In a conversation with a friend earlier this week, he reminded me that we tend to classify sin. All sin is bad, sure. But some sin, based on the response of many, is REALLY bad . . . way worse . . . the only thing to be focused on. And in doing so, he pointed out, we tend to minimize the nature of other sin . . . our sin. You know, that sin which we’ve become more comfortable with . . . that sin which we can talk about without it turning our stomach. But as I’m reading in 1Kings this morning, it occurs to me that perhaps we should be focusing first on another sin. One sin that I wonder if, after pride, isn’t at the root of all other sin.
It’s the sin of Jeroboam. The sin that was adopted by king after king in Israel. The sin that would lead to other sin. The sin that ultimately would lead to the northern kingdom’s downfall. The sin of idolatry.
And if there’s nothing else you learn about this sin in Kings, it’s that it makes God angry.
Omri did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did more evil than all who were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and in the sins that he made Israel to sin, provoking the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger by their idols. (1Kings 16:25-26 ESV)
Jeroboam, chosen by God, graced by God, and lifted up by God to be king of Israel’s northern ten tribes, chose to replace God. As a means to secure his own rule in Israel, Jeroboam built two golden calves so that people would not have to travel to Jerusalem to worship and perhaps have their hearts drawn again to the southern kingdom. And so he sets one in Bethel, the other in Dan, and declares these to be the gods who had really delivered them from Egypt (12:25-30). And this became “the sin of Jeroboam.” The sin which king after king followed in and, often “improved” upon. And, repeatedly, I’ve been reading that it provoked the LORD to anger.
King after king . . . generation after generation . . . more and more common place as time passes. But God never gets over it.
As I’ve said before, if repetition in Scripture is God’s way of saying something in “bold print” . . . if it’s His way of emphasizing a truth . . . then, as I read in 1Kings, God is yelling, “Idolatry makes me angry!”
Provoking God to anger. To trouble His spirit. To vex His very nature. To stir up righteous indignation that can only be followed by holy and justified wrath. Such is the nature of replacing God with an idol. Such is the outcome of looking to something of our own making as the source of deliverance and happiness. Not to be minimized. Not to be forgotten as we point the finger at those sins which are popular to call out. Idolatry makes God angry. Period.
To be sure, the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin . . . even the sin of idolatry. But we must apply the blood. “If we confess our sins,” John says, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9). But there is no cleansing apart from confessing.
And if the kings of Israel tell us anything, it’s that idolatry is truly a slippery slope. That when we start to worship other things, there is no stopping what we will add to our worship list and what we will do in order to serve those other gods which are no gods at all. And though we might grow more and more comfortable with it, Kings also reminds me that God does not. Again and again, I read in Kings that they provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger with their idols.
I’m guessing that’s why something else I read in Ephesians is resonating right now . . .
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. . . . For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
(Ephesians 5:3, 5 ESV emphasis added)
That God’s people would beware of idolatry. That we would see it as the sin which leads to all other sin. That we would first deal with the plank in our own eye before dealing with the spec in another’s . . . and, to be sure, we should be showing others the way of rescue from their sin. That God would reveal to us our other gods that we might leave them at the foot of the cross. Looking to the Son only for our deliverance . . . bowing to the Father only with our worship . . . drinking deep of the Spirit only as our sufficiency.
By His grace . . . for His glory.