Today’s selected passage both continues in, as well as concludes the twenty-third chapter of the prophetic Ezekiel. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the twenty-third verse of the chapter and concludes with the forty-ninth and final verse of the chapter. In all reality, the second part of this chapter doesn’t begin with the twenty-third verse, but rather in and with the twenty-second verse. It is within the twenty-second verse of this chapter that we encounter an entire text that is devoted to the second sister of the two that were born to this mother—the second sister who bore the name of Aholibah, which was Jerusalem. The second part of this chapter deals primarily and exclusively with the city of Jerusalem, and the tremendous evils that were committed within and by her. The more I read a passage of Scripture such as this, and the more I consider it in light of the words which are recorded in the sixteenth chapter of the same prophetic book, the more I am confronted with the fact that the idolatry and adultery of Jerusalem took place on two distinct fronts—one within the natural and physical realm, while the other took place within the invisible and unseen realm. If you read this particular passage of Scripture, you will find both accounts of this idolatry and adultery, as Jerusalem was indeed guilty of committing both before the Lord. In all reality, there is the adultery of idolatry, but there is also the adultery that touches the realm of infidelity before the Lord by engaging in relations with those for whom we were never intended on engaging in. Within this passage of Scripture we find the word of the Lord bringing the prophet Ezekiel to confront the adultery of idolatry in the actual worshipping of idols which the hands of the inhabitants of Jerusalem had formed with their hands. It’s necessary that we recognize and understand that the idols which the inhabitants of Jerusalem worshipped weren’t merely idols of their own imagination, or even of their own creation, but were idols and false gods which the nations around them worshipped. WHEN IDOLATRY IS LEARNED! One of the most important things we must learn when it comes to idolatry is that idolatry can in fact be learned in that we merely take the idols and false gods others worship and which others have worshipped, and have adapted them unto ourselves within our lives. Idolatry can be learned in that we don’t necessarily form and fashion idols of our own imagination, but rather examine the idols which those around us have worshipped. In all reality, I would like to call this the transplanting of idols, for it is merely the transplanting of idols from another nation, kingdom, land and/or people, and adapting it to and bringing it within our own environment. One thing I find to be intriguing is that idolatry had been absent from the nation and kingdom of Israel during the reign of king David, yet it found its way back into the land through his son who would sit upon the same throne his father sat upon.
When seeking to gain a true and proper understanding of idolatry within the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, it’s worth noting and pointing out that it wasn’t Jeroboamn son of Nebat who brought and reintroduced it into the land. It is true that Jeroboam son of Nebat erected two golden calves within the northern kingdom of Israel after the Lord had delivered unto him the northern ten tribes, but his idolatry wasn’t the first to touch, pollute, corrupt and defile the land. After David died and went the way of his ancestors and fathers, his son Solomon would reign upon and reign from the throne of Jerusalem after him, and would even be the one who would oversee the construction and building of the Temple which would stand in the midst of Jerusalem. It would be Solomon—the same one who oversaw the construction and building of the Temple—that would also be the same one who would bring idolatry back into the land. Consider if you will the language that is found in the eleventh chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings concerning the idolatry of Solomon which was brought into the land: “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abominations of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (1 Kings 11:1-8). Pay attention to what we read in the seventh verse of this chapter, for within the seventh verse we read the words “then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem.” It’s absolutely necessary and imperative that we take note of this particular reality, for the same one who built the Temple of the Lord would now build a high place for Chemosh. What’s more, is the same one who built a Temple for the Lord within the kingdom of Judah was the same one who built a high place in the hill which was before Jerusalem—and not only one high place, but at least one more high place that is noted in Scripture.
THE PROGRESSION OF IDOLATRY WITHIN THE INHERITANCE OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD! If you read this passage of Scripture found within the eleventh chapter of First Kings you will encounter Solomon allowing his wives to turn his heart away from serving the true and living God, and to worshipping and serving the foreign gods of his wives. Within this chapter we find Solomon building high places for Chemosh and Molech in a hill opposite Jerusalem—Jerusalem where the very Temple of the Lord would stand in the midst of the people. In all reality, within Jerusalem there were essentially two competing and conflicting hills where the inhabitants of the kingdom could worship. Pause for a minute and consider the reality that those who would enter the city of Jerusalem would essentially find themselves in a place of conflict, as they were forced to decide between going unto the mountain upon which the Temple of the Lord stood, or going to the hill which was before Jerusalem and worship at the high places which were built for Chemosh and Molech. Essentially, Jerusalem—which was supposed to the be the place where the Temple of the Lord would stand inviting men and women to come and worship the true and living God—would become involved in a competition between true worship and idolatry. In all reality, if you examine the city of Jerusalem in its modern day context, you can see that it is essentially in the same position it was during the days of the kings of Judah who reigned after Solomon. Modern day Jerusalem is essentially comprised of three different quarters and divisions—one being the Jewish quarter, another being the Christian quarter, and the third being the Muslim quarter. The city of Jerusalem in these Last Days has essentially become a place where the three monotheistic religions of the world collide with each other, and do so in the very place where the Temple of the Lord once stood. Not only this, but in the very place where the Temple of the Lord once stood there now sits the Dome of the Rock which is the second most holy site in the Muslim faith. Modern day Jerusalem has essentially come a place where the three most prevalent and predominant religions of the world collide, and where men and women from all over the world come and are perhaps even faced with the decision on who they will worship. Perhaps the best way to explain and describe modern day Jerusalem is to present you with the words which Joshua spoke unto the children of Israel toward the end of his life after the land of Canaan had been conquered, subdued and divided. “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).
During the days of Solomon, those who were inhabitants of Jerusalem or the kingdom and nation of Israel were faced with a dilemma, as they were forced to choose between the true and living God who was to be worshipped at the Temple of the Lord, or whether they would worship the false and foreign gods of the nations round about Israel. One thing we must acknowledge and come to terms with is that the idolatry that found its way into the inheritance of the people of God—at least as it stood after the days of David king of Israel—began as one man worshipping the foreign and strange gods of the nations from whom his wives, concubines and lovers were from. In all reality, I am convinced the eleventh chapter of the book of First Kings not only presents us with the physical concept and reality of idolatry, but it also brings us face to face with the reality of adultery and immorality. Consider how in the life of Solomon—particularly toward the end of his life when he was old and advanced in years—that he clave to foreign women in love, and how he engaged in relations with upward of one thousand women. Solomon not only allowed his heart to cleave to foreign women in love, but eventually that physical and natural adultery and immorality would open him up and bring him to the place of actual idolatry before the Lord within the land. Within the life of Solomon we find both adultery and idolatry colliding and forming the perfect storm within the nation and kingdom of Israel. Not only did Solomon allow himself to be caught up in adultery, immorality and infidelity, but he also allowed himself to be caught up in idolatry as well. Not only was Solomon not faithful to the one true and living God, but he was also not faithful to one wife either. I recognize that David his father had more than one wife, but what we see in the life of Solomon is a man whose heart was first permitted to be turned after multiple women, and eventually turned away after many gods. The same heart that allowed itself to cleave to many women in love would also be open to being allowed to following after and worshipping many gods. In essence, we might naturally conclude that within the life of Solomon it was the adultery and immorality he allowed himself to engage in that would eventually allow his heart to engage in the act and practice of idolatry. Within the life of Solomon we find an adultery which would eventually give way to idolatry, and we might conclude that adultery is a physical manifestation that can and may very well lead to an even greater evil and wickedness within one’s heart and life. Solomon first opened up and allowed his heart to cleave toward foreign women in the natural sense, and it was his willingness and openness to cleaving to foreign women in love that would eventually allow his heart to cleave to foreign gods in worship. WHEN WHAT WE ALLOW OURSELVES TO CLEAVE TO WITH NATURAL AFFECTION CAN EVENTUALLY LEAD US INTO THE PLACE WHERE WE ENGAGE OURSELVES IN IDOLATRY. The idolatry that was found within the heart and life of Solomon didn’t begin with idolatry, but first began with adultery, as his heart was first consumed with natural and physical affection. It’s necessary that we pay attention to and understand this, for it can and will shine a great deal of light on to what we read in the twenty-third chapter of the prophetic book or Ezekiel.
If you continue reading the eleventh chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings, you will find that the Lord had a very specific response to Solomon’s adultery and idolatry. Beginning with the ninth verse of this chapter we begin reading how the Lord dealt with and confronted the adultery and idolatry that was found within the heart and life of Solomon. “And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to by servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:9-13). When you read these particular verses you will discover the Lord’s first response to the adultery and immorality of Solomon was to rend the kingdom from him, and to essentially divide it in two. WHEN IDOLATRY TEARS AWAY AND DIVIDES! It’s appropriate and necessary that we read the Lord’s response to Solomon’s actions, for the Lord’s dealing with Solomon reveals the tremendous and dire effects idolatry and adultery can have on one’s life. Because and as a result of the adultery and idolatry of Solomon we not only find the kingdom of Israel being rent from Solomon, but we find it divided in two, with a portion of it being given unto Solomon’s servant. I am sure Solomon never anticipated nor expected the adultery and idolatry he allowed in his life to have such a dire impact and affect on the kingdom and nation of israel, yet the Lord made it very clear that it was because of his actions that the kingdom and nation of Israel would be rent and divided. WHEN THE INHERITANCE IS RENT AND DIVIDED! WHEN IDOLATRY RENDS THE INHERITANCE AND DIVIDES IT IN TWO! As a result of Solomon’s actions—both his idolatry and adultery—we find the nation and kingdom of Israel being divided in two, and the kingdom being torn from the descendants of David. What’s more, is that as you will later see, this rending and dividing of the kingdom of Israel would essentially and effectively cut off a large number of men and women in Israel from the Temple of the Lord and from His holy altar that was present in the midst of the courts of the Lord.
When you come to the twelfth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings, you will find the nation and kingdom of Israel being divided in two, and the northern ten tribes being given unto Jeroboam son of Nebat, and the southern two tribes being given unto Rehoboam for David’s sake. What must be considered when read this particular passage of Scripture is Jeroboam’s response to being appointed and anointed as king over the northern kingdom of Israel. Beginning with the twenty-fifth verse of the twelfth chapter we read these words concerning Jeroboam’s response after being anointed and appointed king over Israel: “Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and build Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing because a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense” (1 Kings 12:25-33). It’s worth noting and pointing out that what began during the days of Solomon as competing hills that vied for the attention, the affection, the loyalty, the worship of the children of Israel, would eventually progress into competing gods that were set up within a divided kingdom. Once the kingdom of Israel had been divided in two, there would eventually be two golden calves that would be formed by Jeroboam son of Nebat, and strategically placed within the northern kingdom. Not only did Jeroboam build two golden calves within the northern kingdom of Israel, but he advised the inhabitants of the northern kingdom that it was too much for them to go down to Jerusalem to worship the Lord at the Temple of the Lord. Jeroboam declared of the two golden calves which he had fashioned and placed in Dan and Beth-el that they were the gods who delivered and brought the children of Israel out of their slavery, bondage and oppression within the land of Egypt. Jeroboam set up and erected these two golden calves because he feared that the inhabitants of the northern kingdom would turn their hearts to Rehoboam king of Judah, and that the kingdom would revert back into his hand and control. MANIPULATION THROUGH WORSHIP! COERCION THROUGH IDOLATRY! CONTROL THROUGH IDOLATRY!
When I read the account of Jeroboam son of Nebat, I can’t help but not only see fear and insecurity within his heart, as he was concerned that the northern ten tribes would eventually turn their allegiance once more to Rehoboam son of Solomon, and that the kingdom would return and revert back to his hand; but I also see manipulation, control and coercion of the northern ten tribes of Israel through idolatry and the worship of false gods. It was Solomon who allowed his own heart to be turned away from the true and living God because of his cleaving to many strange and foreign women of love, but it was Jeroboam son of Nebat who would take this even further and would introduce foreign gods within the northern kingdom of Israel as a means of controlling those who dwelt within the land. Jeroboam set up these two golden calves in order to introduce a new form of worship within the land—one that would keep those from the northern kingdom of Israel isolated and separated from the southern kingdom, and separated from the Temple of the Lord. Please don’t miss this, for not only does idolatry rend and divide, but idolatry also isolates men and women from others, and separates and cuts men and women off from the Temple of the Lord of hosts. The first manifestation of idolatry within our lives is that it brings about a rending and a division—most notable being a rending and division of our heart, as our heart is no longer faithful and committed to the Lord as it perhaps once was. The second manifestation of idolatry within our lives is an isolation from others, but it is also a cutting off and separating from the Temple of the Lord. Idolatry not only touches the physical realm of relationships, but it also touches the spiritual realm of worship. IDOLATRY NOT ONLY IMPACTS AND AFFECTS OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHERS, BUT IT ALSO IMPACTS AND AFFECTS OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD! The two golden calves which Jeroboam son of Nebat set up within the northern kingdom of Israel would isolate the inhabitants of the northern kingdom, and essentially keep them in bondage within the land. WHEN IDOLATRY TRANSFORMS THE INHERITANCE INTO A PRISON! WHEN IDOLATRY CAUSES MEN AND WOMEN TO BECOME BOUND WITHIN THE INHERITANCE! Notice that the idolatry which Jeroboam son of Nebat introduced didn’t cut the people of Israel off from the inheritance—at least not immediately—for they were still permitted to remain within the land. What the idolatry Jeroboam introduced within the northern kingdom of Israel did was isolate them within the inheritance, and essentially keep them in bondage within that inheritance. Did you know that you can be present within the inheritance prepared for you by the Lord, and remain in a place of bondage because of idolatry? The northern kingdom of Israel would remain in bondage within the inheritance through idolatry, and it would be their idolatry that would prevent them from living and walking in true freedom before the Lord. When speaking of and considering idolatry, it’s absolutely necessary that we understand how it impacts and affects us, for it can indeed isolate and separate us from fellowship with others, as well as cutting us off and separating us from worship at the altar of the Lord within His holy Temple.
Idolatry and adultery would first be introduced within the kingdom and nation of Israel during the days of Solomon, as his love and affection for foreign women allowed his heart to be turned away after foreign gods. Idolatry and adultery collided and went hand in hand within the life of Solomon, for it would be his own adultery and immorality that would lead to idolatry within the land. It would be a direct result of Solomon’s idolatry that the nation and kingdom was rent and divided in two, and inhabitants separated from each other. Isn’t it worth noting that the idolatry of one would cause a nation to be divided in two, while it would be the idolatry introduced by another man that would cause brothers to be isolated and separated from brothers. It would be the idolatry that Jeroboam would introduce that would compound that division even further and would actually separate brothers and sisters from each other, and would cut them off from each other. There is an account in Scripture that describes how the priests and Levites who were faithful to the Lord and faithful to the service of the Lord would abandon the northern kingdom of Israel and would journey down to the southern kingdom of Judah in order to be near the Temple of the Lord. It’s important that we recognize the direct impact and affect idolatry has within and upon our lives, for idolatry—if left unchecked and not dealt with—can indeed and can in fact lead to separation and isolation from others, as well as separation from the courts and sanctuary of the Lord. The Lord would judge the idolatry of Solomon by rending the kingdom from him and dividing it asunder, and it would be the idolatry of Jeroboam son of Nebat that would cause the northern kingdom of Israel to be cut off and separated from the southern kingdom, and the inhabitants of the northern kingdom to be cut off from the courts and Temple of the Lord. We cannot afford to lose sight of this fact, for by the time we come to the days of Ezekiel, we find the inhabitants of the land being cut off from the land, as well as from the Temple, the courts and the altar of the Lord. Eventually the Lord would not only cut off the house of Israel from the land and inheritance, but He would also cause them to be cut off from the Temple of the Lord where the altar of the Lord was found. The Lord would judge the idolatry and adultery that was found in the midst of Judah by allowing His own Temple to be defiled, and eventually destroyed. IT would be the Babylonians who would first defile the Temple and sanctuary of the Lord, and eventually destroying it completely. For seventy years the children of Israel would be cut off from the Temple of the Lord as it lie in complete ruins within the land. Oh that would come face to face with the dire consequences of idolatry within our hearts and lives, and how idolatry can indeed directly impact and affect us in this generation. Oh that we would understand idolatry and adultery within our own hearts and lives, and that we would be willing to confront all manners and all forms of idolatry and adultery that may be present within us.