Lent Blog Day 20 – A destructive combination

From what I remember of O-level chemistry, certain substances when combined produce a destructive reaction. Expose phosphorus to air, or fluorine to water, and the results are both spectacular and potentially lethal. There’s a a good reason why these elements are kept in very secure conditions.

Today I was lecturing on the last part of the Old Testament monarchy, on the fall and exile of Israel and Judah. Why did Israel experience such devastation? The writer of the book of Kings is clear in his assessment. The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. (2 Kgs 17:9). So while they paid lip-service to one religion, in private they were devoted to a whole host of other religions. Despite the warnings of prophet after prophet they did not repent, rather carried on becoming more and more syncretistic in their worship and practice, until finally the Lord had enough, and allowed foreign armies to invade their land. The mixing of two religions led to disastrous results.

But why? Apart from the very obvious fact that rejecting the Lord in this way attracts His wrath, mixing two religions also leads to a loss of moral absolutes. After all, if you try and blend any number of religions together, you will come across teachings from each which will be mutually incompatible. The worship of the Lord prohibits idols. The worship of Baal necessitates idols. So you end up with a pic’n’mix religion where each person does what he or she sees fit. It’s little wonder that the assessment on each of the Israelite kings is unremittingly bleak – He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. You are what you worship, and if your worship is simply what seems right to you, then you will only act in accordance to your own desires and your own wishes.

This is a long, long way from the kind of worship that the one true God desires, and in the end He has to act against not only the idolatry but also the complete breakdown of moral order that results. I don’t think we are stretching the argument too far to see parallels with the situation we face today. We are told that all religions are valid, that you have perfect freedom to choose to live as you wish, and tolerance is the order of the day. And this liberal philosophy does on the surface seem so attractive, doesn’t it!?

But in the end we will have no more moral absolutes, and no clear sense of right and wrong. It may be that we will not experience the kind of destruction that Israel faced – the New Testament sees the kingdom of God in spiritual, not physical, terms – but the results are equally devastating both for the society which worships diversity and for those parts of the church who also worship the same idol. Truly there are lessons from Scripture all of us would do well to heed.

 

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