IDOLATRY, SOCIAL INJUSTICE, AND FALSE WORSHIP:
Introduction: Society and the People of God
Many thought that the Bible is simply a set of rules or guidelines on how to worship God. For others, the Word of God has nothing to do with government, society, and communities. However, the Scripture is clear that every matter about society is subject to the will of God.
Idolatry is one of the great sins abhorred by God even in the Old Testament. In fact, this spiritual adultery is the capital sin of the people of God. Idolatry has crept in into the land of Judah and Israel beginning with the unfaithfulness of the kings. Because of intermarriage and union with pagan nations, the people of God were influenced by and have embraced the idol worship of other nations. Micah identifies the people’s idol worship as spiritual harlotry (cf. Micah 1:6-7). It is a picture of a wife (Israel) who is unfaithful to her husband (God) by clinging to other men. Even for other nations, people are portrayed as prostitutes because of materialism, idolatry, and evil influence on other peoples. The people of Israel and Judah have sought other gods instead of Yahweh; they have worshipped other gods and despised the true God. Even in Ezekiel 16, Judah’s spiritual harlotry in idolatry breaks God’s heart deeply, and it compelled God to bring severe punishment to the people. Both Micah and Zephaniah speak of God’s just dealings with idols and idol worshippers (Micah 1:6-7; Zeph. 1:4-6).
1.1 Idolatry Today
Today, idolatry is not confined merely to the worship of human statues and figures of animals, but is also pertains to living idols. Idolatry today is very prominent even in the lives of professing Christians. For instance, the Super Bowl is a great event in America that even professing Christians are willing to miss the Sunday worship for the sake of watching this game. The word of God through the prophets warns that those who worship these idols (whether material idols, celebrities, sports, etc.) will likewise be put to destruction along with their idols.
2. Social Injustice
The problems of social atrocities also existed during the Old Testament times. Probably after the fall of Samaria, refugees have come to Jerusalem. This increase on population allowed the “elite class” to use the people for accumulating more money. During unfortunate events such as famine, the rich lends money to the poor at exorbitant interests, leading to foreclosures on the poor’s property, and thereby forcing them into slavery. People were ripped off their garments and were evicted from their houses (Micah 2:2, 8-9). Micah 3:1-3 gives a morbid picture of unjust rulers of Israel who “eat” the flesh of the people. The rich have bought and multiplied their fields and properties, and thereby the poor remains in his/her poverty.
2.1 Today’s social injustice
Social equality in the Old Testament times is not very different from today. Today’s society has a subtle reality of the domination of the rich people. Poor or common people are not thrown away from their homes, but considerable money is taken from them in various insidious ways. Commodities are controlled by the rich, and poor/common people have no choice but to adapt to it. “Benefits” like Credit cards are presented to the people, falsely promising great advantages. However, these things are actually for the increased profit of rich and corrupt men. The word of God through the prophets clearly says that these rich and corrupt government officials and institutions will give an account to God in the last days.
3. Religious Ritualism and False Worship
The people of Israel also sinned in their failure to worship God in the way He intended it. Driven by lack of knowledge of the law, the people presented unclean sacrifices and offerings before God, while the religious leaders (priests) fed themselves with the offerings of the people with greedy and selfish heart. In fact, in Malachi 1:6-2:9, the priests themselves allowed the people to offer defective sacrifices to God. Further, worship of other gods led the people to practice evil rituals such as human sacrifices. God’s instructions and commandments concerning true worship were completely disobeyed.
3.1 Today’s False Worship
Many religious groups today observe irrational and unbiblical practices. For instance, the Roman Catholic (who professes to be a Christian religion) practices idol worship, mass, and penance. Moreover, even evangelical churches have false teachers who deform God’s word into something that tickle men’s ears (2 Tim. 4:3), and implement false gospel (e.g. Health and wealth) for their own profits (e.g. tithes and love offerings that falsely promises fortune). The word of God is also clear that these spiritual leaders will likewise receive God’s judgment.
Further, the word of God is clear that true worship is not in religious practices or offerings. For instance, Nineveh (during Jonah’s time) was spared from God’s wrath not because of sacrifices/offerings but because of sincere and genuine repentance which was manifested in their fasting. First Samuel 15:22-23 and Psalm 51:16-17 even explain that God’s delight is not on physical sacrifices of men but on their hearts and lives offered to Him sincerely and without any reservation. God’s word is clear that only by true worship can man find favor from God.
Hindson, Ed and Gary Yates. The Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey. Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2012.