Biblical Idolatry (Updated)
Therefore, whether it be God or a creature that is imaged, the moment you fall prostrate before it in veneration, you are so far fascinated by superstition. For this reason, the Lord not only forbade the erection of statues to himself, but also the consecration of titles and stones which might be set up for adoration. ~ John Calvin
UPDATE: “Some of what we saw was an excessive expression of faith.” Such was the confirmation by Cardinal Rosales of Manila of the idolatry that is the Feast of the Black Nazarene. Is there such a thing as excessive faith in God? Certainly not, for excessive devotion is only reserved for idols!
Tomorrow in Manila, an estimated 3-4 million Filipinos will commit blatant idolatry against the one true God of the Bible. They will parade the wooden Black Nazarene idol around Manila for a whole day, touching, caressing, kissing and wiping it with their handkerchiefs and tears.
For a related post, please read “Idolatry By Any Other Name Would Be … “
Gross idolatry, in addition to social and sexual immorality, injustice and violence, was one of the indictments the Lord God made against his Old Testament people Israel. The northern kingdom was conquered and dispersed by Assyria in 722 B.C. Later, in 586 B.C., the southern kingdom, together with Jerusalem and its majestic Temple, was destroyed by the Babylonians. Although restored after 70 years, Israel never regained its former relationship with God.
Finally, Jesus prophesied the final destruction of Israel’s temple (Matt 24:2), signaling the end of its special relationship with God as his “treasured possession,” saying, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits” (Matt 21:43). His prophecy was carried out by the Roman legions in A.D. 70.
What did he say about their idolatry?
Exodus 20:4, 5: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or 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. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.”
Exodus 32:4: “And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!'”
1 Kings 18:26: “And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, and no one answered.”
Psalm 135:15-17: “The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but do not speak; they have eyes, but do not see; they have ears, but do not hear, nor is there any breath in their mouths.”
Isaiah 40:18, 20: “To whom then will you liken God? An idol! … He seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move.”
Jeremiah 10:14: “Every man is stupid and without knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his images are false, and there is no breath in them.”
Habakkuk 2:19: “Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it.”
And what was God’s judgment against his people who were guilty and unrepentant of idolatry?
1 Kings 14:9: “But you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger.”
Ezekiel 5:11: “Therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, surely, because you have defiled my sanctuary with all your detestable things and with all your abominations, therefore I will withdraw.My eye will not spare, and I will have no pity.”
Ezekiel 8:10: “So I went in [the temple] and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel.”
Ezekiel 9:5,6 (God’s judgment on Israel’s idolatry in Ezekiel 8:10): “Pass through the city after him, and strike. Your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity. Kill old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women…”
Jeremiah 7:18: “The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.”
But just as God indicted his old covenant people of their idolatry and other sins, he indicts all other people today for the same sins:
Revelation 9:20: “The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk.”
Revelation 21:8: “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
Notice that the worship of real, tangible idols such as the Black Nazarene is distinctly separated from what Christians today refer to as “idols of the heart” abstract principles, priorities, worldview and emotions such as money, power, sex and addictions.
Roman Catholics, of course, deny that they worship idols; they only “venerate” or “adore” them. But John Calvin is so spot on when he says there is no such thing as veneration—bowing down to or falling down before idols; kissing, touching, wiping handkerchiefs to be healed or prosper—without worship:
Therefore, whether it be God or a creature that is imaged, the moment you fall prostrate before it in veneration, you are so far fascinated by superstition. For this reason, the Lord not only forbade the erection of statues to himself, but also the consecration of titles and stones which might be set up for adoration. For the same reason, also, the second commandment has an additional part concerning adoration. For as soon as a visible form is given to God, his power also is supposed to be annexed to it. So stupid are men, that wherever they figure God, there they fix him, and by necessary consequence proceed to adore him. It makes no difference whether they worship the idol simply, or God in the idol; it is always idolatry when divine honours are paid to an idol, be the colour what it may. And because God wills not to be worshipped superstitiously whatever is bestowed upon idols is so much robbed from him (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 11, Paragraph 9).
Filipinos call their country “the only Christian nation in Asia,” but what can they show for it? What kind of Christianity do they show their non-Christian neighbors? Idolatry, corruption, immorality, violence, injustice and ungodly lives that are close to the worst—if not the worst—among Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim and pagan Asian nations. Many of these devotees are men who, after having participated in the Black Nazarene procession, will go back home to get drunk with friends, beat their wives, and go after the GROs at the nearby videoke bar.
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