Idols and Identity

This is a response to one of our readers who published his thoughts on our Sabbath Family Blog Facebook wall. (Read his post here). I have paraphrased his text and expanded on the topic with my understanding of the subject.

Ishtar – also called Ashtoret – is the name of an ancient pagan goddess which is an idol in God’s eyes. So we can read in 1. Kings 11:5-6 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.”

Verse 33 concludes: “because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians […] they have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.”

 

2. Kings 23:13 also shows how Solomon defiled the high places around Jerusalem by building altars devoted to Ashtoret (engl. Easter) and other idols.

Rather emotionally Isaiah 50:1 draws a parallel between Israel’s idolatry and the process of divorce: “Thus saith the LORD, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, wherewith I have put her away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities were ye sold, and for your transgressions was your mother put away.”

 

Indeed, God had to throw Israel out, cancel His covenant (a type of marriage) with Israel because of its repeated idolatry (a type of adultery).

Israel – the 10 tribes without Judah and Benjamin – was put into captivity because of her sins. Judah equally committed lawlessness and was threatened with similar treatment. See Jeremiah 3:8 “And I saw, when, for this very cause that backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorcement, yet treacherous Judah her sister feared not; but she also went and played the harlot.”

 

We can see how both kingdoms – God’s people – broke the marriage covenant they had signed. As a result they lost their identity which inherently lies in their customs. Once they had left the customs, laws and commandments of God, and had started to follow the pagan’s customs and idols, they were no longer God’s people and – over time – even forgot who they were originally. They started to identify with other traditions and religions and forgot about the Sabbath, God’s Holy Days and His Holy Law in general. There are Millions of descendants from the lost Israelitish tribes who are not aware of their ancestry and origins.

This is why Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 31:31-37 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto them, saith the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the LORD; I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more. Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which stirreth up the sea, that the waves thereof roar; the LORD of hosts is his name: If these ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever. Thus saith the LORD: If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, then will I also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD.”

The same God who had to divorce Israel more than 2500 years ago promised to call His people back one day. This was made possible through Jesus Christ (Yeshua) who died for our sins and gave us access to God the Father. Through Christ we are given God’s Holy Spirit and therefore have His Law in our hearts.

Of course most modern-day descendants of ancient Israel are still not called to the truth: They still don’t know about God’s truth, they sin and live in ignorance. Look at the millions of English and North-American people who more and more slide down into immoralities, perversion and utter religious confusion. Even though Christ opened up a way to God the Father through the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:11-14  and John 14:16-17 / John 15:26), most Christians don’t know their real identity and don’t have the truth. This is because this world is still Satan’s world (cf. Ephesians 2:2 / 2. Corinthians 4:4) and only few are given the opportunity to understand and live God’s ways (Luke 8:10 “And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to the rest in parables; that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand”).

 

Now, the great fulfillment of God’s promises is still awaiting. Not all the world has got the Holy Spirit but only a few. But there will be a time when God calls His people back into their land and when He will reveal their true identity. This is what God means when He lets Ezekiel record these words: “Thus saith the Lord GOD: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all: neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions: but I will save them out of all their dwelling places, wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:21-23).

 

Jesus says in Matthew 15:24 that He “was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

The same thing He told His disciples in Matthew 10:5 when He sent them out to preach.

The apostle Peter follows the same direction in saying: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly, that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified” (Acts 2:36). He said that because he was mainly speaking to descendents of Israel.

Later in Acts God gives the same Peter a vision, making plain that not only Israelites in origin, but ALL nations are given the prospect of forgiveness from sin and the opportunity of eternal life. As a conclusion to Peter’s vision (Acts 10) the Bible records: “And when they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life (Acts 11:6).

So, obviously, every individual that comes to the true God and to Christ CAN have forgiveness and as a result eternal life. The apostle Paul follows the same line as well. Christ started out with the Israelites, making clear where God’s priorities lie, but later He opened the process of conversion up to every person on earth who might be called (John 6:44).

Finally, many call themselves Christians, but they are not, because they have lost their true identity as children of God. They are deceived into following ancient pagan rituals and customs, they celebrate Easter instead of God’s Holy Days in Spring, they celebrate Christmas instead of God’s Holy Days in the autumn and they keep the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath. Those people are by no means saved because they do what God calls an “abomination” and an “evil”. If they on the other hand turned away from their wrongdoings and started to follow God’s commandments and laws outlined in the Old and New Testament, which is the WHOLE of the Bible, they would soon be given God’s Spirit and with it understanding of God’s full truth and their own identity.

Nonetheless, the Bible does NOT state that only the lost people of Israel can come to eternal life. What loving God would this be if He didn’t allow life to every person of His creation? However, everything in its own order (cf. 1. Corinthians 15:23): First Christ (who is already resurrected), then the firstfruits (which will be resurrected at His coming at the end of the days – see 1. Thessalonians 4:16-17) and then “the end/rest” which is the final resurrection to God’s judgment for all those who didn’t know Christ or properly follow Him (see Revelation 20:5).

God has a marvelous and loving plan for ALL of mankind. Many millions though are descendants from ancient Israel and these people are receiving special promises such as the return to the land of Israel around the time of Christ’s second coming. He will bring everything back into order!

Micah 2:12: “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah: as a flock in the midst of their pasture, they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.”

Isaiah 10:22: “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them shall return: a consumption is determined, overflowing with righteousness.”

Isaiah 11:11: “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall remain, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.”

Yes, this is going to happen! Praise God for His wonderful ways.

 

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