During Rehoboam’s reign, the people of Judah did what was evil in the LORD’s sight, provoking his anger with their sin, for it was even worse than that of their ancestors. For they also built for themselves pagan shrines and set up sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. There were even male and female shrine prostitutes throughout the land. The people imitated the detestable practices of the pagan nations the LORD had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites.” 1 Kings 14:22-24
This passage is an interesting one and maybe one that is easily skipped over because we may not fully understand. It is describing how King Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, took the throne and after causing Israel to split into two kingdoms, Judah and Israel, and losing the kingdom of Israel—led his people of Judah to sin against God through this described idol worship. And while Rehoboam was the grandson of King David, he likeness with David stopped there as these passages above paint a picture of how far Rehoboam led the people of Judah away from God.
But how so? Here is where my question lies. Why are pagan shrines and Asherah poles on hills and under tress such an evil thing? And where is the application for us today?
I want to take this passage described above and paint it as a prophetic picture of something that happens in each one of our hearts. This passage shows a picture of how the people of Judah lifted up other sources of worship into the highest places of the land around them. In their understanding of where God dwelled, those were places that God should have occupied. But they began to worship other sources of what they believed would give them some type of provision, whether it be favor for crops, fertility or other daily needs. But that is something that happens in our hearts. Our hearts are meant to be a lush garden, green and endless pasture where we commune with God and love others and all our needs are met from God. But when we lift up other things above God in our hearts, it becomes polluted with things that start to look like shrines and pillars. And as the Bible says, just as the people of Judah started to look like other pagan nations, we start looking like the culture around us instead of the Kingdom culture we are destined to walk in.
Here’s a simple definition of idolatry: something in which the human heart turns to for some source of provision other than God. This actually means idolatry is not just something that was done back then with gold figures and brick shrines–it is something we can easily do today that we can fall into. Where do you turn to your source of comfort? Is it God? Or maybe it is actually your surroundings that provide that instead of God. What is your source of security? Is it God? Or maybe its actually the amount of money you have in your bank account, savings account and 401K? What about your source of provision? Is it God or is it the amount of hard work you do to appease your superiors/clients that lead to an income and provision?
We can all turn to anything in this world as a replacement source for where God is supposed to be. Created things in this world are not inherently bad, Genesis tells us that God said His creation was good. It’s really the human heart that strayed from Him. That means that anything in this world, when put in a place in the heart where God is supposed to be, can turn from its originally intent into an idol. I will even be bold as to say that people in our lives can become an idol—if they replace something in our lives that God is meant to fill.
But here’s the good news. The reason idolatry is such a sin to God isn’t because He’s just some rule holder, it’s because it takes us away from Him. He has always designed us to be close to Him, to walk with Him daily and to turn to Him for all our needs. If we start putting different things in our heart to replace something He’s designed to fill, soon there won’t be any room for Him. A fulfilled life, a content life, is only found when God becomes our only source. And trust me, Jesus is the best source anyone can find.