Do You Understand the Conflict? Part 1
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” – Hosea 4:6
Superstitious beliefs, idol worship, witchcraft, fortune telling, divination, astrology, white magic are practices that act as doorways to facilitate Satan’s hold on the lives of those who dare to take part in any of them. The matriarch of our family was a Spiritual Baptist. That means there were a lot of superstitions and rituals practiced in our home. All in a bid to ward off evil spirits and bad luck. In our household, there was the sprinkling of water in the four corners of the house every morning, while Ma recited a ‘prayer.’ Freshly cut Ixora flowers and croton leaves, graced the dining table and the buffet on most days (I never knew the meaning behind the flowers). I also recall a horse shoe erected above a doorway and a ‘cocoyea-broom’ (a broom made from the veins of coconut branches) placed upside down in any part of the house. There were also endless rules like, walk in backward when entering the house late, so evil spirits would not follow you inside. Do not whistle, or you will encourage snakes in the house. Do not open the umbrella in the house, bad luck will follow. Certain ‘spiritual’ steps were also taken to ‘protect’ babies. For instance, a blue bag containing garlic, a penny and other stuff was pinned to the child’s clothing, to protect the child from ‘maljo’ or bad eyes; and if you could afford it, a black beaded wrist band was the jewelry of choice for added ‘protection.’ Finally, the bible opened on Psalm 23 preferably, was placed right above the child’s head when asleep.
All of the aforementioned were of course, utter nonsense and I am certain other households held even more bizarre superstitious beliefs. However, all the trouble taken to ward off evil spirits and usher in good luck shows there was some awareness of a spiritual conflict. How well the conflict was comprehended is another story. Conflict is war and every living human being is smack dab in the middle of a spiritual conflict and needs to pick a side. Choice, man’s greatest possession, misused in the Garden of Eden is the cause of the spiritual conflict. Since then, “God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Hebrews Ch. 1 vs. 1-2).
The Jews were a people easily influenced by other nations. They had a penchant for assimilating themselves in the practices and customs of other nations. This angered and grieved God because they were called to be His people. When you’re called to be God’s people, you’re called to be set apart from everyone else. Therefore, the Jews’ appetite for the false gods and customs of other nations deeply hurt Him. On the surface of it all, idol worship seemed to be harmless. However, God, aware of the supernatural consequences attached to such practices always called them out on it.
After spending four hundred years in captivity, the Jews were exposed to all the idols of the Egyptians, but they seemed to have fancied the calf. As noted by their bold action in the wilderness when they feared Moses was dead or just missing in action. “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.”
And Aaron said to them, “Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons and your daughters and bring them to me.”
So, all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron.
And he received the gold from their hand and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf (Ex. Ch. 32 vs. 1-4).
The LORD was duly instructing Moses the whole time for the benefit of the people whom He chose to be set apart. “He said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves (Ex. Ch. 32 v. 7). After Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, all human life after them were born spiritually dead, so man was already messed up and corrupted. Yet, God is saying to Moses the people have corrupted themselves. How could man possibly be more corrupt than they already were? Well, according to scripture, man can. You see, God did not just take the Jews out of the land of Egypt, He took them out of a corrupt belief system wrought with idols made by the hands of man, to which the Egyptians were faithful. He brought them out to Himself, the true and living Almighty God. They decided to rebel against the authority of God and make for themselves from the jewelry they wore, an idol to call god.
They literally chose to cross over into a demonic realm without knowing for it all seemed harmless to them. They had seen the Egyptians do this kind of thing so many times before and they were prospering. So, they made the calf idol and had a party in its honor declaring that the calf was the god that brought them out of Egypt. God was so angry at their blatant rebellion that he wanted to kill them all and start over with Moses. “And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people and indeed it is a stubborn people! Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation”” (Ex. Ch. 32 v. 9-10). However, Moses interceded for them and “The LORD relented from the harm which He said he would do to His people” (Ex. Ch. 32 v. 14).
“So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he (Moses) saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot and he…took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it to powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it” (Ex. Ch. 32 v. 19-20). Someone may be wondering why he made them drink it. Well, it was to show how much of a nothing it really was. When you sit to dine, the meal looks delectable and smells good too, after digestion takes place, what comes out looks and smells nothing like what was placed on the table before you. So too, was the hand-crafted golden calf.
I take the opportunity here to cite Eugene H. Peterson (The Message) as he translates about the folly of idol worship in Isaiah Ch. 44 vs. 9-20, “All those who make no-god idols don’t amount to a thing, and what they work so hard at making is nothing. Their little puppet-gods see nothing and know nothing—they’re total embarrassments! Who would bother making gods that can’t do anything, that can’t “god”? Watch all the no-god worshipers hide their faces in shame. Watch the no-god makers slink off humiliated when their idols fail them…The blacksmith makes his no-god, works it over in his forge, hammering it on his anvil—such hard work! He works away, fatigued with hunger and thirst. The woodworker draws up plans for his no-god traces it on a block of wood. He shapes it with chisels and planes into human shape—a beautiful woman, a handsome man, ready to be placed in a chapel. He first cuts down a cedar, or maybe picks out a pine or oak, and lets it grow strong in the forest, nourished by the rain. Then it can serve a double purpose; Part he uses as firewood for keeping warm and baking bread; from the other part, he made a god that he worships—carves it into a god shape and prays before it. With half, he makes a fire to warm himself and barbecue his supper. He eats his fill and sits back satisfied with his stomach full and his feet warmed by the fire: “Ah, this is the life.” And he still has half left for a god, made to his personal design—a handy, convenient no-god to worship whenever so inclined. Whenever the need strikes him he prays to it, “Save me. You’re my god.” Pretty stupid, wouldn’t you say? Don’t they have eyes in their heads? Are their brains working at all? Doesn’t it occur to them to say, “Half of this tree I used for firewood: I baked bread, roasted meat and enjoyed a good meal. And now I’ve used the rest to make an abominable no-god. Here I am praying to a stick of wood!” This lover of emptiness, of nothing, is so out of touch with reality, so far gone, that he can’t even look at what he’s doing, can’t even look at the no-god stick of wood in his hand and say, “This is crazy.””
Remember earlier, I said we are all in the middle of a spiritual conflict and need to choose a side. Well, Moses offered the same option to the Jews. “Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp and said, “Whoever is on the LORD’S side, let him come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him… (Ex. Ch. 32. v. 26). If you’re not on the LORD’S side, then you are on Satan’s side and herein lies the conflict.
Several hundred years of admonishing the children of Israel for the abominable sin of idol worship was often ignored and exacerbated with other horrible practices. God said to Israel in Deuteronomy, Ch. 18 vs. 9-14, “When you come into the land which the LORD 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, (You see, Moloch was the fire god of the other nations mentioned above (Canaan) and their custom was to sacrifice babies to this idol by burning them alive) 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 the LORD and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.”
However, Israel rebelled again and the book of Deut. Ch. 32 v. 17 says, “They sacrificed to demons, not to God, to gods they did not know…” Here, God reveals the spiritual connotations of their actions. The act of worshiping idols and performing useless rituals is actually paying homage to Satan and by extension the demons attached to such idols. Born again believers in Corinth had to be reminded of that when Paul told them, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry…the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons” (1 Cor. Ch. 10 vs. 14-21). The Corinthians foolishly felt that it was okay to partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons.
There are three things that act as lifelines to the spiritual conflict. They are 1. Being an unbeliever, 2. Being a believer in Christ who still holds on to superstitious beliefs and practices; as well as idol worship and foolish rituals; and 3. The fact that Satan is still the prince of the air. The caption at the begin of this blog, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” speaks to the children of Israel. Today, that same scripture verse speaks to all believers in Christ, regardless of rank or position in the body of Christ. If any among you are slaves to idolatry or oppressed by superstitious beliefs and practices, repent now and cease from such practices because “you cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.”
Heavenly Father, I pray that all be willing to open their eyes to see and their ears to hear Your Word. That their understanding of Your Word can increase their knowledge of You, so they will know and accept that You are the only true and living God who requires no rituals or sacrifices but love, our praise and obedience. There is no other God but You. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen!
By Gail Reid