we are more wise, sophisticated, and less likely to be deceived. Take a look at your current television programming schedule and the movie theatre programs. The entertainment industry is being ruled by our arch enemy, Satan. The preponderance of themes focusing on the supernatural is a dark plan to condition you and your children to the acceptance of and worship of Satan when he impersonates Christ before the true Christ comes. Through the lust of the eyes, your eyes, Satan is invading your mind and conditioning you that when the coming storm breaks out upon our planet; that final conflagration between Christ and Satan, unless you are anchored in God’s word, you will be deceived, and ultimately lost. Six or so years ago Harry Potter came on the scene. Each successive episode over the ensuing years according to critics expressed darker and darker themes. Like cooking a lobster in boiling water, starting out with tepid water and slowly increasing the heat, so Satan has lulled millions into accepting the occult as normal and fun entertainment. At the same time, the television industry came out with programs such as ‘Medium’ and ‘Lost’. These however were but the beginning. Today, even darker themes are being foisted upon the unsuspecting ‘lobsters’ glued to their television sets. A glance through current programming reveals a fascination with the supernatural bordering on infatuation. If God in Deuteronomy considered wizardry and clairvoyance as an abomination, what detestation He must be feeling at the utter evil being expressed in the current series involving vampires? The now normalcy of necromancy is mind-blowing. Folks, there is a storm brewing and my advice is this. Build your spiritual houses on the rock, Christ Jesus, and your house will stand. however, build you house on the shifting sands of the entertainment industry with the intention of idolizing ‘self’, of seeking pleasure more than loving the things of God, and you will surely reap the same rewards that Israel discovered. Captivity by our arch enemy, and ultimate destruction.
But God be praised, if we cry unto Him and turn away from our sins, He will hear us. His promise is, 2 Chronicles 7:14 If My people, who are called by My name , shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 For I know the thoughts I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, saith the Lord, and I will turn away your captivity, and I will gather you from all the nations, and from all the places whither I have driven you, saith the Lord; and I will bring you again into the place whence I caused you to be carried away captive.
Friends, if you are held captive to the entertainment industry, if your television sets are ruling your lives or the lives of your children, if your lives revolve around self and the seeking of pleasure and self gratification to the point where the Lord is no longer your God, then seek the Lord, and claim His promise that He will take away your captivity, and return you to Himself.
Finally brethren, I would like you to read the following excerpt from Deuteronomy 7, and contemplate what it means to us in light of what I have written regarding this generation living in these last days.
For thou art a holy people unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be a people for his own possession, above all peoples that are upon the face of the earth.
Jehovah did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all peoples:
but because Jehovah loveth you, and because he would keep the oath which he sware unto your fathers, hath Jehovah brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Know therefore that Jehovah thy God, he is God, the faithful God, who keepeth covenant and lovingkindness with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations,
and repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to him that hateth him, he will repay him to his face.
Thou shalt therefore keep the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which I command thee this day, to do them.
And it shall come to pass, because ye hearken to these ordinances, and keep and do them, that Jehovah thy God will keep with thee the covenant and the lovingkindness which he sware unto thy fathers:
and he will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee; he will also bless the fruit of thy body and the fruit of thy ground, thy grain and thy new wine and thine oil, the increase of thy cattle and the young of thy flock, in the land which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee.
Thou shalt be blessed above all peoples: there shall not be male or female barren among you, or among your cattle.
And Jehovah will take away from thee all sickness; and none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, will he put upon thee, but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.
And thou shalt consume all the peoples that Jehovah thy God shall deliver unto thee; thine eye shall not pity them: neither shalt thou serve their gods; for that will be a snare unto thee.
If thou shalt say in thy heart, These nations are more than I; how can I dispossess them?
thou shalt not be afraid of them: thou shalt well remember what Jehovah thy God did unto Pharaoh, and unto all Egypt;
the great trials which thine eyes saw, and the signs, and the wonders, and the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, whereby Jehovah thy God brought thee out: so shall Jehovah thy God do unto all the peoples of whom thou art afraid.
Moreover Jehovah thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves, perish from before thee.
Thou shalt not be affrighted at them; for Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a great God and a terrible.
And Jehovah thy God will cast out those nations before thee by little and little: thou mayest not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.
But Jehovah thy God will deliver them up before thee, and will discomfit them with a great discomfiture, until they be destroyed.
And he will deliver their kings into thy hand, and thou shalt make their name to perish from under heaven: there shall no man be able to stand before thee, until thou have destroyed them.
The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein; for it is an abomination to Jehovah thy God.
And thou shalt not bring an abomination into thy house, and become a devoted thing like unto it: thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a devoted thing.