|Elijah killing the prophets of Baal|
I was reading of how Elijah once asked the people of his day, “How long will you waiver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). As I thought about that verse, I wondered if we too in the church today tend to waiver between two opinions. I’m not suggesting that we have Baal worshippers today as in Elijah’s day, but we do have things that compete for our devotion to the Lord God, and perhaps those competing things are also just as vile in God’s sight as if it were Baal himself that captured our interest.
First of all, who or what is Baal? In the Hebrew the noun “ba’al” primarily means ‘master’ or ‘possessor.’ However, Baal in the Old Testament is also a proper name and refers to a specific deity. As suggested by its plural form, there were likely many such deities. According to my Bible dictionary, “the Baal confronted at Mt. Carmel (by Elijah in 1 Kings 18) was probably Melqart, the god of Tyre.”
Let us fast-forward now a few millennia to our day and age. The deity Baal is now gone; or should I say, in name he is gone. The spirit of Baal, however, continues as in Elijah’s day. How? I would like to suggest that it does so through modern idolatry. Just as Baal worship led people away from the worship of the Lord God, so too does idolatry today lead people away from worshipping the Lord God.
The idolatry of self-interest and the idolatry of money, to mention but a couple, are alive and well today. Taken the wrong way, even pledging allegiance to a flag or other national symbol can be a form of idolatry. Sports fanaticism taken to the extreme can be a form of idolatry. Some of our idolatries we don’t even hide anymore in that we blatantly even call them “idols;” such as the popular “American Idol,” or its Canadian counterpart, “Canadian Idol.” Now, I can almost hear the objections to that already. People will say, “We don’t worship those aspiring stars!” Based upon what little I’ve seen of it, not to mention the very name “idol,” I would argue that there is an element of worship there. It’s more than just semantics.
Still don’t believe me? Here’s the test of it. Do they give as much glory and honor and love to the Lord God as they do to their “idols?” Do they give as much time and effort to studying the Bible as they do studying their idols? Do they give as much time calling on the Lord God in prayer as they do calling the 1-800 phone number to vote for their favorite Baal, I mean, idol? Sorry, but I doubt it! Therefore, it’s idolatry, pure and simple. There might as well be a statue to Baal right there on the stage as well (ouch!).
Now if I haven’t already offended everyone, please bear with me a little longer. I do not tend to be legalistic, nor am I am suggesting for a second that Christians cannot take an interest in TV programs, such as sporting events and “American Idol.” Certainly not! I’ve simply and deliberately gone to the other extreme to illustrate a point. The name “idol” aside, the question is simply one of, do we today also tend to waiver between two opinions? Do we tend to waiver between the opinion of God and the opinion of the world? In terms of priority, where does our walk with Jesus fall on our activity interest list? How serious do we take God’s word?
Paul contrasts the acts of the sinful nature with the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-23. He says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery, idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you as I did before that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Now here’s the question: where on this list do we see ourselves? Let’s be honest. To a point, we might be able to fool each other, but we cannot fool God.
Likewise, when God’s word tells us to, “make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy” (Hebrews 12:14), do we listen and do we obey? Or do we look just like the world in that we’ve also adopted a lethargic non-peaceful and non-holy mentality? Contrary to what some people will tell us, we cannot have it both ways.
Joshua understood this when he said, “Now fear the Lord and serve Him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourself this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). It’s about choices; it’s about choosing A or B, not A and B. It’s one or the other. The only question that remains is, what is my choice going to be?
Much to our discredit, I believe that the modern church has somehow forgotten that God is a jealous God. He said in the Ten Commandments, “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5). Some say, yes, but that’s the Old Testament. Very good, but has God’s nature changed somewhere between the Old and the New Testaments? Of course not! If that were true, then we had better tear out the Old Testament portion of our Bibles and throw them away. God’s nature does not change. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
What or who is the ‘master’ or ‘possessor’ of our souls? Is it some modern form of Baal? Or is it the Lord God alone? Have we Christians become indistinguishable from the rest of the non-believing world? Based upon our nature and demeanor alone, (and without the aid of carrying Bibles and placing bumper stickers on our cars), does the world even know we are Christians?
As the old saying went, “if Christianity were illegal, would there be enough evidence to convict you of being a Christian?” Or do we look just like the world? How long will we waiver between two opinions? God help us.