PAGANS

A Dreamers infatuation. Actress Phyllis Gordon & her pet cheetah, London, 1939.

Why God wanted Israel to stay away from:

Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains and on the hills and under every spreading tree where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places.  – Deuteronomy 12:2-3

When taking over a nation, the Israelites were supposed to destroy every pagan ALTAR and idol in the land. God knew it would be easy for them to change their beliefs if they started using those altars, so nothing was to remain that might tempt them to worship idols.  We too should ruthlessly find and remove any centres of false worship in our lives.  These may be activities, attitudes, possessions, relationships, places, or habits – anything that tempts us to turn our hearts from God and do wrong.  We should never flatter ourselves by thinking we’re too strong to be tempted.  Israel learned that lesson.

 

Don’t become curious about:

.. and after they have been destroyed before you, be careful not to be ensnared by enquiring about their gods, saying, “How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.”  You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshipping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates.  They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.  – Deuteronomy 12:30-31

God did not want the Israelites even to think about the pagan religions surrounding them. Idolatry completely permeated the land of Canaan.  It was too easy to get drawn into the subtle temptations of seemingly harmless practices.  Sometimes curiosity can cause us to stumble.  Knowledge of evil is harmful if the evil becomes too tempting to resist.  To resist curiosity about harmful practices shows discretion and obedience.

 

Solomon’s foreign WIVES:

They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.  – 1 Kings 11:2

Although Solomon had clear instructions from God not to marry women from foreign nations, he chose to disregard God’s commands. He married not one, but many foreign women, who subsequently led him away from God.  God knows our strengths and weaknesses, and his commands are always for our good.  When people ignore God’s commands, negative consequences inevitably result.  It is not enough to know God’s word or even to believe it; we must follow it and apply it to our daily activities and decisions.  Take God’s commands seriously.  Like Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, we are not as strong as we may think.

Solomon brought Pharaoh’s daughter up from the City of David to the palace he had built for her, for he said, “My wife must not live in the palace of David king of Israel, because the places the ark of the LORD has entered are holy.”2 Chronicles 8:11

Solomon married Pharaoh’s daughter to secure a military alliance with Egypt. He did not let the woman live in David’s palace, however, where the ark of God had once been kept.  This implies that Solomon knew his pagan marriage would not please God.  Solomon married many other foreign women, and this was contrary to God’s law (Deuteronomy 7:3, 4).  These women worshipped false gods and were certain to contaminate Israel with their beliefs and practices.  Eventually Solomon’s pagan wives caused his downfall (1 Kings 11:1-11).

They did not deviate from the king’s commands to the priests or to the Levites in any matter, including that of the treasuries.  – 2 Chronicles 8:15

Although Solomon carefully followed God’s instructions for building the temple and offering sacrifices (8:13), he paid no attention to what God said about marrying pagan women. His sin in marrying a foreign wife (8:11) began his slide away from God.  No matter how good or spiritual we are in most areas of life, one unsurrendered area can begin a downfall.  Guard carefully every area of your life, especially your relationships.  Don’t give sin any foothold.

 

They too can be part of God’s plan:

But Neco sent messengers to him saying, “What quarrel is there between you and me, O king of Judah? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war.  God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.” 

Josiah, however, would not turn away from him, but disguised himself to engage him in battle. He would not listen to what Neco had said at God’s command but went to fight him on the plain of Megiddo.  – 2 Chronicles 35:21-24

Josiah ignored Neco’s message because of who Neco was – king of a pagan religion. The mistaken assumption that Neco could not be part of God’s larger plan cost Josiah his life.  While not everyone who claims to have a message from God really does, God’s messages may come in unexpected ways.  God had spoken to pagan kings in the past (Genesis 12:17-20; 20:3-7; see also Daniel 4:1-3).  Don’t let prejudice or false assumptions blind you to God’s message.

©Dodgsons KingsWay, 1973.

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