“I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:1-2).
Sometimes I read the Old Testament and wonder how the Israelites, who personally saw the LORD God at work, could ever have lost faith in Him. Led by Moses, the Israelites were witness to the ten plagues, which culminated in their release from bitter bondage in Egypt. Later, they not only saw God open a path of dry land through the Red Sea but actually traveled through it. Still, they lost faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when Moses took too long to come down the mountain from speaking with Him.
They gathered around Aaron, saying, “Come, make for us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him” (Exodus 32:1). And, amazingly, old Aaron complied. And they fashioned a golden calf made from their melted down gold jewelry and set up an altar on which to worship it.
We in the 21st century read this and think, “How lame is that? How could anyone look at a statue of a calf and think it could be something to be worshiped. Well, it seems not all that much has changed in almost four thousand years.
In downtown Manhattan, outside of the Stock Exchange, is the image of a charging bull made of bronze. The statue, actually called “Charging Bull,” was set up in the financial district outside the New York Stock Exchange “as a symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity.” (quoted from Wikipedia)
Charging Bull has been a subject of criticism from an anti-capitalist perspective but has also been compared to the golden calf worshiped by the Israelites shortly after their Exodus from Egypt. So, is there an altar beside Charging Bull? Well, sort of. The N.Y.S.E. is a type of altar where people worship what Jesus called *Mammon (Matthew 6:24, KJV *idolized pursuit of wealth). This altar has seen many worshipers over the years, and many have been sacrificed on it. You doubt it? Consider the number of suicides that have happened during the stock market crashes of 1929 and 2008.
In Mumbai, India, a statue of one of their gods, Ganesh, is set into a wall inside the stock exchange there. Worshipers pray to it right before placing their bets, er um, buying their stocks. You can see it for yourself by clicking on the link. Bombay Stock Exchange – Lord Ganesh idol everyone prays …
Now, before we get hate mail from stockbrokers, please know that this article is not about bashing the stock market. Many good people earn their living working on floors of stock exchanges all over the world. But, like anything, when buying and selling becomes an obsession, it also becomes an idol.
And, of course, Mammon isn’t the only idol in our society today. Another example is the obsession many young people have for film and sports stars. The English language even has a word for such obsession – ‘idolization.’
In fact, anything that takes first place ahead of God in your life is, according to Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (see below), not acceptable to Him. What it comes down to is that people who don’t worship God will always worship something. And those who worship anything other than God Almighty are worshiping idols!
At this point, let’s take a minute to praise the LORD in song.
PRAISE TO THE LORD, THE ALMIGHTY
Praise to the LORD, the Almighty, the King of Creation!
O my soul! Praise Him, for He is thy strength and salvation!
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near;
Join in profound adoration.
Praise to the LORD, Who o’er all things so wondrously reigneth,
Shelters thee under His wings – yes – so gently sustaineth!
Hast thou not seen how all thy longings have been
Granted in what He ordaineth?
Praise to the LORD, Who doth prosper thy work and defend thee;
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do;
If with His love He befriend thee.
Praise to the LORD! O let all that is in me adore Him.
All that hath life and breath, come now with praises before Hm.
Let the AMEN sound from His people again!
Gladly for aye we adore Him.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Jeremiah 13:1-11
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Jeremiah 13:1-11 “This is what the LORD said to me: ‘Go and buy a linen belt and put it around your waist, but do not let it touch water.’ So I bought a belt, as the LORD directed, and put it around my waist. Then the word of the LORD came to me a second time. ‘Take the belt you bought and are wearing around your waist, and go no to Perath, and hide it there in a crevice in the rocks.’ So I went and hid it at Perath, as the LORD told me. Many days later the LORD said to me, ‘Go now to Perath and get the belt I told you to hide there.’ So I went to Perath and dug up the belt and took it from the place where I had hidden it, but now it was ruined and completely useless.
“Then the word of the LORD came to me, ‘This is what the LORD says, in the same way I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. These wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts, and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt – completely useless. For as a belt is bound around the waist, so I bound all the people of Israel and all the people of Judah to Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘to be My people for My renown and praise and honour. But they have not listened.'”
The text from Deuteronomy is called The Shema. It is a prayer that devout Jews intone each morning as they rise and each evening as they go down to bed. I understand that many try to say The Shema as their last words on earth, as well. The name of this beautiful prayer of worship comes from the first two words of the Bible verse we just read: Hear, O Israel! … Shema Yisrael!
A transliteration of the Hebrew for the first part is: “Shema Ysrael! YHWH, ELOHEINU, YHWH Ehad.” Because the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) is considered the actual name of God Almighty, it is never pronounced. Instead, upon seeing the sacred four letters, the word “Adonai” or “LORD” is substituted in the reader’s mind as well as when speaking.
The LORD God of the Universe is so holy, so sacred, that His real name ought not be uttered by His creation.
I’ll give you a moment to think about that. In this day and age, even small children bandy about the great Name of the LORD God. “OMG!” Except, most of the time, they don’t spell it. In our culture, the sacred Name, in Hebrew Ha’Shem, is tossed into everyday language without a thought. We profane His Holy Name as a bit of toss-away slang. A lot! Take note of this next time you watch anything on television. We have gotten to the place where we find very little to watch anymore, but it seems that people will get bleeped for saying ‘bad’ words but not for taking the LORD’s Name in vain.
My friends, whatever has happened to the ‘fear of the LORD’? Not only do we NOT put Him first, many (probably most) have reduced His precious Name to a throwaway slang phrase. And then we have to ask why there is a pandemic in the world? When a society turns its back on God, there are consequences. And remember, Our LORD is NOT turning His back to us; it is we who are doing the turning away.
The Shema ought to be very familiar to Christians, for Jesus teaches it in Mark 12:29. Then He adds, in verse 30, that we are also to love our neighbour as ourselves. Take notice, please. Love for the LORD is always paramount. Love for neighbour and for self must never amount to worship or idolization. Sorry, brothers and sisters, not even for your spouse or family. Love for the Creator must supersede all loves, or it becomes idolatry. (Check out Matthew 10:37-39.) “Though shalt not have any gods before Me.”
In the Jeremiah passage, we find God giving the prophet an object lesson. Jeremiah is to purchase a linen belt. Linen is the fabric of the priests’ vestments. It symbolizes holiness, and God’s holy relationship between the Jews and Himself, to His glory!
Jeremiah is instructed to wear it but not to get it wet. After wearing a linen belt in a hot climate for even a few days, the belt (KJV calls it a girdle) would acquire a certain amount of sweat and dirt. The admonishment not to get it wet meant Jeremiah wasn’t to wash it, no matter how dirty it would get.
Supposedly, the object lesson was to show Jeremiah, and us by extension, that just as dirt soils a linen garment, so does sin soil a human soul. It is just about impossible to keep either one clean.
Then the LORD God tells Jeremiah to go to Perath and hide it among the rocks there. Now, it seems no one alive today knows exactly where Perath was. There was a place with a similar name near the Euphrates. If that is indeed the same place, it would be rather a long journey for Jeremiah. The fact that the prophet just obeys the LORD’s command tells us how obedient he is to God.
At any rate, near or far, Jeremiah goes to Perath and hides the belt among the stones. Many days later, God sends him back again to retrieve the linen belt from its hiding place among the rocks, and, of course, it is totally ruined. “Completely useless” was how Jeremiah describes it.
Knowing what we know about the fate of Judah, we already see in our minds the lesson that God is giving to His prophet. The people of both Judah and Jerusalem have sinned (are soiled) against the LORD with sins of pride and idolatry. The LORD calls Jerusalem’s pride ‘great.’
Please forgive me for breaking into the narrative here for a moment. Did you know that Jerusalem is hosting one of the largest gay pride parades in the world this year? The LGBTQ community calls it the March for Pride and Tolerance. This reminds me so much of Isaiah’s prophecy of judgment on Jerusalem and Judah, outlined in Chapter 3. Verses 8 and 9: “Jerusalem staggers, Judah is falling; their words and deeds are against the LORD, defying His glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves.” (emphasis mine)
To continue … the LORD tells Jeremiah, “In the same way,” – as the linen belt was ruined by dirt and decay – “I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. These wicked people, who refuse to listen to My words, who follow the stubbornness of their hearts and go after other gods to serve and worship them, will be like this belt – completely useless!”
The double sins of pride and idolatry are about to be judged by the LORD. Now, for those who think of the Old Testament as a time dealt with by the LORD and now superseded by the church age, please remember that God doesn’t change. He is eternal. He is constant. Though His love endures forever, so does His judgment of sin. “God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19). If the LORD God would judge pride and idolatry in the ancient world, why would He not do the same in today’s world?
The LORD tells Jeremiah that just as a belt binds a human waist, so did He bind all the people of Israel and Judah to Himself, that they might be a people to bring Him glory and praise and worship, but they would not listen. Instead, they turned to other ‘gods’ and reveled in their sin.
Further on in Jeremiah, we see the fulfillment of the prophecy of God’s judgment on Judah and Jerusalem. What the LORD ordains, the LORD fulfills. He is not idle, as are the manmade ‘gods’ of other peoples. Our God is alive and righteous. He is still willing, indeed wanting, to ‘bind’ to Himself any and all who cry out to Him in repentance.
Listen … time is short and getting shorter with each passing day. If we are children of light, Apostle Paul tells us, we will not be surprised when the LORD comes for His church. We will be ready. “For the LORD Himself will descend from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the LORD in the air. And so we will be with the LORD forever. Therefore, encourage on another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18).
If you long to be among those who will meet the LORD in the air, let go of your human pride today, repent of your sin, turn from wickedness, and accept the love of the LORD your God through His Son Jesus Christ. Then, love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. For He is the LORD, your God, before Whom you shall have no other ‘gods.’ And all God’s children shouted AMEN!
Let’s pray …
Heavenly Father, Our Refuge and Our Strength …
As we ponder these Scriptures, please keep us focused on You and You alone. For You alone, O LORD, are holy. You alone are Almighty God, Creator of all that is and all that will ever be. There is none like You. May our love for You, LORD, always surpass all other loves, especially love of self. May pride completely fall away from us. May Your Spirit fill us with righteousness and holiness that we may always be ready to meet You in the air at any time. This we pray through Yeshua Ha’Maschiach, our LORD Jesus Christ. Amen.
If anyone reading this article has not yet received Jesus as their Saviour, but God has touched your heart by His Holy Word, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or find a Bible-believing local church and ask the Pastor what you must do to be saved in Grace. In the meantime, please consider the ABCs of Salvation:
A – Admit
Admit what you have done wrong and ask forgiveness.
Romans 3:23 “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Romans 6:23 “The wages of sin is death.”
I John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
B – Believe
Believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose again as payment for your sins.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
C – Confess and Choose
Confess and choose to allow God to be in charge of your life.
Matthew 16:24 “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
This article, based on God’s Holy Word, was written by the inspiration of God’s own Holy Spirit. All glory to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.