What God Hates (IV)
GOD HATES FALSE RELIGION
(from a transcript of a sermon preached on 3/18/01 at Sovereign Redeemer Assembly)
Let's turn to Deuteronomy chapter 12. I'll be reading the entire chapter:
Deuteronomy 12: (1) These [are] the statutes and the ordinances which you shall take heed to do in the land which Jehovah the God of your fathers has given to you, to possess it, all the days that you live on the earth: (2) Destroying you shall destroy all the places where the nations which you are dispossessing served their gods, on the high mountains, and on the hills, and under every leafy tree. (3) And you shall break down their altars, and shatter their standing pillars. And you shall burn their Asherahs with fire. And you shall cut down the carved images of their gods, and shall destroy their names out of that place. (4) You shall not do so to Jehovah your God. (5) But you shall seek to the place which Jehovah your God shall choose out of all your tribes; for you shall seek His dwelling, to put His name there. And you shall go there. (6) And you shall bring your burnt offerings there, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offering, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock. (7) And you shall eat there before Jehovah your God, and shall rejoice in all that you put your hand to, you and your households, with which Jehovah your God has blessed you. (8) You shall not do according to all that we [are] doing here today, each [doing] all that [is] right in his own eyes. (9) For you have not come to the rest and to the inheritance which Jehovah your God [is] giving to you. (10) And you shall cross over the Jordan, and shall live in the land which Jehovah your God is causing you to inherit. And He shall give you rest from all your enemies all around; and you shall live securely. (11) And it shall be the place which Jehovah your God shall choose to cause His name to dwell there, there you shall bring all that I [am] commanding you, your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice freewill offerings which you vow to Jehovah. (12) And you shall rejoice before Jehovah your God, you and your sons, and your daughters, and your male slaves, and your female slaves, and the Levite within your gates because he has no portion or inheritance with you. (13) Take heed to yourself that you not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; (14) but in the place which Jehovah shall choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command. (15) Only with all the desire of your soul you shall sacrifice and shall eat flesh within all your gates according to the blessing of Jehovah your God which He has given you; the unclean and the clean one may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the hart. (16) Only, you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it as water on the earth. (17) You are not able to eat the tithe of your grain within your gates, and of your new wine, and your oil, and the firstlings of your herd and of your flock, and any of your vows which you vow, and your freewill offering, and the heave offering of your hand. (18) But you shall eat it before Jehovah your God in the place which Jehovah your God shall choose, you and your son, and your daughter, and your male slave, and your female slave, and the Levite who [is] within your gates. And you shall rejoice before Jehovah your God in all that you put your hand [to]. (19) Take heed to yourself that you do not forsake the Levite as long as you live on the land. (20) Then Jehovah your God shall enlarge your border, as He has promised you, and you shall say, I will eat flesh, because your soul desires to eat flesh, you may eat flesh according to all the desire of your soul. (21) If the place which Jehovah your God shall choose to put His name there is too far from you, then you shall kill of your herd and of your flock which Jehovah has given you, as I have commanded you; and you shall eat within your gates according to all the desire of your soul. (22) Only, as the gazelle and the hart are eaten, so you shall eat of it; the unclean and the clean may eat of it alike. (23) Only, be sure not to eat the blood, for the blood [is] the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh; (24) You shall not eat it; you shall pour it on the earth as water. (25) You shall not eat it in order that it may be well with you and with your sons after you, when you do that which [is] right in the eyes of Jehovah. (26) Only, your holy things which you have, and your vows, you shall take up and shall go to the place which Jehovah shall choose. (27) And you shall offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of Jehovah your God; and the blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out by the altar of Jehovah your God; and you shall eat the flesh. (28) Take heed to listen to all these Words which I am commanding you, in order that it may be well with you and with your sons after you forever, when you do that which [is] good and right in the eyes of Jehovah your God. (29) When Jehovah your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you are going in to possess them, and you shall possess them, and shall live in their land, (30) take heed to yourself that you not be snared to follow them after they have been destroyed before you; and that you not inquire after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? And I shall do so, even I. (31) You shall not do so to Jehovah your God; for everything hateful to Jehovah, which He detests, they have done to their gods. For they have even burned their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. (32) All the things that I command you, take heed to do them and you shall not add to it, nor take away from it.
Today, if the Lord wills it, we'll be going over something that God says He hates that is mentioned more times in Scripture than anything else He says He hates. The title of this sermon is, "GOD HATES FALSE RELIGION." God HATES false religion. If you look through the Scriptures to find passages about what God hates and what is an abomination to Him, you will not find anything that is mentioned more often than religion. As we have seen before, God is a JEALOUS God and demands glory. When someone believes in and worships a god that is not how the TRUE God describes Himself, or when someone worships in a way in which the TRUE God does not prescribe, or when someone tolerates or joins in with those who do not worship the true God, then it is an ABOMINATION to Him.
We see in Deuteronomy 12 that God prescribed the way in which the Old Testament church was to deal with false religion and the way in which they were to worship. Of course, the Pentateuch is full of prescriptions for worship; Deuteronomy 12 is one example. Now note verses 30 and 31:
Deuteronomy 12: (30) take heed to yourself that you not be snared to follow them after they have been destroyed before you; and that you not inquire after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? And I shall do so, even I. (31) You shall not do so to Jehovah your God; for everything hateful to Jehovah, which He detests, they have done to their gods. For they have even burned their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
God says that they are not to worship the gods of the nations that they will conquer, because these nations were doing what is HATEFUL to God. They did not worship the true and living God. They worshiped idols. They did what God DETESTS. And if the Jews went in and did what the heathens did, then the JEWS would be doing what God detests. In Deuteronomy 7: 2-5, God says this:
Deuteronomy 7: (2) and when Jehovah your God shall give them up before you, and you strike them, [then] you shall utterly destroy them; you shall not cut a covenant with them, nor show mercy to them; (3) nor shall you intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughter to his son, nor shall you take his daughter to your son. (4) For he will turn your son away from following Me, that they may serve other gods; and the anger of Jehovah will glow against you, and He will destroy you quickly. (5) But you shall deal with them in this way: you shall break down their altars, and dash in pieces the cult-stones; and you shall cut down their Asherahs; and you will burn their carved images with fire.
The people of God were not to intermarry with them, and they were to cut down, break down, dash in pieces, and burn their religious items. Does that sound like they were to meet them half-way or to tolerate their religion or to let their children go to their schools or to let their children at least date the children of the inhabitants of the land? No. They were to have nothing to do with the false religion of the heathen. God detests the false religion of the heathen, and he detests anyone who would welcome it or tolerate it. In fact, to MARRY someone who believes in a false religion is to SPEAK PEACE to one who believes in a false religion. And since the true people of God, the spiritual Israel, never speaks peace to those who bring a false gospel, what does this say about who a regenerate person would marry? If marrying is speaking peace, would a regenerate person ever marry someone who brings a false gospel? Think about it.
Let's read verses 25 and 26 of the same chapter:
Deuteronomy 7: (25) You shall burn the carved images of their gods with fire; and you shall not lust after the silver and gold on them, nor shall you take [it] to yourself, that you not be snared by it; for it [is] an abomination to Jehovah.
What does God think of images of deity? Is he just a little bit tolerant of them? How about just as a decoration? Was it okay for the Israelites to appreciate the culture of the inhabitants by decorating their houses with heathen images? No - they were to be utterly destroyed, because God says He hates them. He calls an idol an abomination. He talks about bringing an ABOMINATION into the house. Interesting wording, isn't it? When you bring an idol into the house, you bring an ABOMINATION into the house. And what does it say about those who DO bring an abomination into the house? They, too become an ABOMINATION! Psalm 115:8 says that the ones who trust in idols are like the idols themselves. The end of verse 26 says what I've been saying throughout this series - we are to hate what God hates. If God detests it, then WE detest it. If God hates it, then WE hate it. If God considers it a cursed thing, then WE consider it a cursed thing. God pronounces a CURSE in Isaiah 5:20 on those who call evil good and good evil. To call an abomination to God good is to be an abomination yourself.
Let's turn over to Deuteronomy 18:9-12:
Deuteronomy 18: (9) When you come to the land which Jehovah your God is giving to you, you shall not learn to do according to the hateful acts of those nations. (10) There shall not be found in you one who passes his son or his daughter through the fire, one that uses divination, an observer of clouds, or one divining, or a whisperer of spells, (11) or a magic charmer, or one consulting mediums, or a spirit-knower, or one inquiring of the dead. (12) For all doing these things [are] an abomination to Jehovah. And because of these filthy acts Jehovah your God is dispossessing these nations before you.
Again, we see what is an abomination to God. The people of God were NOT TO LEARN from the heathen. They were NOT TO LEARN how to worship by imitating the heathen. They were NOT TO LEARN the abominable child-sacrifice practices of the heathen, which we've seen before. But look what else they were not to incorporate into their lives - magicians, psychics, fortune tellers, wizards, witches, or anything of the sort. Anything magic or occultic was to be avoided as a filthy act. Parents, do you keep yourself and your children away from magic, from wizards, witches, trolls, and other such occultic creatures? Do you consider them to be filthy? Do your children know that you consider them to be filthy? Magic and the occult abound in children's movies, toys, and books. We are to consider these things to be filthy and abominable, just as God considers them.
Turn to Amos 5:21-23:
Amos 5: (21) I hate, I despise your feast days; and I will not delight in your solemn assemblies. (22) Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not be pleased; nor will I regard the peace offerings of your fat animals. (23) Take away from Me the noise of your songs; and I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
Do you see here what God hates? God hates their feast days. But wait a minute. Didn't God command feast days? He sure did. What else does God hate? God hates their solemn assemblies. Didn't God command solemn assemblies? He sure did. What else? God hates the burnt offerings and the grain offerings and the songs and the stringed instruments. Didn't God command all these? He sure did. And He said that those who did not follow these commands were in disobedience. So why did God say he hated their religious activities? Well, look at verses 24 through 26:
Amos 5: (24) But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (25) Have you brought near sacrifices and food offerings to Me forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? (26) Yea, you have lifted up the booth of your king, and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves!
We see here that they were not only offering God burnt offerings and sacrifices, but they also had what you might call a "side religion." They worshiped Kiyyun, which is the Arabic and Persian name for Saturn. An idol of Saturn had a star on top of it, and the astrologers called Saturn "the star of Israel." It is possible that the idolatrous Israelites used the idols of Saturn DURING their so-called "worship of God." But God is jealous for His name, His glory. He will not be one of many gods; He demands to be worshiped as the one and only true and living God.
Look at Deuteronomy 16, verses 21 and 22:
Deuteronomy 16: (21) You shall not set up for yourself pillars of any trees, which you make for yourself near the altar of Jehovah your God. (22) And you shall not raise up for yourself any standing image, which Jehovah your God detests.
This is an interesting passage. The people are commanded not to set up pillars of trees beside the altar. These bunches of trees are commonly called groves. Now what's so bad about putting up some trees next to the altar? The trees aren't carved images, are they? They're just trees! Well, here's why. Many of the heathen religions of that time set up groves of trees in which they would worship their false gods. Their worship sometimes included committing all kinds of fornication and mutilation, but EVEN IF IT DID NOT include this, it was a place that was set up for false worship, and it symbolized false worship. Setting up a grove next to the altar would be mixing paganism with Judaism, false with true. You've heard of the "eclectic approach" to religion: taking a little bit from here and a little bit from there, until you come up with your own personalized spirituality. Those who set up the groves near the altar would just be a little eclectic, bringing the best of both religions. Or, as A.A. Hodge said, "Here, as everywhere else, there is essential truth on both sides of every controversy, and the real truth is the whole truth, its entire catholic body. Arminianism in the abstract as an historical scheme is a heresy, holding half the truth. Calvinism is an historical scheme which in its best representatives comprehends the whole truth with considerable completeness. But the case is essentially different when we come to consider the great co-existing bodies of Christian people calling themselves respectively Calvinists and Arminians. Each of these parties holds all essential truth, and therefore they hold actually very much the same truth. The Arminians think and speak very much like Calvinists when they come to talk with God in either the confession of sin or the supplication for grace. They both alike in that attitude recognize the sovereignty of God and the guilt and helplessness of men. Indeed, how could it be otherwise? What room is there for anything other than essential Calvinism on one's knees? On the other hand, the Calvinist thinks and speaks like the better class of Arminians when he addresses the consciences of men, and pleads with them, as free, responsible agents, to repent and believe in Christ. The difference between the best of either class is one of emphasis rather than of essential principle. Each is the complement of the other. Each is necessary to restrain, correct, and supply the one-sided strain of the other. They together give origin to the blended strain from which issues the perfect music which utters the perfect truth." A.A. Hodge was setting up the groves of the pagans next to the altar of God. And what he comes away with isn't 80% of the truth or 50% of the truth or 30% of the truth - it is a COMPLETE LIE. A.A. Hodge brought an abomination into his house, and he showed himself to be an abomination to God.
Now what if a priest wanted to make the true religion more palatable to the pagans? What if he put the groves up, not for any significance to himself, but to make it easier for the pagans to be comfortable with the true religion so that they perhaps would hear and witness the truth and be saved? Would it be wrong for a priest to do that? It most certainly would be. In fact, he would be doing what is an abomination to God. This makes us think of the Roman Catholics and their holidays, doesn't it? Plus all those who call themselves Protestants or evangelicals or whatever who have gone along with Romanism. They find out when the pagans celebrate the birth of their god, then incorporate their version of Christianity into that by making it into a holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus, mixing in the paganism enough to make everybody comfortable. Christmas comes from Christ-mass, which is the idolatrous Roman Catholic mass that celebrates the birth of Christ on the day that the Saxon pagans celebrated the birth of Mithra, the Sun-god. Since it was also in the middle of the winter equinox festival of Saturnalia, the feast of Saturn, they incorporated evergreen trees and exchanges of gifts, and what else? What did we see about the worship of Saturn back in Amos 5? The worship of Saturn included a STAR at the top of the idol. Does that bring anything to mind? And while papists were at it, they incorporated the occultic practices of the Nordic and Druid pagans that included yule, ivy, mistletoe, and elves. In the Spring time, the Saxon pagans celebrated the resurrection of Mithra. According to their religion, a god named Eostre opened the gates of the dead to let Mithra out. So what did the Roman Catholics do? You already know, don't you. Eostre became "Easter," to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. And they kept the pagan fertility symbols of Easter eggs and Easter bunnies in their celebration. And it goes on and on. They celebrate a day for one of their "saints" - Saint Valentine - on the day that the pagans celebrated the goddess of love, thus all the love and sex themes on Valentine's Day. It's all an abomination to God.
Okay. Thus far, we've seen that God hates the religion of the heathen and religion that mixes elements of heathenism with pseudo-Christianity. Let's now turn to another false religion God hates. It's not heathenism or paganism. It's not unconcern and irreligion. It's not the wacko cults. Let's turn to Isaiah 1:10-14:
Isaiah 1: (10) Hear the Word of Jehovah, rulers of Sodom. Listen to the Law of our God, people of Gomorrah. (11) What [good] to Me [are] your many sacrifices, says Jehovah? I am sated with burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fattened cattle, and the blood of bulls; nor do I delight in [the blood of] lambs and he goats. (12) When you come to see My face, who has required this at your hand, to trample My courts? (13) Do not add to bringing vain sacrifice; [its] incense is an abomination to Me. I cannot endure the new moon and sabbath, the going to meeting, and the evil assembly. (14) My soul hates your new moons and your appointed feasts. They are a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing [them].
God hates - he can't stand - their sacrifices, their incense, their new moon and sabbath keeping, their assemblies, and their feasts. These are ALL things that God commanded. Why did He hate the Israelites doing these things? Let's look at verses 15 through 24:
Isaiah 1: (15) And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you. Yea, when you multiply prayer, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (16) Wash yourselves, purify yourselves. Put away the evil of your doings from My sight; stop doing evil. (17) Learn to do good, seek justice, straighten the oppressor, judge the orphan, strive for the widow. (18) Come now and let us reason together, says Jehovah: Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as the crimson, they shall be like wool. (19) If you are willing and hear, you shall eat the good of the land. (20) But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured [with] the sword; for the mouth of Jehovah has spoken. (21) Oh how the faithful city has become a harlot! [She was] full of justice; righteousness lodged in it. But now, murderers! (22) Your silver has become dross; your wine is diluted with water. (23) Your princes [are] rebellious and companions of thieves. Everyone loves a bribe, and is pursuing rewards. They do not judge the orphan, nor does the cause of the widow come to them, (24) and says the Lord, Jehovah of Hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Alas! I will be eased of My foes, and avenge Myself of My enemies.
The people were doing all the outward religious things, but their hearts were wicked. They were still dead in their sins. They showed this by doing evil, including not seeking justice, not reproving the oppressor, not vindicating the cause of the orphan, not pleading for the widow. They had become a whore by tolerating wicked people. These were all symptoms of hearts that did not believe in the true and living God, the one who turns scarlet, crimson sins into white-as-snow righteousness through the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Christ alone. Romans 9:31-33 says that Israel FOLLOWED AFTER a law of righteousness - meaning they outwardly obeyed God's commands - but they DID NOT ARRIVE at a law of righteousness, which means they were still void of a righteousness that answered the demands of God's law and justice. It says that the reason they did not arrive at a law of righteousness is because they did not have faith in Christ, meaning that they did not believe that it was the work of Christ ALONE that makes one righteous. They stumbled at the stumbling stone. Were these Israelites insincere? Was that their problem? Well, Romans 10:3 said that they were a zealous people. The Isaiah passage we're in says that they engaged in the religious practices that God commanded. Yet God still hated their zealous attempts to obey. Turn over to Proverbs 21:27:
Proverbs 21: (27 )The sacrifice of the wicked [is] hateful, how much more [when] he brings it with an evil intent!
Now this says the same thing about the sacrifices of the wicked as Proverbs 15:8, does, but it also says MORE. Look at it closely. Look at the phrase "how much more." The last part of the verse says that bringing a sacrifice with evil intent is MORE HATEFUL than something else that is still hateful to God. What is it that is still hateful, still an abomination, to God? The sacrifice of the wicked one who is sincere!! It's the sacrifice of someone who does not believe the gospel but who has no underhanded motive for his worship! He's sincerely and zealously worshiping God the best way he knows how! Yet since it is WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE, as Romans 10:2-3 says, it is an abomination to God. And that knowledge is the knowledge that EVERY Christian receives upon regeneration and conversion. Hebrews 11:6 says that "without faith, it is impossible to please God." Thus, until one is given FAITH, NONE of his religious deeds are pleasing to God. Israel pursued a law of righteousness, but they did it without FAITH. And what does it mean to be without faith? Romans 10:3 states it clearly - it means to be ignorant of the righteousness of God, and thus going about to establish one's own righteousness. So we see that God hates paganism and God hates any mix of paganism and so-called worship of God, but we also see that God hates all worship that comes in the name of the true and living God that is performed by those who do not have FAITH. And those who do not have FAITH are those who are ignorant of and thus not submitted to the righteousness of Christ revealed in the gospel. This includes every single person who believes that Jesus died for all without exception. They do not believe that it is the work of Christ alone that makes the difference between heaven and hell. They stumble at the stumbling stone. All of their religious worship today - all their praying, all their singing, all their Bible reading, all their preaching - no matter how sincere -- ALL OF IT is an abomination to God. God hates it.
If you're listening to this and are into some kind of pagan religion, including the Eastern religions and New Age and all that, you must know that God hates your religion. If you're a person who hates all paganism and claims to believe in the one true Christ of the Bible, and you try your best to obey God's commands in worship and daily life, yet you believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, then you must know that God hates your religion, too. If you're someone who believes that you worship the same god as those who believe that Jesus Christ died for everyone without exception, then you must know that God hates your religion, too. God commands all of you - from the pagans to the sincere evangelicals - to repent of your dead works and idolatry, and to believe in the true and living God, who gave His only begotten Son to establish a righteousness that demands the salvation of everyone whom He represented. The only TRUE faith is faith in Christ ALONE, meaning believing that God saves His people based SOLELY on the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. The work of Christ is the only thing that makes the difference between heaven and hell. It's my only hope. Is it yours? Amen.