What does it take for our families to fail in our worship? What are the earmarks of self-worship? Today AMBrewster uses the Old Testament kings to illustrate the destruction of failed worship. Christian parents will learn much from this study about the characteristics of worship that doesn’t please God.
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Welcome back to our Family Worship series. I hope you listened to our last episode because it set the parameters for our study and discussed what the series is and is not about.
But before we jump in today, I want to remind you that in less than one week, Lord willing, I’ll be flying to Dallas, Texas, and Matt and Sonja will be hosting the first-ever TLP meet up.
If you live in the area or plan to be in the area, I’d love for you to stop by. We want it to be an encouraging time for you — a time to refocus on Truth, be surrounded by other Christian parents who are working to glorify God in their families, pray, and talk.
It should be an awesome time, and I’d love for you to come out.
If you think you’ll be able to attend this free event, please send an email to TeamTLP@TruthLoveParent.com or go to our Facebook event and click that you’ll be attending the meet up.
Also, if you’ve been listening to the show for any length of time, we’d love for you to rate and review us on Facebook or iTunes. Your reviews are hugely helpful and we ask you to prayerfully consider leaving one.
Alright, today I have the unfortunate responsibility to discuss Failed Family Worship, but I’m going to do so only because I know that it should help us understand the Unified Family Worship that glorifies God.
Last time we discussed that we spend every moment of every day worshipping either God or self. And we use everything in that worship. Our time, our showers, our clothes, our food, our transportation, our houses, our jobs, everything will either be offered on a pathetic little altar to self or on the altar to God.
Anything in our lives can either be offered to self or to God, and it takes care and discernment to know to whom we’re offering our lives.
So, today we’re going to do a fly over of the books of I and II Kings and I and II Chronicles.
Those four book present a brief history of the kings of Israel, both in the unified kingdom and the split kingdom.
Some of the kings are discussed in great detail, and some are barely as footnote.
But what’s really interesting is that nearly every king was critiqued according to their worship.
Now this is where many modern readers from 1st World countries start to struggle. In the Old Testament times, formal religious acts of worship were very different from today.
The Old Testament Temple system is familiar to most of us, but it’s still very foreign, but the heathen worship of the day ever more so.
Many times throughout the Old Testament we encounter the term “high places.” These refer to geographical areas in which pagan religious rites were practiced.
The average high place would have an altar (II Kings 21:3; II Chronicles 14:3), a carved wooden pole that depicted the female goddess of fertility — called an Asherah — a stone pillar symbolizing the male deity (II Kings 3:2), other idols (II Kings 17:29; II Chronicles 33:19), and some type of building (I Kings 12:31; I Kings 13:32; I Kings 16:32-33). Now, I’m not going to cite all of the references right now, but while you’re listening or after the show you can go to TruthLoveParent.com, click on our Parenting Tools tab, and check out our blog, Taking Back the Family. There you will find our free episode notes, and I’ll cite all of today’s references and more on those notes.
Moving on, at these places of worship the people sacrificed animals, and at some high places children were sacrificed according to Jeremiah 7:31. They also burned incense to their gods, prayed, ate sacrificial meals, and were involved with male or female cultic prostitutes (II Kings 17:8-12; II Kings 21:3-7; Hosea 4:11-14 ).
Now, although most high places were part of the worship of Baal, the Ammonite god Molech and the Moabite god Chemosh were also worshiped at similar high places (II Kings 11:5-8; II Kings 23:10).
And though Scripture speaks very negatively about these heathen places of worship; still they played a central role in the lives of most of the people who lived in Palestine before the land was defeated by Joshua.
Interestingly, archaeologists have discovered the remains of high places at Megiddo, Gezer, and numerous other sites.
Now, when the Israelites came into the land of Canaan, they were ordered by God to destroy the high places of the people who lived in the land — and we see that in five different places throughout Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13; Numbers 33:52; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3). And they were expressly commanded to destroy these high places lest the Israelites be tempted to worship the Canaanite false gods and accept their immoral behavior.
Now, before we consider the Israelite kings who not only worshipped at the high places, but also encouraged their people to do the same, we need to contextualize this concept for our families.
Few of you are worried that your children or spouses are going to create a shrine on a small hill in your back yard where they plan to offer incense and sacrifice cats to a pagan god.
To be fair, some of you listening to today’s show do live in countries where that type of religious rite is prevalent.
But the point is, we need to understand that whether your daughter is participating as a cult prostitute or she’s wearing the most modest clothes she can simply so that she can appear more righteous or as an attempt to merely please her authorities — she’s worshipping self.
It doesn’t matter if your son is getting great grades simply so he can pursue his dream job even though he’s not really considering God’s will for his life or if he’s sacrificing animals to a wooden statue . . . he’s not worshipping God . . . he’s worshipping self.
God hates false worship. He hates giving fake gods worth that should only be given to Him. He hates when we make choices for ourselves because that too is an act of worship to a false god.
So, when we read about these kings who worshipped at the high places, I don’t want you to get lost in the ancient pagan religious rites, I want you to understand that God is merely illustrating all kinds of false worship.
So, who was the first Israelite king to worship at the high places?
Well, Saul was the first king, and he was followed by David.
David had a son named Solomon who was the wisest man who ever lived.
And yet, it was Solomon — the third king of Israel — who was the first king to initiate idol worship.
God used Solomon to construct the first Temple in Jerusalem, and the people were to worship God at this place which He had chosen (Deuteronomy 12:1-14 ), but Solomon also built high places for the gods of his foreign wives and even worshiped there himself!
I Kings 11:4-8 says, "For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods."
Now, again I want to point out that Solomon’s false worship started in his heart. The Bible says that “his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God . . . and did not wholly follow the Lord.”
That is seed of false worship. For Solomon, that seed grew into many areas in his life. Yes, it grew into constructing high places and offering sacrifices there, but it also manifested itself in all of the wives he had. It worked its way into his parenting and his leadership.
As wise as he was, he didn’t offer all of his life to God. He sacrificed many of his daily choices on an altar to Solomon.
Now because of the seriousness of this sin, God divided the nation by removing ten tribes from the kingdom of his son Rehoboam (I Kings 11:9-13, I Kings 11:29-38).
Consider that consequence. The nation of Israel — God’s chosen people — was torn in two. Among other things, this rending of the Jews was symbolic of the effects that Failed Worship has on people.
Because it’s sin, it destroys everything.
Following this depressing account, each new king that ruled in the Southern Kingdom of Judah and in the Northern Kingdom of Israel was evaluated in the books of Kings and Chronicles according to what they did with the high places where false gods were worshiped.
In I Kings 12 we learn that Jeroboam was the first king that initiated idol worship in divided kingdom.
And then Nadab, Baasha, Omri, Ahab, and Ahaziah all did the same.
Please take a moment to listen to these chilling proclamations.
Nadab “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.” (I Kings 15:26)
Baasha “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin.” (I Kings 15:34)
“Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did more evil than all who were before him.” (I Kings 16:25)
“And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.” (I Kings 16:30)
Ahaziah “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. He served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done.” (I Kings 22:52-53)
So, what does this have to do with your family?
I want to draw out 6 implications.
1. When we worship self, we sin against God. It’s evil.
Each of the verses said that the king “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
It’s so easy to view our lives in the grey. And — yes — I believe that “grey areas” exist. There are places where we have liberty to make a right choice that another person wouldn’t make.
However, when it comes to actual sin . . . there are no grey areas. It’s either righteous or it’s wicked.
And when we choose to offer anything in our lives on the altar to self, it’s an evil, wicked thing.
Now, this make sense when a person high-handedly sins against God. It’s a conscious act of defiance. But what makes this even more troubling is the reality that we can unconsciously sin against God.
This is where we get into a lot of trouble, because I believe we have many High Places in our lives and we don’t even know it.
How many decisions do you make in a day that are made because of how they’ll affect you and —about which — you give little to no thought about God?
I guarantee your children make many such decisions. This is why we made such a big deal about our motivation in our “Teach Your Children to Obey” series.
If we’re doing the right things in the right ways for the wrong reasons, we’re sinning against God.
I could spend a lot more time on this point, but all we need to do is acknowledge the fact that every word we say, food we eat, item we buy, emotion we feel, thought we have, and desire we pursue that is not consciously and biblically worked out for God’s greatest glory is likely a High Place in our lives and is part of the reason we have Failed Family Worship.
2. When we worship self, we provoke God to anger.
As with the first point this one seems obvious on one side and counter-intuitive on the other.
It’s easy to admit that God is not pleased by our high-handed sin, but we equally provoke Him to wrath when we do all of the things we just mentioned.
Consider these two verses:
Ecclesiastes 10:3 says, “Even when the fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.”
The word “sense” refers to our mind, our heart, our spirit, the core of our being. In this context, to lack sense means that they are completely devoid of Christ-honoring glory . . . and all they’re doing is walking down the road.
And then there’s Proverbs 21:4 which reads, “Haughty eyes, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.”
There’s a rule in many art forms including story-telling and magic that you introduce a concept, and then take a second opportunity to solidify the concept, but then on your third opportunity you break the previous conception.
God says that haughty eyes are a sin, and then He says that a proud hearts is a sin, and we naturally see a correlation and progression. And it makes sense because those sound bad even within a secular context.
But then the Lord throws in the idea of plowing — and I’ve used this verse a lot because it’s so powerful — the unsaved person cannot please God even when doing the most virtuous or noble of tasks.
This is why Romans 8:6-8 says, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
I say all of this to say that the foolishness and wickedness and fleshliness of our personal High Places displeases the Lord just as much as our direct disobedience.
This should give us pause and not allow ourselves to give our families a by just because no one’s murdered anyone lately. We need to be intentional, we need to really search our hearts.
3. When we worship self, we invite destruction into our lives.
Solomon’s example shows us that there are consequences for our sins.
Now, remember, there are Primary Consequences and Secondary Consequences. The Secondary Consequences like going to jail and hurting ourselves and getting pregnant and the like don’t always occur when a person sins.
But the Primary Consequences always happen. We always break fellowship with God, it always hurts us spiritually by separating us from God and His blessing, and it affects our relationships with those around us.
Solomon — and the other kings on the list — experienced Secondary Consequences, but the worst ones were often not visible on the outside. And the same may be true of our Family Worship.
As a whole, you and your spouse and your kids may be experiencing the Primary Consequences of a family who’s involved in Failed Family Worship.
In order to rectify this you need to identify the High Places in your family and start addressing them biblically.
And this is incredibly important to do in your own life because . . .
4. When we worship self, we make it easy for our family members to do the same.
Consider I Kings 15:26 and 34 and 22:52-53, “[Nadab] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father,” and “[Baasha] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of Jeroboam” and “[Ahaziah] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam. He provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done.”
Our children learn from our sins better than we’d like to admit. This is uncomfortable for us to accept because it shows that our kids have a propensity for mimicking sin better than they do righteousness, and that we’re not the amazing examples we like to think we are.
If there are High Places in my life, then not only am I not glorifying the Lord, but I am also teaching my children to erect their own High Places.
But this point has an even more distressing reality . . .
5. When we worship self, we make it easy for our family members to be even more sinful than we were.
For this point we need to be reminded of I Kings 16:25 and 30, “Omri did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did more evil than all who were before him.” “And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.”
Our kids not only learn our ways, but they have an amazing ability to sin better than we did.
This concept could take a whole episode to unpack, but for now let the painful reality motivate us to tear down our own High Places and help our kids do the same.
And lastly . . .
6. When our families worship self more than they worship God, it’s Failed Worship because we’re serving anti-gods.
Our Failed Family Worship may produce driven, capable, smart, achieving children, but their lives will fail spiritually because they’re worshipping self, and their gods are puny, anti-gods.
We humans cannot bear the divine weight and responsibility of doing God’s job. That’s why we did episode 22, “5 Ways You Take God’s Job.”
That’s also why I constantly talk about the life-destroying sin of self-worship. It is at the heart of our every sin. The Merest Christianity series was consumed with this. When we call God a liar and choose to follow our own hearts, we’re dethroning Him, trusting ourselves, and playing god.
But we’re anti-gods. We’re pathetic, tiny little puny mortals. How can we expect that kind of worship to succeed?
Consider James 4: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses,” this term, adulteresses is not referring to people who cheat on their spouses, it’s referring to self-idolatry that cheats on God.
Consider all of those terrible consequences of tolerating High Places in our lives.
So, what’s the fix?
Normally, I take the time provide hope and encouragement and set forth a plan to rectify the issue — and to a certain degree I’ve already done a little of that.
But the answer to Failed Worship is the focus of our third and fourth episodes in this series.
So, please join us next time, share this episode with other parents who desperately want to parent the way God called and created them to parent, and download our free episode notes from Taking Back the Family.
But I do want to end on a note of hope. Solomon and his kin failed because they worshipped themselves at the High Places.
All they had to do was tear them down.
And to that end, I’ll see you next time.
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