Month 3:22, Week 3:7 (Shibi'i/Sukkot), Year:Day 5940:80 AM|
2Exodus 3/40, Yovel - Year 50/50
Omer Count - Day-After-7th Sabbath #14
Gregorian Calendar: Sunday 26 June 2016
Futile Religion V
Breaking Idolatry's Grip
Continued from Part 4
Shabbat shalom kol beit Yisra'el and mishpachah and welcome to our fifth and continuing study of futile religion. Last week we were looking at salvation-present and the need for energetic faith in there here-and-now. Blocking these is the idolatry of unbelief or, to use modern parlence, substituting Messiah for coping mechanisms. This is a well-trodden route to bondage.
Why the First Generation Exodus Israelites Failed
Yahweh will not allow those who claim to believe in and serve Him to worship idols and He does so by withholding His shalom (peace) from them until they stop being idolatrous and resorting to coping mechanisms. To come out of the bondage of idolatry you have to get your eyes on Yahweh, just as the Israelites did coming out of Egypt...at least at first...but it wasn't long before they returned to their coping mechanisms...to their idolatry. That's why their journey through the wilderness took so long and was so painful...because they kept going back and forth. One minute they had their eyes on Yahweh - usually after a miracle had been performed on their behalf - and the next their eyes were on the flesh again, a sure recipe for defeat and misery.
The Hiding Place of Idols
Do you want to know why they ping-ponged back and forth for 40 years before death finally claimed them? Do you want to know the secret of no longer ping-ponging back and forth between belief and unbelief, between trusting and resorting to coping mechanisms, between being obedient and being rebellious? I'll tell you. The secret is in where you hide your idols. And there's nothing quite as effective, as an experienced detective will tell you, as hiding something in plain sight so that it's staring you right in the face without anyone else being able to see it. Ezekiel has the essential clue to discovering this devious and wicked way of idol concealment.
They Took Their Idols With Them
So let us turn to Ezekiel chapter 20 and verse 8:
Those Israelites escaping from Egyptian slavery refused to do away with the idols they had trusted in during their long captivity. Here Yahweh had set them free, they had left Egypt, Yahweh had parted the Sea of Reeds (Yam Suf, 'Red Sea') and drowned the army of Pharaoh when he went after them. They took their idols with them into Sinai. They did not leave them behind.
"But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt" (Ezek.20:8, NKJV).
Hidden in Plain View
Before you and I were saved, we had our idols, didn't we? That time when we were unsaved was our 'Egyptian captivity.' Then we turned to Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) and He led us out of darkness and into His glorious light. He wanted us to leave our idols behind but like those ancient Israelites we brought them with us and continued to suffer. OK, so where did we hide our idols and convince ourselves and others we had forsaken them when we had not? Ezekiel saw a vision which revealed the answer to that question. He was told to dig through a wall in the temple and describe what he saw. This was his response:
Hidden in the Temple of the Ruach
"So I went in and saw, and there -- every sort of creeping thing, abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed all around on the walls" (Ezek.8:10, NKJV).
Where had Israel hidden her idols? In their homes? On the street corners? Out in the fields? Where? In the very temple of Elohim (God)! That's where the Israelites had hidden their idols! In the very last place you would expect to find them. How do we hide ours? In our temples, in our bodies, in our flesh, in ourselves where it's hard for others to see them except through our unsavoury behaviour. Yes, Catholics have idols of the Virgin Mary, Buddhists of Buddha statues, and Hindus of their manys gods. It's easy to make external idols. They are in plain view. It's easy to identify and destroy those. But the tough idols to remove are those in our minds and hearts which we can conceal so others cannot see them, in what is supposed to be Yahweh's Temple:
Your Last Hope?
"Don't you know that you yourselves are Elohim's (God's) temple and that Elohim's (God's) Ruach (Spirit) lives in you? If anyone destroys Elohim's (God's) temple, Elohim (God) will destroy him; for Elohim's (God's) temple is sacred, and you are that temple" (1 Cor.3:16-17, NIV).
I have had a lot of people coming to me for deliverance ministry over the years. Not untypically they will say something like, 'You're my last hope!' and they never get delivered. Do you know why? It's because they have no intention of getting delivered because they are putting the pressure on my performance as a minister and not theirs as a sinner seeking help.
The Idol of Homosexuality
I've had homosexual men come to me and expect me to 'deliver' them. They never got delivered. The last thing they wanted to hear was that homosexuality was an idol, the driving force of which is never sex but acceptance. The sexual addiction is just a layer on top of that. They didn't want to hear that they were guilty of idolatry. They wanted to be seen as the helpless victim with no responsibility on their part for anything. And, yes, some had indeed been raped by other men when they were younger and they were not guilty of that, obviously. I knew a lesbian woman in the UK who had been messed with by an older neighbour and she wasn't guilty of that either. The problem with both homosexual men and lesbian women is in the way they cope with their abuse, and they invariably 'cope' by turning to unclean and spoiling sex that give the Enemy stronger and stronger control.
A Problem of Acceptance
Homosexuality doesn't have to start with sexual abuse by someone of the same sex. It more often than not it starts because of a sense of rejection. When a man is rejected it is an emotional blow to his identity. He feels unacceptable and worthless. Then he gets angry and depressed and finally withdraws. A boy abandoned by his father feels rejected and in his hunger for male acceptance can cross certain boundaries that lead him into sex with other men. Then sex and acceptance get hopelessly confused and the result is a battle with homosexuality. The homosexual thinks his problem is same-sex attraction but really his problem is with acceptance.
Searching for Dad
I had one man come to me with his problem. We talked and prayed for some time. Then I gave him a long hug and he just broke down in tears because he sensed his real need was not sex with men but acceptance by a heterosexual man. He needed a father and he couldn't understand why I wasn't repelled by him and wasn't rejecting him. I understood what his problem was. I don't know what happened to him after that because he returned to America.
The Core Issue
Another homosexual man I ministered to simply would not let go of his idol, and he was miserable. But he wasn't miserable enough to let go of his idol. In his confusion he still wanted male sex and even though the relief he got from it never lasted very long and made him feel more disgusting every time, he would not deal with the core issue. The fact is, he enjoyed the transientory comfort he got from his perverse sex and had no intention of ever giving it up. Instead of letting go of the idol in his hand, he was coming to me and begging me to to rip it out of his cold, dead hand. No man can take away from another what he is not first willing to let go himself because such would be a violation of the Law of Free Agency.
How Deliverance Doesn't Work
I use the case of homosexuality as an illustration of idolatry as it's a particularly hard idol to let go of because rejection is such a powerful emotion. People will cross so many forbidden boundaries in order not to be rejected. In practice, our idols can be virtually anything. Both these men, by the way, were believers...unbelieving believers. Most people who have come to me in the past for deliverance from major issues were believers and most of them did not want to let go of their idols. They wanted to be perpetual victims and to dictate to the deliverance minister how they wanted to be delivered. They clung on to their idols and expected me to wrench them out of their hands whilst they were still clutching them for dear life. They thought that by my simply casting out a few demons here and there that all would be solved. It doesn't work like that which is why the vast majority of people coming for deliverance are never delivered. They quite simply don't want to yield sovereignty of their lives to Yah'shua (Jesus).
You Cannot Serve Two Masters
"You cannot serve Elohim (God) and mammon" (Matt.6:24, NKJV) - you cannot serve Yahweh and your idol. Yahweh extends lots of grace while you wrestle between your two choices - to serve Yahweh or mammon - but at some point you have to make a final choice. And that's why you're seeing people suddenly pulling up stakes and abandoning the Besorah (Gospel). They're been wrestling between two opposing camps and they made their choice:
Why can't you serve two masters indefinitely? Because you'll go stark raving mad. You may succeed waging an inner civil war year after year for a long time but at some point you will be forced to choose when finally Yahweh withdraws His grace - His undeserved loving kindness. That's called a Day of Judgment. We are in such a time right now. This is the Year of Jubilee.
"No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other" (Matt.6:24, NIV).
No Life or Hope in Idols
People coming for deliverance for little things and big want Yah'shua's (Jesus') benefits - His gifts - but don't want to pay the price, which is submission to His rule in their lives. They wanted a free handout the same way this sick society wants free money. Nothing in this life is free. And to be delivered you have got to be willing to let go of your idols, those dead things in which there is no chayim (life) and no tiqveh (hope).
When you cling onto a worthless idol you yourself become worthless. This is what Yahweh said through the navi (prophet) Jeremiah:
The Two Sins
"What fault did your fathers find in Me,
that they strayed so far from Me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves"
Yahweh is not, of course, saying that sinners are intrinsically worthless. All humans have worth because we are all His sons and daughters by creation. He is saying we become worthless by choice when we choose sin. We don't have to remain that way. But first we have to choose to let go of that dead idol, whatever it is that is a false comfort to us, whatever it is that we think will give us worth and value, and make us acceptable. Yahweh said:
The Purpose of Wanderings
"My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken Me,
the spring of living mayim (water),
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold mayim (water)"
So many people have found something they feel will help them and refuse to let it go, even though it is merely a broken cistern or vessel for holding water, that can never hold true chayim (life) and must inevitably fail them in the end. Indeed, we are so fond of the idols we have developped and trusted for so long that left alone we would never give them up. We continue placing confidence in them in times of crisis instead of looking to our Father in Heaven. Instead we play the prostitute. And so long as we insist on doing this, then Yahweh must do to us what He did for Israel, allowing us to wander unfuflilled and miserable in the wilderness to depend on these self-made idols, which fail us over and over again until we finally throw them aside and once more start making Yahweh our focus, our love, our hope, our joy.
Repeating Mistakes Over and Over Again
How do you know you're clutching on to an idol? Quite simply because you make the same mistake over and over again. One of the surest symptoms of an unreleased idol are never ending cycles of sinning and repenting, a phenomenon which we find depicted in the Book of Judges. You all know what happened. When the children of Israel were comfortable, they forgot Yahweh. Then they began to worship the idols of the surrounding nations and became miserable in bondage. Finally they remembered who their true Elohim (God) was, made teshuvah (repented) by declaring they would quit their idols and crying out for deliverance, only to experience the cycle repeat all over again because they never actually gave up their idols. 'I'll do anything, Lord, so long as you get me out of this mess!' they cry. But as soon as he gets them out of the mess, they forget their promise and return to sinning. That is why Yahweh has to put His people in one miserable situation after another until, finally, we are forced to the inevitable conclusion, as Scripture testifies, that Yahweh alone must receive our full trust.
Will Yahweh Still Love Me?
People do ask lots of silly questions, don't they? For instance, a believer once asked: 'If I commit adultery, will Yahweh still love me?' The wise minister replied: 'Of course He will! In fact, He will love you so much that he will probably discipline you harshly for it.' Not the answer you'd want to hear, is it? Let me ask you mothers a question because I am sure you know what I am talking about. Suppose your child walks out onto the street while a heavy lorry or truck is bearing down on it, threatening its life. What do you as a mother reflexly do after you have snatched your child out of danger's reach? Why, you will chastise him, won't you! My eldest daughter may not remember it now, but back when she was a little girl and we were living in Oslo, that is exactly what happened to her. I grabbed her off the street and gave her a belly-full. She could have got killed.
Chastisement and Discipline
Whenever Yahweh observes you utilising one of the idols of your past, what do you suppose that He, as your loving Heavenly Father, is going to do? Pat you on the head and say it doesn't matter? Our Elohim (God) will chastise and discipline you in the hope that you will be redeemed and turn away from the cursed thing. Yahweh does not create calamity but He is fully capable of utilising that which we ourselves create to His advantage in revealing the inadequacy of our idols, directing us to Himself, thereby deepening our emunah (faith).
Trying Out Your Idols on Others
Yahweh will deal with your idol by putting you in a situation where your idol doesn't work any more. He might put you in a situation where you are with people who don't respond to the idol of manipulation. Maybe you have used the idol of beauty to manipulate you into getting what you want? Imagine the frustration when that doesn't work. Maybe you use the idol of self-pity to manipulate people into getting what you want? Or the threat of punishment or whatever your specialist idol is. And when you don't get what you want, it makes you furious and frustrated. Then you know you're hanging onto an idol. Those whose lives are marked by constant frustration are what they are as a result of their old faithful idols failing them. What worked so well in the past is now disappointing. Those who still cling onto their idol will then go somewhere else and try it on someone else...if Yahweh allows them.
Stubborn Refusal to Let Go
You wonder what people walk away from Yahweh and the Besorah (Gospel) and this is the reason: it's because of a stubborn refusal to let go of an idol. They are afraid to trust Yahweh because they trust in their idol more. Then they have finally made a choice to cling onto the idol and reject Elohim (God). It happens all the time.
Switching Idols, Prolonging the Misery
Imagine that in the past, when I wanted my own way I was able to intimidate others into going along with me. On a given occasion there is something I wish to do, but I am opposed. I immediately pull out the idol called 'Intimidation' only this time nobody seems to care - they hold their ground and I do not get my way. What will I do? I will probably try 'Intimidation' one more time - after all, it worked so well in the past! If there is another failed attempt, then I will toss aside that particular idol and reach for another, perhaps the 'Sulking' idol, and give it a go. It is a very frustrating experience when the faithful idols of the past begin to fail. Worse, frustration can often be followed by panic. This process can be even more frustrating if some secular counsellor is trying to replace the failing idols with others which he believes will work better for me, like 'Bribery' or 'Artificial Sweeetness'. All I do at that point is switch idols and prolong my misery.
Entering Your Promised Land
This is insanity, is it not? Why not, instead, throw out all the idols you have trusted for so many years and trust in Yah'shua (Jesus) alone to make everything right? That's what the Besorah (Gospel) is! That is what being a Christian consists of, not being 'religious' by performing rituals. Why waste your life energy juggling idols and making yourself and everyone else miserable? So, then, this is my question: are you tired of trusting false gods? Are you willing to give up all but Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ)? If you are - for real - then you are ready to enter the Promised Land, the place of real rest, that domain or kingdom where Yahweh is all-in-all where there is no longer any shared sovereignty. There you will find an end to the frustration, anxiety, distrust, dismay, and depression that so often accompany unbelief.
You see, what an idolater is actually doing is declaring that he has more faith in Satan's ability to deceive than he has in Yahweh's ability to hear and act. He has more confidence in Satan's skill in taking a believer away from Yahweh than in Yah'shua's (Jesus') ability to keep him him safe and prospering. Idolatry denies that our Heavenly Father is infinitely more more powerful than our enemy. All we need do is tap into the power of Yahweh in simple emunah (faith), which begins with the devarim (words) in our mouths. We make our confession and then we see it through in action. As it is written:
Expecting an Immediate Response
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16, NIV).
Here's why people don't carry out these instructions - here's why people continue to cling to their idols. If we don't get an immediate experience of release, deliverance or salvation upon making our request in prayer for freedom from idolatry - if we don't get any kind of experience right afterwards - we conclude (wrongly) that Yahweh has not heard us. If we're still committed, what do we do? We pray the same prayer again...and again...expecting that by repetition Yahweh will finally hear and give us an 'experience' by way of confirmation.
Power in Prayer
Power in prayer is not in how it's said, nor is it a function of personality. The power of prayer rests solely in the One who hears it. And it is Yahweh, our Heavenly Father, who has commanded us to petition Him for one reason, and one reason only: that he might hear and answer.
Making Prayer Difficult
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to Elohim (God). And the shalom (peace) of Elohim (God), which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Messiah Yah'shua (Jesus)" (Phil.4:6-7, NIV).
We make petitioning Yahweh much too difficult. Many think the only way He will hear them is if they prostrate themselves on the ground, imagine being in Heaven in order to be assured that He hears us. Many make appeals to see Yah'shua (Jesus) or a malak (angel) for assurance that He has heard. Many shout their prayers thinking that this will ensure the desired result. To the casual believer all of this is simply evidence to them that Elohim (God) isn't hearing or answering those prayers at all. Take it one stage further and start lacerating yourselves and what do you get? The prayers of the prophets of Baal whom Elijah defeated through one sincere prayer! So don't go copying the heathen.
The Simplicity of Prayer
Prayer is simple. It's telling Yahweh what we want and presenting ourselves as no better or worse than we really are. The power in prayer is that Yahweh hears us because He says He does.
Are you being unrighteous? Then stop being unrighteous. That you may not feel Yahweh hears your prayer means nothing. Then your feelings become your idol.
The Pen Illustration
Let me illustrate. Not uncommonly members of my family come into my office asking for a new pen or something like that. I reach down into my drawer, hand them the pen and off they go. Later on I may go looking for a pen myself, open the drawer and find it is no longer there, because I feel I still have it. The truth is, I offered the person my pen, she took it, and that was that.
It is just as simple to give your idols to Yahweh. Just hand them to Him! Sadly, may believe that giving something to Yahweh is like my throwing a pen into the air and then waiting for a moment while gravity causes it to fall back into my hand. When the pen is in the air I may feel that Yahweh has it, so my responsibility is to keep it in the air, but it keeps returning to my hand. This is what Michael Wells calls a 'boomerang prayer' - it keeps coming back! The responsibility of seeing the prayer given to Yahweh through to its answer keeps returning to me. It's not long before I become weary and give up altogether!
Let's imagine that I sat down with you and signed a contract which states you give me all your worldly possessions. The fact that I don't come and collect all your things that day, or in a week, or a month or even a year, doesn't meant that I won't come at all. I simply may be in no hurry to claim them. They may remain in your room or your house but they have still become my property. The same is true of idols that we give to Yahweh. They may remain in our being, in our temple, but remember Yahweh has accepted them and will take them away as He sees fit.
Reasons for Delays
Why the delay? There may be many reasons, one of which may be that it is connected to other idols which He is waiting for you to give to Him. Being the clever sinners that we are, we normally keep a whole crate of idols in our arsenal of unfaith. Ask Him if there are any other idols He wants. He'll tell you. Then do the same with them. You may be surprised, if not horrified, at how many you find once He shines the light of emet (truth) on them.
The Piece of Paper
I like Hannah Whitehall Smith's insights into how to be quit of idols. She suggests that we take our burdens and cares, write them on a piece of paper, and give them to Yahweh once and for all. Once you've done that, take that piece of paper, and hold it up with both arms in the air in front of you to Yahweh. That piece of paper, which weighs almost nothing, will soon get heavier and heavier as our arm and shoulder muscles weaken. In fact, as you hold your arms high to Yahweh, allowing Him to see all that is written on it, your arms will soon feel as though they are trying to lift the weight of the whole world. (In the army we used to have to hold up our rifles this way as a punishment).
Of Absolutely No Help
Next, what you should do, is to think of your idol that you have trusted to meet your needs, and then ask if that idol will help you now? Will drunkenness, drugs, food, controlling, worrying, withdrawl, status or material gain make that piece of paper any lighter? You should then realise that you were simply not created to carry all your concerns and that nothing you have trusted thus far has come to your aid.
The Gadarene Swine
My last illustration is from a well-known Bible event:
Idols Won't Make You Happy
"When [Yah'shua/Jesus] arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. 'What do you want with us, Son of Elohim (God)?' they shouted. 'Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?' Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Yah'shua (Jesus), 'If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.' He said to them, 'Go!' So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Yah'shua (Jesus). And when they saw Him, they pleaded with Him to leave their region" (Matt.8:28-34, NIV).
Why were these people so upset with Yah'shua (Jesus)? They were in disobedience to the mitzvot (commandments), weren't they? They weren't even supposed to own pigs! So I ask you this question: Do any of us have the right to possess even one of the idols that we have claimed to be our own? Can those who fight so hard to gain the privilege of being a homosexual, control people, be a glutton, have abortions, produce pornography, gain large settlements, divorce, and so on really say in their hearts with complete honesty that these things have brought them simcha (joy) and serenity?
Next week we shall talk about how our failures to be quit of idols are often a function of an improper understanding who Elohim (God) really is. In the meantime, may Yahweh bless you and help you as you make the choice to release your idols without expectation of anything on Yahweh's part and next week I will show you how that really works. Amen.
Continued in Part 6
 Michael Wells, Sidetracked in the Wilderness: Find the Way Back to a Victorious, Abundant Life (Devotional Life Press, Littleton, Colorado: 1991)