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Idolatry and the
Thriving Worship
of Images Today
   Most Christians who profess to believe in and love Yahweh and His Messiah pride themselves in obeying the commandments that forbid lying, cheating, and stealing. They exult in charities and doing good works, yet do not feel the slightest tinge of guilt about disobeying all other commandments and laws in Yahweh's Word.
   Yahweh is Spirit and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth, John 4:24. Is True Worship possible without spirit or without truth? Yahweh's Word is truth, John 17:17. The words Yahshua spoke are spirit, John 6:63. The Spirit gives (eternal) life to the believer who follows its lead into all truth, John 16:13.
   Yahweh is Spirit and He is also love, 1 John 4:8. Does the truth - Yahweh's Word - tell us that Yahweh so loves the believer that He will give eternal life to a believer in His Messiah who willfully, with perverse stubbornness, refuses to follow the Spirit's lead?
   Disobedience to Yahweh's commandments indicates that we either do not love Him or that we do not even know Him, 1 John 5:3 and 4:8.
   Most Christians are at least partly sincere in their desire to worship in spirit and in truth, yet are blind to truth. They are so committed to following blind leaders that they reject the truth and believe lies that pervert worship.
Anti-idolatry Commandment
   People who have allowed the Spirit to open their eyes to the truth about the Third and Fourth Commandments and have turned to obey them may yet be unwittingly continuing in transgression of the Second Commandment. Therefore, people who use Yahweh's Name and people who don't, and people who keep Yahweh's Sabbaths and people who don't, should think about how they may be unknowingly continuing in idolatry and breaking the Second Commandment.
   Exodus 20:4-6 tells us what the Second Commandment is:
   You shall not make yourself a graven image [idol, NIV], or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I Yahweh your Elohim am a jealous Elohim, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands of them that love Me and keep My commandments.
   Jeremiah 11:6-8 NIV reads,
   Yahweh said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. From the time I brought your forefathers up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, ‘Obey Me.’ But they did not listen or pay attention; instead they followed the stubbornness of their hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but they did not keep.’"
   Most Bible believers concede that the Ten Commandments are applicable to the New Covenant, but believe the warning about disobedience to the terms of the covenant is relevant only to Old Covenant Israel.
   They know that the northern kingdom of the House of Israel was punished by being cut off from the covenant because of persistence in idolatry. They know the house of Judah was cut off and cast out because the Jews rejected Yahweh's Messiah and the terms of the New Covenant.
   Many limit themselves to a misunderstanding of the New Testament and just cannot believe they merit punishment for idol worship, rejecting the Messiah or the New Covenant. In their eyes they don't engage in idolatry, but in Yahweh's eyes they do.
   In their thinking they don't disobey the terms of the New Covenant, but most don't even understand New Covenant terms, let alone obey them.
   Christians who may read Zechariah 13 probably do not believe the prophecy pertains to them in the last days. Zechariah is saying that the one-third who survive the calamities that will come upon the earth in the last days will be refined in fire like silver and gold.
   Symbolic language! Yahweh is saying He is going to punish idolaters and purge all sin from His people in the last days. It will probably be during the calamities that the prophecy in Psalm 91:58 will come to pass. But, likening cleansing of sin and impurities from His people to refining in fire implies more than a mild, "Don't do it anymore. I won't like it if you do."
A Man on a Cross
   “You shall not make a graven image, or any likeness of anything,” the Second Commandment begins. Is the image of a man hanging on a cross "anything"? Does human rationalization justify this transgression of the law - sin? Isn't bowing down and worshiping before an image a form of idolatry?
   Those who do this probably reassure their feelings of righteousness by thinking the image doesn't represent a pagan deity but that it represents the Messiah Who was Spirit in the image of man before becoming man. Besides, we don't worship the image, we worship the Spirit the image represents - Yahweh's Messiah and our Savior, they say. Such thinking is based, no doubt, on Scriptures like Genesis 1:27, John 1:1 and 1:14.
   Regardless of how it is rationalized, the crucifix and cross, without the image hanging on it, is as much an idol as a stone image of Baal. The Babylonians, if questioned about worshiping before their idol, no doubt would insist that they didn't worship the idol either, but the spirit represented by the idol, Baal.
   In Deuteronomy 12:4, 30-31 Yahweh emphatically forbids His people to worship Him in the way
the pagans worshiped their gods. There isn't one Scripture in the entire Bible that countermands this commandment. Neither is there any Scripture that implies Yahweh will condone worshiping His Son in the way of the Baals.
   Some may be thinking, we don't sacrifice children to idols and that is what really angered Yahweh about idol worship. So, who is the blind guide straining out gnats and swallowing camels?
   The horrible practice of sacrificing children to idols cannot be ascribed merely to ignorant superstitions. In a case uncovered recently in Mexico, human sacrifices were performed in Satan worship. Were those lives sacrificed because of superstitions or because of demon possession?
   Is inflicting the consequences of a father's lawlessness upon children unto the third and fourth generation worse than throwing a child into a fire? Or is such a thought just choking on a camel?
Shocking Origins of the Cross
   Veneration of the cross as a sacred emblem and symbol of a pagan deity is found in many pagan religions and traces back to the mystic "Tau" of the Chaldeans of Babylon. The Tau (letter "T" in English) was the first letter in the name of the Babylonian Baal Tammuz.
   Tammuz is mentioned in Ezekiel 8:14. He was identified with the sun and worshiped by the Babylonians as the messiah and giver of life.
   The Tau (cross) was considered a symbol of life and was probably held up in homage during prayers to Tammuz. The Tau was inscribed on foreheads during baptism; used as an amulet over the heart and woven into priest's garments. The cross was also carried in the hands of priests and kings as a symbol of "divinely conferred authority." (Two Babylons, pp. 197-199)
   How did this ancient pagan symbol come into Christianity? Vine tells us in his discussion of the cross in Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, "By the middle of the 3rd cent. [C.E.] the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the crosspiece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ."
   Use of the crucifix and cross certainly did not come into Christianity through the influence of Yahweh's Holy Spirit or through apostolic preaching of the truth. There can be only one spirit behind the propagation of this form of idolatry. Only a demonic spirit would deceive people into ignoring Paul's admonishment to flee from idolatry, 1 Corinthians 10:14.
   People influenced by this spirit of disobedience, Ephesians 2:2, are unable to distinguish good from evil. Even though priests, ministers, theologians, and scholarly writers know where the cross came from, they and their followers do not see the evil in its use.
   Many who no longer use these emblems or even keep them in their possession could be wondering how they may still be transgressing Yahweh's commandment against idolatry. In giving this question a little thought, let's pray that Yahweh will open our eyes to the evil we may still be involved in.
Idols of Eyes and Heart
   Because Israel's immorality mattered so little to her, she defiled the land and committed adultery with stone and wood, Jeremiah 3:9.
   Is Yahweh talking about literally committing adultery with stone and wood? No, and neither is He talking about temple prostitution. He is referring to worshiping pagan deities represented by graven images. He calls this spiritual adultery immoral and even rebellion, Jeremiah 3:13. The arrogance (as self-righteousness) that goes with this form of rebellion is said to be like the evil of idolatry, 1 Samuel 15:23.
   This is what the sovereign Yahweh says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet [religious leader?], I Yahweh will answer him Myself in keeping with his great idolatry, Ezekiel 14:4 NIV.
   What is an idol in the heart? It can't be a molten image like a golden calf and it can't be carved from stone or wood. Therefore, Yahweh must be referring to an invisible, immaterial something that comes
into the mind when a visible, material object (a stumblingblock like maybe a crucifix or cross) is held up before a person's eyes.
   A visible idol creates in the mind of a worshiper an invisible image of the spirit being worshiped. A mental image is an idol because it fosters worship of the spirit pictured in the mind.
   In the Bible idols are always associated with demons. Luke 8:2 makes it plain that demons are evil spirits. Any mental visualization of a spirit opens the door to deceptions and demon possession. A satanic cunning involved with mental images tricks the worshiper into becoming influenced by an evil spirit believed to be Yahweh's Holy Spirit.
   How do you visualize Yahweh's Messiah? Do you see Him as a dark-complexioned, sad-eyed man with a beard and long hair? Do you see Him as a light-complexioned fellow with a halo over His head and standing in the clouds with arms extended in welcome? Or as a mutilated body hanging on a cross and bleeding from a crown of thorns?
   Artists have painted many different portraits representing some aspect of the Messiah's earthly life. These images bear no resemblance to the real Messiah and produce an image in the mind that is no more like the real Messiah than the pictures.
   The pictures and mental images become idols if used as an aid to worship. This visualized Messiah is no more than an idol of the heart and it cannot be acceptable to Yahweh just because it is believed to be a representation of His Son.
   As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts, Isaiah 55:9.
   No matter how much we really love Yahweh and His Messiah or how sincere we are in our desire
to worship in spirit and in truth, we cannot visualize Yahweh or His Messiah without reducing them to our level.
   When we try to visualize them we see them in our mind's eye, not as they really are, but as we think they are. When we pray and worship with mental pictures in our minds we are bowing down to idols.
   Insofar as these mental images fail to convey the truth to our minds, we fail to worship in spirit and in truth.
-Elder Ralph Henrie (deceased)

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