Idols in the Heart #3

Thursday, January 27, 2022

“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?” (Ezekiel 14:2,3 KJV).

Look at their heart problem!

Reread the main thought of today’s Scripture and its context: “…these men have set up their idols in their heart, Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart,… every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart…” (verses 3,4,7).

Before sin becomes a physical action, it is a heart attitude. Jeremiah 17:9 explains: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Our soul is naturally wicked, spiritually darkened and inclined to believe and do everything contrary to our Creator’s will. “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21). “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness” (Ephesians 4:17-19). After a pattern of poor thinking, poor conduct follows.

The conversion of a soul dead in trespasses and sins, to new life in Christ, is far more than forcing people to give up physical trinkets and other religious paraphernalia. It involves a humble heart willing to finally give up on self and admit all that “performance” in religion is not worth bragging about. In light of Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork as sufficient payment for our sins, all else is “but dung” (Philippians 3:8). Once we in our heart come to trust in that Gospel message—and that alone—our idols in our heart will be removed and now we remove our idols from our shelf! 🙂

Idols in the Heart #2

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?” (Ezekiel 14:2,3 KJV).

Look at their heart problem!

Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and Jerusalem on three occasions during a 20-year period. The Prophet Ezekiel began his ministry between the second and third attacks, circa 593 B.C. Judah, the Southern Kingdom, had engaged in heathen religion for centuries. Now, the Fifth Course of Chastisement was underway, the curses of the Law of Moses falling upon these two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. (It had already resulted in the Northern Kingdom, Israel’s other 10 idolatrous tribes, being taken captive to Assyria more than 100 years prior.) If necessary, see Leviticus 26:27-39.

In the context of today’s Scripture, the “elders” or aged men leading Israel approach Ezekiel, but, as we can see, the LORD is greatly displeased with them. The nation is apostate, turned from the truth, because those in power have caused it to be thus. God is not interested in listening to what they have to say (for they “have set up their idols in their heart”), but He does want them to pay attention to His message to them!

Keep reading: “[6] Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Repent, and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. [7] For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself: [8] And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.”

The Israelites must “repent,” change their mind by remembering the Hebrew Bible—particularly the Law of Moses. Only then will they abandon their idols in their hearts….

Idols in the Heart #1

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

“And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?” (Ezekiel 14:2,3 KJV).

Look at their heart problem!

Decades ago, a pastor friend was doing missionary work in a foreign country, among a people steeped in heathen religion and superstition. He and his ministry companions happened upon a house wherein they found one lost man who was most eager to hear what they had to tell him concerning “Christianity.” As they began sharing the Gospel of Grace with him, he responded quite enthusiastically, “Oh yes, I will believe in Jesus!” However, when they explained to him “Jesus” was not “just another statue” he could put on his shelf, but that Jesus was supreme and would not “share his shelf” with other “deities,” the man invited these Christian missionaries to leave his home. When we think critically about his situation, his problem was not idols on his shelf but rather idols in his heart. The idols in his heart (the sickness) led to the idols on his shelf (the symptoms).

Now, let us read today’s Scripture in context: “[1] Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. [2] And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, [3] Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? [4] Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols; [5] That I may take the house of Israel in their own heart, because they are all estranged from me through their idols.”

Remember, Israel’s problem is not idols in their hands but rather idols in their hearts….

An Increase Long After Our Decease

Monday, January 24, 2022

“Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:5-7 KJV).

Even death itself cannot stop the Lord’s ministry!

Several years ago, a dear Christian sister shared the Gospel of Grace with an unsaved man. He trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour, and passed from death to life! She relayed the news to me and we rejoiced together, but, for the next four years, we heard from him just a few times. The lady eventually graduated to Heaven because of an accident, but she always wondered whatever happened to him. Over a year after her death, I receive a phone call. It is he! He had just learned about her moving to Heaven, and was so dismayed he wanted to reconnect with me, and tell me what had been happening since we last heard from him. I explained to him how we had thought about him often—and though her absence was a devastating loss to us all, we would see her again in the Lord’s presence and he could thank her there.

Over the last two years, he and I have tried to keep in more contact. Recently, he has informed me he is endeavoring to reach his adult children and young grandchildren with the Gospel of Grace—but they are so entangled in works-religion (his former denomination, Roman Catholicism) that it is most difficult. Moreover, he is still battling other denominationalists in a church he had started attending before he believed the Gospel of Grace. I encouraged him with more Scriptures and ministry advice, especially how the lady dealt with her own family (all of whom were of the same cult as he was and his family still is).

The sister now in Heaven almost three years will be most excited to hear one day how the Lord’s ministry through her continued to bear fruit long after she left us. She planted, we watered, but God gives the increase (cf. today’s Scripture). Indeed, long after our decease, His words will take care of themselves!

Bible Q&A #915: “Is it fair for John to refer to them as ‘the Jews?’

A Decision to Embrace Right Division

Sunday, January 23, 2022

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).

We give a hearty “Amen!” to today’s Scripture….

Having trusted Jesus Christ alone as my personal Saviour just a few weeks shy of age seven, I spent the first 12 years of my Christian life in utter spiritual shallowness, immaturity, and confusion. Denominational systems had been so detrimental to my inner man! One day, the Lord mightily used a dear brother in Christ to introduce my parents and me to dispensational Bible study. Later that year, another Christian brother showed us even more advanced sound Bible doctrine. Recently, we marked 15 years since first coming to understand right division. To say the least, it has been quite the journey this last decade and a half!

What we have discovered through the years of talking with others in ministry is countless souls within churches are “too comfortable” where they are. Religious tradition is most difficult to relinquish—but we left our vain theological systems and they can do just the same if they so choose. However, it is far easier to keep “praise and worship” services, “humbling” ceremonies, mindless church attendance, light or “feel-good” sermons, philosophical counseling sessions, and all the rest that strokes the ego of sinful flesh. To embrace the truth is to lose so many relatives and “friends”—and that intimidation factor keeps many people right where they are in their spiritual life (if they even have one!).

Dear friends, the Bible laid out on a timeline is most helpful, and respecting the dispensational boundaries God the Holy Spirit has placed in His Word is how we understand and enjoy the Scriptures. If nothing else, we know the Apostle Paul is God’s spokesman to us (Romans 11:13), and Romans through Philemon are God’s words to and about us. We study all 66 Bible Books, but we study them rightly divided, and we seek God’s approval instead of man’s approval (today’s Scripture). Indeed, we all have more growing to do with regards to learning God’s plan for the ages, but we are well on our way. Let us remember to continue on this path without turning to the right or the left—at least for another 15 years! 🙂

The Accursed Thing! #8

Friday, January 21, 2022

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel (Joshua 7:1 KJV).

Just what is this “accursed thing?” How will it affect the Israelites here in “time past?” What does this say about their fate in “the ages to come?”

Recall Achan’s sin was judged in “the Valley of Achor [trouble]” (verses 24,26), an area due south of Jericho, roughly halfway between the city and the Dead Sea. This area is significant in prophecy, for it is one of the regions to which Israel’s believing remnant will flee as they escape the Antichrist. Whereas the nation Israel was steeped in idolatry in the Old Testament and will be even more so with the Antichrist, there is a group of saints within the nation who will be preserved from Satan’s policy of evil. Achor will not only be a place of judgment and trouble, but also one of salvation and hope.

Hosea chapter 2: “[14] Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her. [15] And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt. [16] And it shall be at that day, saith the LORD, that thou shalt call me Ishi [‘husband’]; and shalt call me no more Baali [‘lord’]. [17] For I will take away the names of Baalim out of her mouth, and they shall no more be remembered by their name.” Also, Isaiah 65:10: “And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me.”

Here, Israel is purged of pagan idolatry, including Baal worship, and is triumphant over all Satan’s policy of evil, ready to become God’s kingdom of priests in God’s land at Jesus Christ’s Second Coming to meet them!

The Accursed Thing! #7

Thursday, January 20, 2022

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel (Joshua 7:1 KJV).

Just what is this “accursed thing?” How will it affect the Israelites here in “time past?” What does this say about their fate in “the ages to come?”

In Scripture, Babylon (near modern Baghdad, Iraq) is notable for its pagan idolatry. “…Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (Isaiah 21:9). “Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard; publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel [Babylonian deity] is confounded, Merodach [another Babylonian deity] is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are broken in pieces (Jeremiah 50:2). “Therefore, behold, the days come, that I will do judgment upon the graven images of Babylon: and her whole land shall be confounded, and all her slain shall fall in the midst of her” (Jeremiah 51:47).

Dear friends, never should we see the Bible as “dead history,” things of the past, events never to be repeated. These passages of Scripture are not only historical, they are also prophetic. What happened then loops forward to what will transpire in the future. While these Old Testament Prophets were foretelling the short-term destruction of ancient Babylon by Persian King Cyrus the Great in 536 B.C. (Daniel 5:30-31), they were also providing a glimpse of the long-term destruction of new Babylon under the Antichrist beyond our day. You can read about future Babylon in Revelation 14:8, Revelation 16:19, and Revelation chapters 17–18. Satan’s monstrous political-religious system will finally and permanently be annihilated at Christ’s Second Coming!

Also, consider the evil religion and devils in Zechariah 5:5-11, with “the land of the Shinar” (verse 11) being the site of Babylon and the Tower of Babel (cf. Genesis 10:10; Daniel 1:1,2)—this is the Whore of Babylon and all her attendant spiritual harlot “daughters” (religions, cults, denominations) corrupting Israel and the nations. Thankfully, for believing Israel, however, the Valley of Achor will provide an escape….

Our two latest Bible Q&As: “What does ‘All hail’ mean in Matthew 28:9?” and “Can you explain ‘God speed’ in 2 John?

NOTE: Happy 42nd Spiritual Birthday to my Mom, who will no doubt read this!

The Accursed Thing! #6

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel (Joshua 7:1 KJV).

Just what is this “accursed thing?” How will it affect the Israelites here in “time past?” What does this say about their fate in “the ages to come?”

Achan aligned himself with Babylonian religion, what the ancient Canaanites (including Jericho) had been practicing in the Promised Land between the time of Genesis chapter 11 (scattering from Babel) and the Book of Joshua (Israel’s entrance into Canaan). The Old Testament references to Baal worship and Molech worship describe such devilish activities. In Egypt, Israel was constantly exposed to these heathen gods and goddesses; hence, the Law of Moses repeatedly warned the Jews not to adopt these religious systems.

Alas, Israel was re-infected with this satanic mindset via Achan, who corrupted his family with the theft of the “goodly Babylonish garment” from Jericho (Joshua 7:20-26). While Scripture never tells us exactly what he intended to do with the stolen gold and silver, we do know it had been reserved for the LORD’S treasury (Joshua 6:19) before Achan took it along with that Babylonish garment (object of heathen religion). The precious metals were likely destined to be fashioned into idols—whether for Jerichoites or Israelites.

Even after Achan was judged for his sin, the Israelites constantly dabbled in pagan religion throughout the rest of the Old Testament and even into Acts. It was Judaism corrupted by these heathen religious systems, that Jesus Christ and His Apostles fought continuously. While the “purest” form of ancient Babylonian religion is today’s Roman Catholicism, traces of it pollute all world religions, leading to another international rebellion against the one true God yet future.

Ancient Babylonian religion will reach its pinnacle during Daniel’s 70th Week, when the Antichrist builds a city and a tower (religion) in Babylon (Revelation 17–18). What sinful man began in Genesis chapters 10–11—but was prevented from finishing—God now lets it resume to achieve their damnable end during the Tribulation period. As with Achan millennia ago, Israel will again be ensnared, but (as before) there is hope….

The Accursed Thing! #5

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel (Joshua 7:1 KJV).

Just what is this “accursed thing?” How will it affect the Israelites here in “time past?” What does this say about their fate in “the ages to come?”

Achan’s confession again: “When I saw among the spoils a goodly [pleasant, fine, expensive] Babylonish garment [mantle, cloak], and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.” While Joshua 7:21 is the first occurrence of “Babylon” in Scripture, the notorious place itself has already appeared twice in the Biblical record.

Consider rebellious Nimrod’s activities in Genesis chapter 10: “[8] And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. [9] He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. [10] And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” See also chapter 11, verses 1-9, describing Nimrod’s works in chapter 10: “Therefore is the name of it called Babel [confusion]: because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth” (Genesis 11:9).

The Tower of Babel was designed to “reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4): it would extend high (rather, low) into astrology, the occult, devil worship. Following Nimrod, Noah’s descendants defied God’s mandate to scatter (Genesis 9:1), and gathered to build a city and a tower (perhaps a ziggurat, or pyramid with a flattened top on which sat a temple). That city, of course, was Babylon. Had God not intervened to confuse them by instituting world languages, they would have fully achieved their purpose. These sinners took their evil religion (now in a variety of global languages), formed national cultures, and originated world religions. Also influenced was Jericho… and Achan… and Israel….

Bowed Together! #8

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

“And he [the Lord Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself. And when Jesus saw her, he called her to him, and said unto her, Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity” (Luke 13:10-12 KJV).

What lesson is the Holy Spirit conveying through this passage of the Holy Bible?

Recall the Sabbath Day was to serve as Israel’s weekly reminder to contemplate God’s work during the Creation Week and subsequent rest (cf. Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11). Every Saturday, the Jews were to stop their labors and remember God’s purpose and plan for Creation. Why had the LORD rested that first Sabbath? His work completed, it was time for Him to enjoy the Heavens and the Earth! Alas, sin entered the world through Adam in Genesis chapter 3. Whatever God intended for Creation has yet to be fulfilled. Israel had been formed to take Adam’s place in the Earth, but she too rebelled and willfully followed Satan!

Sabbath rest ultimately looks toward Millennial Kingdom rest, when all Creation is delivered from Satan and sin, and God’s original purpose in Creation is finally brought to pass (see Hebrews 3:7–4:11). Therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ performed a series of Sabbath miracles—including the healing of the “bowed together” woman—to highlight the deliverance connected to His earthly kingdom.

Upon hearing God’s wonderful promises to sinful Israel, Satan objects in Isaiah 49:24, “Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered?” Verses 25 and 26: But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the LORD am thy Saviour [!] and thy Redeemer [!], the mighty One of Jacob.

“And when he had said these things, all his adversaries were ashamed: and all the people rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by him” (Luke 13:17).