Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Hosea, and more specifically, is found in the tenth chapter. When this passage begins, it begins with something that is actually quite peculiar, for the Lord hosts—through the prophet Hosea—declares of Israel that she is an empty vine, and the fruit which Israel brings forth is unto themselves. As the first verse continues, it does so with the Lord declaring concerning Israel that it was according to the multitude of his fruit that he increased the altars. What’s more, is the Lord declared that according to the goodness of his land they have made goodly images. It’s actually quite interesting to consider how the more the fruit of Israel increased, the more Israel would increase the altars present among them in their midst. One can’t help but wonder if the fruit which Israel received was actually used—instead of presenting unto the Lord as an offering and sacrifice—to bring about the manifestation of altars within their land. I can’t help but think that Israel actually took that which the Lord had bestowed upon them and used it to bring about the manifestation of their own transgression and wickedness. Perhaps one of the greatest Old Testament passages that reveals the taking of that which has been provided by the Lord and using it to bring about the manifestation of idolatry and iniquity is found in the prophetic book of Ezekiel. In the sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel we find the Lord speaking of Israel—and not merely speaking of Israel as a nation, but as a bride whom He rescued earlier on, and even transformed into a bride He would present unto Himself. If you read the sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel you will uncover a tremendous indictment toward and against Israel because of their idolatry, their adultery, and their immorality before the Lord. Consider if you will the language that is contained within this particular chapter found in the prophetic book of Ezekiel:
“But thou didst trust in thine own beauty, and playedst the harlot because of thy renown, and pouredst out thy fornications on every one that passed by; his it was. And of thy garments thou didst take, and deckedst thy high places with divers colors, and playedst the harlot thereupon: the like things shall not come, neither shall it be so. Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them, and tookest thy broilers garments, and coveredest them: and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them. My meat also which I gave thee, find flour, and oil, and honesty, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour: and thus it was, saith the Lord God. Moreover thou hast taken thy sons and thy daughters, whom thou hast born unto me, and these hast thou sacrificed unto them to be devoured. Is this of thy whoredoms a small matter, that thou hast slain my children, and delivered them to cause them to pass through the fire for them? And in all thine abominations and thy whoredoms thou hast not remembered the days of thy youth, when thou wastnaked and bare, and wast polluted in thy blood. And it came to pass after all thy wickedness, (woe, woe unto thee! Saith the Lord God;) that thou hast also built unto thee an eminent place, and hast made thee an high place in every street. Thou hast built thy high place at ever head of the way, and hast made thy beauty to be abhorred, and hast opened thy feet to every one that passed by, and multiplied thy whoredoms. Thou hast also committed fornication with the Egyptians thy neighbours, great of flesh; and hast increased thy whoredoms, to provoke me to anger. Behold, therefore I have stretched out my hand over thee, and have diminished thine ordinary food, and delivered thee unto the will of them that hate thee, the daughters of the Philistines, which are ashamed of thy lewd way. Thou hast played the whore also with the Assyrians, because thou wast unsatiable; yea, thou hast played the harlot with them, and yet couldest not be satisfied. Thou hast moreover multiplied thy fornication in the land of Canaan unto Chaldea; and yet thou wast not satisfied herewith. How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman; in that thou buildest thine eminent place in the head of every way, and makes thine high place in every street; and hast not been as an harlot, in that thou scornest hire; but as a wife that committeth adultery, which taketh strangers instead of her husband! They give gifts to all whores: but thou givest thy gifts to all thy lovers, and hirest them, that they may come unto thee on every side for thy whoredoms. And the contrary is in thee from other women in thy whoredoms, whereas none followeth thee to commit whoredoms: and in that thou givest a reward, and no reward is given unto thee, therefore thou art contrary” (Ezekiel 16:15-34).
When you read these words contained within the sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel, you will of course be immediately confronted with the indictment that Israel trusted in her own beauty, and as a result of trusting in her own beauty, she began to play the harlot. One of the most interesting realities surrounding this concept of playing the harlot is that it can only be manifested when we trust in our own beauty—when we trust in a beauty we think and believe we possess in and of ourselves. I am convinced that if we find our beauty coming only from the Lord of hosts rather than of and from ourselves, we cannot and will not seek to play the harlot. There is a tremendous danger and temptation when we begin to look upon ourselves, and when we begin to trust in our own beauty rather than the beauty the Lord Himself has bestowed upon us. Israel began to trust in her own beauty, and it was from the place of trusting in her own beauty that she began to see herself as being able to exploit that beauty and use it to her advantage. When I read the sixteenth chapter of the book of Isaiah, I can’t help but consider the fact we play a very dangerous game when we begin to look upon ourselves and view ourselves apart from and outside of the reflection of the Lord of hosts within and upon us. The problem with Israel in this particular indictment is that she began to trust in her beauty rather than viewing and seeing herself as being a reflection of the beauty of the Lord of hosts. THE LORD NEVER CREATED YOU TO HAVE YOUR OWN BEAUTY! THE LORD NEVER CREATED YOU TO HAVE YOUR OWN LIGHT! THE LORD NEVER INTENDED ON YOU PROJECTING YOUR OWN IMAGE! One of the most tragic realities we can find within our lives is when we not only seek to stop reflecting the image and beauty of the Lord of hosts, but we actually being to project our own image. REFLECTING THE IMAGE OF GOD OR PROJECTING OUR OWN IMAGE! I feel it necessary to be absolutely and incredibly honest and straightforward right now and declare that you are either doing one or the other—you are either reflecting the image of the Lord of hosts, or you are projecting your own image. Perhaps what helps to shine even more light on this is what we read and find in the Old Testament book of Genesis concerning Adam. IN the twenty-sixth verse of the first chapter we begin reading these words concerning the creation of Adam—“And God said, Let us make man in our image after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28). When you come to the fifth chapter of the same Old Testament book, however, you will notice something incredibly different taking place, for while in the first chapter we notice Adam being created in the image and after the likeness of God, in the fifth chapter we notice Adam begetting a son in his likeness and after his image.
Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and became a living soul when the Lord breathed the breath of life into his nostrils. When Adam was formed from the dust of the earth, and when he became a living soul, he was formed and created in the image, and after the likeness of the Lord. When we come to the account of Adam and Eve bringing forth another son within the earth, we find Scripture describing how this son was begat in Adam’s own likeness, and after his own image. The reason I chose to bring up this distinction within the book of Genesis is because we seem to notice a stark contrast that took place after the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Adam was formed from the dust of the ground, and was formed after the image and in the likeness of the Lord, but after the fall, we find that Adam and Eve brought forth another son—a son who was found in the likeness of Adam, and after his image. This must be carefully understood and considered, for when Adam was formed from the dust of the ground and was formed in the likeness and after the image of the Lord, he was indeed and in all reality a reflection of that image and likeness. When Adam walked the earth prior to the fall, he was nothing short of an exact representation of the image and likeness of the Lord of hosts upon the earth. Adam was more than a representative of the Lord upon the earth, but was actually a reflection of the very image and likeness he had been created in. REPRESENTING AND REFLECTING! Do you truly understand the purpose for which you have been created—the purpose for which you were placed upon the earth? It is absolutely imperative that you recognize and understand that you were created to represent the Lord upon the earth—His authority, His government, His dominion upon the earth. What’s. more, is that you were created to reflect the very image and likeness of the Lord in whose image and likeness you have been created. Adam walked the earth not bearing His own image, nor his own likeness, but the image and likeness of the One who had formed him from the dust of the ground, and breathed the breath of life in his nostrils. It’s interesting to note and consider that when we read of Seth—although Seth is indeed in the lineage of the Christ as having the seed of the Messiah passed on to and through him—we read of him being begotten in the likeness, and after the image of his father Adam. This brings me to an incredibly important question—the question of whose image and whose likeness we are reflecting within and upon the earth. Israel was created and placed upon the earth in order that she might be the representative of the Lord of hosts upon the earth, and to reflect the image, the beauty, the likeness of the Lord. What we read in the sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel, however, is something that is absolutely contrary. Israel had eventually reached the point where she began trusting in her own beauty, and rather than allowing her beauty to be a reflection and manifestation of the beauty of the Lord, she used that beauty to play the harlot. Oh, the more we cease reflecting the image, the beauty, and the likeness of the Lord, and the more we begin trusting in our own beauty, the more we position ourselves to play the harlot before the Lord within the earth.
I am reminded of two distinct Old Testament passages within the Old Testament prophetic writings of the Hebrew prophets—specifically the prophetic writings of Isaiah and Ezekiel. It was both Isaiah and Ezekiel who each proclaimed a very specific prophetic word that seemed to transcend the earthly individual for whom they were directed toward. If you read the fourteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Isaiah you will notice a tremendous prophetic word concerning an individual by the name of Lucifer—Lucifer who is widely understood to be the former name of the spiritual being we have known as Satan, the devil and the adversary. Consider if you will the language and words that are found within the fourteenth chapter beginning with the twelfth verse—“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet” (Isaiah 14:12-19). When you come to the twenty-eighth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel, you will notice what might very well be considered the second side of this coin which is the prophetic word concerning Lucifer who at one point was a being unlike any other. “Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the Sardis, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee. Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffick; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more” (Ezekiel 28:12-19).
It is abundantly and perfectly clear from the sixteenth chapter of the prophetic book of Ezekiel that Israel trusted in her own beauty, and it was from that place of trusting in her own beauty, she began to play the harlot within and upon the earth. Israel had eventually reached the point where she was no longer concerned with reflecting the image and likeness of the Lord, but wanted to begin projecting her own beauty before her lovers. One thing we must recognize and understand is that it wasn’t the beauty of the Lord Israel sought to project in the earth before her lovers, but it was her own beauty. We never take the beauty of the Lord and use that beauty to play the harlot in the earth. I cannot escape the reality that we are either committing one of two acts within the earth—either reflecting the image and likeness of the Lord, or projecting our own image upon the earth. We are either reflecting the beauty of the Lord upon the earth, or we are projecting our own beauty. Lucifer projected his own beauty in the realm of heaven, and surprisingly enough he was able to entice a third of the angels to join his cause. When Lucifer led an insurrection in heaven which centered upon worship, he was able to successfully lead a third of the angels in that insurrection and rebellion. WORSHIP CENTERS UPON BEAUTY! WE WORSHIP THAT WHICH WE BELIEVE TO BE BEAUTIFUL! Each and every time you enter into the sanctuary and congregation of the saints of God, you enter to worship the Lord—not so much because of what He has done, but because of who He is. I can’t help but be reminded of the words of the psalmist when they emphatically declared how we worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness. In the twenty-seventh chapter of the book of the Psalms we find David writing and proclaiming these words concerning the Lord of hosts—“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquirer in his temple” (Psalm 27:4). In the second verse of the twenty-ninth chapter we find David writing and proclaiming these words as well—“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (Psalm 29:2). In the second verse of the fiftieth chapter of the book of the Psalms we read these words—“Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined” (Psalm 50:2). IN the seventeenth verse of the ninetieth chapter we find these words—“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it” (Psalm 90:17). In the sixth and ninth verses of the ninety-sixth chapter of the book of the Psalms we find these words—“HOnour and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary…O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth” (Psalm 96:6, 9).
I happen to find these particular references to be incredibly significant, for when we seek to speak of and understand worship, we must understand that worship isn’t necessarily about that which the Lord has done for us, but it’s more so about the beauty the Lord possesses. The psalmist(s) wrote of worship how we must worship the Lord in the beauty of His holiness, and it is this reality we must carefully understand and consider. When speaking of worship, David recognized and understood that the single greatest source of worship of the Lord is not necessarily His gifts, His blessings, His provision, and the like. When speaking of worship, David recognized and understood that worship was at its finest—worship was its pinnacle and zenith—when it had at its foundation the beauty of the Lord. The reason I mention this is because the insurrection that took place within heaven not only centered upon worship, but it also centered upon beauty as well. Lucifer led an insurrection in heaven, and even caused a third of the angels to join with him because he was interested in receiving worship which alone belonged to the Lord of hosts Himself. What’s more, is that Lucifer was able to convinced a third of the angels to align themselves to the thought that his beauty was greater than the beauty of the One who sat upon the throne. AN INSURRECTION OF WORSHIP! One of the greatest things we must understand about the rebellion in heaven was that it was a rebellion that had its foundation—not only the concept of worship, as Lucifer desired the worship that belonged to the Lord o f hosts, but also the concept of beauty. Pause for a moment and consider the concept and reality that Lucifer was able to convince a third of the angels in heaven to align themselves with the belief that his beauty was greater than that of the Lord of hosts. Lucifer himself became corrupted by his own beauty, and once he had reached that point, he began projecting that beauty in heaven before the angelic hosts. There is a part of me that can’t help but wonder if Lucifer didn’t in fact attempt to incite all of heaven to align themselves with him, and yet managed to convinced only a third of the angelic host that his beauty was greater than that of the Lord. The insurrection in heaven began because a single cherub not only became enamored with his own beauty and therefore projected that beauty in the realm of heaven, but also continued along the lines of worship, as Lucifer sought to bring all of heaven to worshipping him—perhaps even worshipping him in addition to worshipping the Lord. That’s actually quite an interesting concept, for Lucifer might not have even sought to convince all of heaven to worship him instead and in place of the Lord of hosts, but to worship him along with the Lord. In other words, Lucifer sought to be worshipped alongside of the Lord of hosts, thus placing him on the same level as the Lord.
Can I be honest right now and declare that the devil doesn’t care if you worship the Lord, so long as he is able to cause and bring you to the place where you worship something else alongside the Lord. The devil will be more than content to allow you to worship the Lord, so long as you worship Him because of what He has done for you within your life. I would dare say that if Lucifer can bring you to the place where you worship the Lord because of what He has done for you rather than because of the beauty He possesses, he can then proceed to entice you with other things that might possess a beauty that is contrary to the beauty the Lord of hosts possesses. We position ourselves in an incredibly dangerous place when we allow ourselves to worship the Lord simply and solely because of what He has done for us rather than because of His beauty, for it is the beauty of the Lord that should in all reality captivate, entice and allure us. We dare not, we should not, we cannot, we must not worship the Lord simply because of what He has given us, for what do we do in those moments when it appears the Lord is somehow withholding His blessings from us? If we allow ourselves to worship the Lord simply and only because of what He has done and can do for us, we limit our worship to the realm of worship based on provision, promise and blessing. Tell me—when you enter into the sanctuary and house of the Lord, do you worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, or do you worship the Lord because of the abundance of His gifts? Do you worship the Lord because of the beauty of His holiness, the beauty of His grace, the beauty of His mercy, the beauty of His love, the beauty of His compassion, the beauty of His affection, or do you worship the Lord because of the abundance of His gifts and blessings? What do you do when the blessings seem to cease momentarily within your life? What do you do when you find yourself in a place of want, a place of need, a place of desperation? I am convinced that worship can only be sustained in that place when it has as its focus and foundation the beauty of the Lord of hosts. Lucifer became completely consumed with his own beauty, and it was as a result of his becoming caught up with his own beauty that he attempted to use that beauty to entice and allure all of heaven to worship him. The insurrection and rebellion in heaven was not one that was necessarily about war and battle, but about worship and beauty. One third of the angels aligned themselves to and with Lucifer’s projection of his own beauty, and therefore were willing to compromise their worship of the true and living God, and worship Lucifer as well. WORSHIP ON THE SIDE! The question I can’t help but ask right now is how many of us are worshipping on the side? How many of us come into the house of the Lord and may indeed worship Him with hands raised, with open mouths, and even with the sound of our hands, and yet when we exit the house of the Lord, we worship other things on the side? How many of us commit an adulterous worship when we leave and exit the sanctuary because we find other things which we either believe are more beautiful than the Lord of hosts, but possess a beauty that is on the same level as the Lord of hosts? Oh that we would examine our hearts and see if there is anything within our lives which we perceive as possessing a beauty that is somehow on the same level as that which the Lord possesses. There is not only a danger in attempting to project our own beauty, but there is also a danger in worshipping other things we find to possess a beauty that is on the same level as that which the Lord possesses.
In the tenth chapter of the prophetic book of Hosea, we find the Lord declaring that Israel was an empty vine, and brought forth fruit unto himself. What’s more, is the Lord declared that according to the multitude of the fruit which Israel possessed, so also did his altars increase within the land. The Lord declared that according to the goodness of the land of Israel they have made goodly images. It’s actually worth noting and pointing out that the Lord would go on to declare that their heart was divided, and that they would be found faulty. It’s necessary and imperative that we recognize and pay close attention to the words the Lord declared concerning their heart being divided, for it was from that divided heart they allowed themselves to become consumed and enamored with their own beauty, and with the various lovers round about them. One thing I love about this passage is that the Lord goes on to declare that He would break down their altars, and would spoil their images, and would do so because they would declare that they have no king, and have not feared the Lord. This particular passage is quite interesting because Israel took the multitude of the fruit within the land and from that place of abundance, increased the altars within the land. The more Israel prospered and the more Israel increased, the more their altars and images increase. Is it possible to use that which the Lord of hosts has blessed us with, and use them to form and fashion altars and images within our hearts and lives? As you continue reading this particular passage, you will notice the Lord of hosts goes on to speak of the golden calves which had been set up within the land during the days of Jeroboam son of Nebat. In the fifth verse we read how the inhabitants of Samaria shall fear because of the calves of Beth-aven: for the people shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced on it, for the glory thereof, because it was departed from their midst. The Lord declared that these calves would be carried unto Assyria for a present to the king, and that the idols and images they trusted in would be destroyed. This passage is not only about the presence of altars and images present within the land, but how the Lord was going to take and destroy those images and altars. Israel not only played the whore and harlot with the various lovers round about the land, but Israel also played the whore and the harlot with her many idols and images. Israel allowed herself to be completely caught up and consumed with her beauty, and it was that beauty she used to entice and allure her lovers. The question I keep coming back to when reading this passage is whether or not we are reflecting the beauty of the Lord of hosts, or whether we are seeking to project our own beauty. We were created in the image and likeness of the Lord, and we were created to manifest and reflect that image within the earth, yet we are faced with the decision as to whether or not we will reflect that image, or seek to project our own. The word we must allow ourselves to come to terms with when reading this passage is found in the twelfth verse, for this is the place a great many men and women desperately need to be in: “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you” (Hosea 10:12).