A few years ago, a new house was built in our neighborhood. As it was being built, it grabbed everyone’s attention as it was obviously and easily the most expensive home in the subdivision. When it was finished, the owner invited the entire subdivision to an open house to see the new home and enjoy a buffet. Many in the neighborhood, including Michal and I, were interested to view the new structure. It was opulent. Standing three stories tall and appointed with materials all imported from India, it had a kind of Indian/American style all its own. It had a grand foyer, an elevator, a large home theater room, and many other expensive features.
What interested us the most was their “idol” room. Being Hindu, they had devoted a room right off the foyer to their panoply of idols conspicuously displayed. They obviously wanted everyone who would come to that home to know not only were they rich, but that they were devoted to their array of Gods.
In 2 Kings 17 and 18 we find the history of Israel’s exile because of their continual idolatry. They were carried away by Hoshea, the King of Assyria in 722 BC. You may recall that “Israel” was comprised of the 10 northern tribes that had broken away from the house of David during Reheboam’s reign leaving Judah and Benjamin in the southern Kingdom. When Hoshea exported the majority of Israelites he then turned around and imported populations from places like Babylon, Cutha, Avva, Hamath and Spharvaim (17:24).
These immigrants to the land of Israel did not fear the Lord, even as Israel had forsaken the fear of the Lord, occasioning their exile. So the Lord brought fierce lions upon the population to chastise them. When King Hoshea looked into why these lions were menacing the populous it was told him that it was because the new immigrants did not know the ways of the God of the land. So what they did was to bring a remaining priest in from the people of Israel to “teach” the new inhabitants of the land the ways of the God of the land. Remember, however, that this priest was not of the Levitical line of priests that God had ordained. He was a hold-over priest from the corrupt system of worship Jeroboam had established in Israel after he had broken away from Rehoboam many decades ago. However, while this “priest” was teaching them to “fear the Lord”, all they did was to add Jehovah to the panoply of Gods they already had with the end result that 17:33 says, “So they feared the Lord but also served their own gods…”
What a striking commentary, I fear, of so many professing Christians today. For example, many professing Christians will tell you today that Jesus and Christianity are only “one way” to God but that other religions provide other ways to the same God. George Barna surveys reveal that the majority of evangelicals now believe people can be saved apart from Christ alone. Yet Jesus was clear to say in John 14, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father but by me.”
But another way that even genuine Christians fall into “Fearing the Lord yet serving their own gods” is to set up competing gods in their lives. Sometimes those competing gods are golden gods of material wealth. At other times they are gods of personal pleasure, personal interest, or personal pursuits. Sometimes it is the god of “family”; placing one’s own family as a higher priority than God. As much as I love my wife she knows that God is a higher priority to me than she is. As much as I love my kids and grands, God is a higher priority in my life. And that is the key…what is it in our lives that is a higher priority than God? The answer to that will reveal to us if indeed we are “fearing the Lord…yet serving other gods”.
We tend to think today with our “sophisticated, erudite, and urbane” worldview that we have no such practice as “serving other Gods”. We do not carve idols. We do not shape images that we place in our homes and to which we do obeisance, like my neighbor. We go to church, follow a code of conduct, and even perhaps serve in the church or community in Christ’s name. This is the “fearing God” part. But at the same time our allegiance is divided. Often we worship the “god of self”. At the center of our lives is… us! Our priorities and our wishes become supreme above that of anyone else… including the true God.
The message here is “do not simply place God in a panoply of other gods in your life”. Don’t think you cannot set up other gods. Have only one God. Serve only one God. Fear only one God. Slay every idol. The God of the Bible is the only God and has revealed himself fully in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Serve and fear him only.