Exodus 20:1-6 NKJV
“And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.’ ”
We serve a jealous God. Jealous mean requiring complete loyalty or faithfulness. He will not share you with anyone or anything. He requires that you are loyal to Him and that you are faithful to Him. In order to draw close to God (and be intimate with Him) you must remove the idols in your life. You must be faithful and loyal to Him and to Him alone. You must not play the part of a harlot.
2 Kings 18:4 NKJV
“He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke to pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for until those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan.”
Hezekiah called for the people to remove all the idols that they (corporately and individually) had erected. He called for them to remove the high places, to break the scared pillars, to cut down the wooden images, and break (and utterly destroy) the bronze serpent.
I. Remove The High Places:
Hezekiah removed the high places. Like Hezekiah, we must remove all the ‘high places’ in our lives. A high place was a place of worship on a hill or on a platform in a temple. The Canaanites usually built their places of worship on a hill. They considered the high places a gateway between them and heaven. It was their ‘way’ to their god. Some Israelites began to use these same places to worship God. The people used the high places to worship God, Baal and Asherah all at the same time. Trying to mix the two types of worship (true and false) together eventually led to idolatry.
The kings before Hezekiah had failed to destroy the high places. The high places had been allowed to remain.
2 Kings 15:34-35 NKJV
“And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. However the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.”
When you know that God is calling you to turn toward Him and worship Him and you refuse to get rid of the things that He is telling you to, you are allowing “high places” to stay in your life. You are defiling yourself. When you defile something you make it filthy or dirty, you destroy the purity or cleanness of it, you stain or dishonor it or you violate it.
Ezekiel 20:30 NKJV
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Are you defiling yourselves in the manner of your fathers, and committing harlotry according to their abominations?’ ”
God does not desire for you to defile your worship to Him. You cannot minister to the Lord (or serve Him) and dabble with sin at the same time. You cannot serve two masters.
Matthew 6:24 NKJV
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
When we began to mix the things of the world with our worship to God it can lead to idolatry in our lives. God has called us to be separate and to destroy all the ‘high places’ in our lives. We are not to compromise our worship with sinful values or practices. We must maintain integrity in all parts of our lives, including our worship.
2 Corinthians 6:17 NKJV
Come out from among them
And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean,
And I will receive you.
I will be a Father to you,
And you shall be My sons and daughters,
Says the Lord Almighty.”
The Israelites used the excuse that they did not have a place to worship God in order to use the high places.
I Kings 3:2 NKJV
“Meanwhile the people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days.”
The high places were defiled and therefore not an acceptable place for worship for God. God had specifically told the people (in the Ten Commandment) that He would not accept defiled worship. The people tried to justify (defend, to make right) their sinful actions. God tells us that obedience is better than sacrifice. Sincerity (freedom from pretense or deceit; honesty) and obedience (doing what one is told, submission to authority) are the prerequisites for worship that pleases God. Disobedience in our worship is idolatry because we are putting our will before God’s will.
1 Samuel 15:22 NKJV
“So Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.’ ”
Today people still try to justify their sin. As long as we dabble with high places (mix the things of the world with our worship to God) we will set ourselves up for pain, trouble and eventually judgment. Denying God’s authority (even concerning worship) always has consequences.
Leviticus 26:30 NKJV
“I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars, and cast your carcasses on the lifeless forms of your idols; and My soul shall abhor you.”
Psalm 78:58 NKJV “For them provoked Him to anger with their high places And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.”
Before entering the land that God had promised the Israelites, they were instructed to abolish all the high places where idols were worshiped.
Numbers 33:52 NKJV
“Then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places.”
We too, must abolish (do away with, put an end to) all the ‘high places’ if we want all that God desires for us. The Canaanites thought that their ‘high places’ would lead them to their god- it was their pathway to their god. Today there are many people that are trying to reach God through many different ways, other than the pathway that God has given us.
John 14:6 NKJV
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
High places are ‘footholds’ that you allow the enemy to have in your life.
II. Break the sacred pillars:
Monuments dedicated to one of the pagan gods were referred to as sacred pillars. The pagans believed that the false gods had power concerning fertility. The sacred pillars were objects for idolatrous worship and behavior. When God was renewing the covenant with Moses, He instructed the people to break down the sacred pillars.
Exodus 34:13-14 NKJV
“But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images. (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)”
Deuteronomy 12:3 NKJV
“And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wood images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place.”
God prohibits us from setting up sacred pillars in our lives.
Deuteronomy 16:22 NKJV
“You shall not set up as a sacred pillar, which the Lord your God hates.”
We are not to try to rely on (depend on, put our trust in) things for the power that only God has. Sacred pillars come in many different forms. Some may be people, money, jobs, or self. Anything that you depend on, or put your trust in, other than God is a sacred pillar that you have erected in your life.
Psalm 62:11 NKJV
“God has spoken once,
Twice I have heard this: That power belongs to God.”
Revelation 19:1 NKJV
“After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying,
‘Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!’ ”
III. Cut down the wooden images:
Wooden images were poles or trees dedicated to the goddess Asherah. They were used as a representation of fertility gods.
Deuteronomy 16:21 NKJV
“You shall not plant any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar which you build for yourself to the Lord your God.”
The wooden images were statues representing false gods. God has instructed us in His Word not to make images to worship.
Exodus 20:4-5 NKJV
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them…”
Wooden images were substitutes for God. Religion is a ‘wooden image’. There are many people that use religion as a substitute for a relationship with Jesus Christ. They go to church, they do all the right things, but their heart condemns them. They worship religion (or going to church, praise and worship, fellowship with others, being seen) instead of the Lord.
We must remove everything that distracts us from worshiping the one and only living God. We must remove the ‘wooden images’ (substitutes for God) from our lives and prepare our hearts to seek the Lord.
2 Chronicles 19:3 NKJV
“Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your hearts to seek God.”
What have we dedicated our lives to, religion or relationship?
IV. Shatter the bronze serpent:
We must never allow symbols or objects (or things that God gives us) to become something that we worship.
Numbers 21:8-9 NKJV
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when they looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.”
The people had taken something that God had instructed them to make (the brass snake) for a specific purpose and they began to worship it instead of God. After a period of time the people began to look only to the brass snake instead of God. The brass snake became an idol. Many people do the same things today. They put things, people and programs (works) before God. The people sought healing, but they did not seek the Great Physician. The same can be said of some people today. They seek things other than the true and living God.
Some people seek healing, but they don’t seek the Healer.
Some people seek deliverance, but they don’t seek the Deliverer.
Some people seek finances, but they don’t seek the Provider.
Some people seek blessings, but they don’t seek the One Who Blesses.
We must remove all the high places, scared pillars, wooden image, and bronze serpents in our lives and in our churches. We are not to have anything in our lives that will distract us from exclusively worshiping the living God. If we are desperate for a relationship with the Lord, and if we are desperate for a habitation of His presence, then we must remove all the idols (anything that you receive your strength from or give your strength to other than the Lord / anything that you put before God) in our life. Worship of the one and only true God must not be mixed with any pagan ritual or reminder of paganism.
Deuteronomy 12:1-4 NKJV
“These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wood images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.”
If you are desperate for more of the Lord or a deeper intimacy with Him you to must remove the ‘high places’ in your life (you must use the pathway that God had provided), break down your scared pillars (don‘t rely on the things of this world for the power that only God has), cut down the images you have erected in your life (remove the substitutes for God in your life), and shatter all idols (get rid of the things that take the place of God).
Josiah wanted a deeper relationship with the God of his father David. He knew the type of relationship that David had with God and he desired the same thing.
2 Chronicles 34:1-6 NKJV
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the wooden images, and the carved images, and the molded images. They broke down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars which were above them he cut down; and the wooden images, the carved images, and the molded images he broke in pieces, and made dust of them and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. He also burned the bones of the priests on their altars, and cleansed Judah and Jerusalem. And so he did in the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, and Simeon, as far as Naphtali and all around, with axes.”
The Bible tells us that Josiah walked in the ways of David. Josiah sought God with all his heart, then he began to remove all the high places, wooden images, carved images, altars, and molded images from all the surrounding areas. Everyplace that the enemy had gained a foothold (through idolatry) was destroyed.
2 Chronicles 34:7 NKJV
“When he had broken down the altars and the wooden images, had beaten the carved images into powder, and cut down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel, he returned to Jerusalem.”
We too, must seek God, remove all the idols/altar/images from our lives and return to Jerusalem (a place of true worship). We must be faithful and loyal to God. Our intimate relationship with the Lord must not be defiled by idolatry. Spiritual adultery is just as much a sin as physical adultery. We are the bride of Christ and we must act like it.
Hebrew 13:4 NKJV
“Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.”