I apologize for my lack of article writing as we work our way through the prophets. To be honest, it is probably the part of the Bible I struggle the most with, searching for any practical application. All of the doom to kingdoms that no longer exist does not do much for my faith, aside from what I get by simply opening my Bible.
There is one theme though that I see repeated that is a pattern that we can take and apply today. Over and over, we see God’s contempt for Isreal not maintaining her purity. They conquer a nation and refuse to destroy idol worship. Instead of worshiping only our creator, they mix in pagan themes. They overthrow a nation and then adopt part of its culture. We see God address this to some degree in Ezekiel 43:8-9, although it is frequently addressed throughout the Old Testament.
When they placed their threshold next to my threshold and their doorposts beside my doorposts, with only a wall between me and them, they defiled my holy name by their detestable practices. So I destroyed them in my anger. Now let them put away from me their prostitution and the funeral offerings for their kings, and I will live among them forever.
Isreal conquered a nation an adopted the pagan practices of the culture. What is God’s response? Anger. Pure anger. We see him turn away from the people he loves.
In our culture, very few people have actual idols they worship. There are no Asherah poles. Baal is not reigning supreme. Sometimes, I think it would almost be easier to have something so concrete. Something so defined by evil that we know where the line in the sand is.
We do have idols though. We do have things that pull our focus away from where it needs to be. We have things we pursue while leaving God on the back burner.
Right now, a big one is enlightenment. There seems to be a quest these days to be somehow more evolved than everyone else. If we just adopt this thought pattern, or if we start accepting certain behaviors, or maybe it is something that few believe in and so we feel like we are part of the privileged who have this special knowledge. And, alongside this, there is almost always an issue of pride over them reaching this certain advanced understanding.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the pursuit of wisdom or knowledge. We should spend our lives in the constant pursuit of being our best selves. The problem that can entrap us though is either when that pursuit overtakes our focus on God and his commandments. Sometimes this leads us to controversial subjects that don’t actually change our salvation or how we are to practice our Christianity. Other times, it is a gateway to begin associating or partnering with that which is evil in the name of chasing this enlightenment.
One of the things that is very concerning in our current “Christian” culture is homosexuality. Somehow, despite it being taught as evil across millennia, cultures, and in both testaments, we have been enlightened to realize that God doesn’t really see it as sin. We have a new, evolved understanding of scripture and we can remove that one from the list. What?!?! So, after thousands of years of this being taught as a sin, we have been awakened to a new truth in the past few decades? No!
Unfortunately, this is not the only trap of enlightenment that Christians are falling into.
Paul warns us in 2 Timothy.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. ~2 Timothy 4:3-4
Satan does not come at us with a neon sign announcing his presence. He’s crafty, stealthy and does far more damage by seeping into our minds almost imperceivably at first. What starts as an innocent curiosity becomes engulfing and when we reach that point, rest assured that Satan is doing a celebratory dance. At best, he got you to shift your focus away from the creator; at worst, we enter the trenches with those committing evil acts.
Some of you in my daily life know where this is coming from. A person I respected as a biblically sound, knowledgeable individual has become “enlightened” in an area that has completely blown my mind. I will refrain from naming it because I fear anyone else researching this subject and becoming ensnared as well. One click became two which became four which became eight and down the rabbit hole they went. All of this is over a subject that does not matter in the face of salvation. It is controversial and dividing. Sadly, it has led this individual to begin associating with people who teach other things that boldly go against the very Bible we strive to adhere to.
This pursuit of knowledge is a tricky one. On one hand, Proverbs has an extensive number of verses that pertain to obtaining wisdom. This is a good endeavor to a point. God does place some boundaries though on what we are to chase.
We are to not involve ourselves in quarrelsome subjects that do not impact how our Christianity is to be lived out. It divides and brings strife. Paul dealt with this both with Timothy and Titus.
Timothy was working at the church in Ephesus when Paul wrote to him. One of the things the church there had to combat was teachers that involved themselves in controversies. 1 Timothy 1:3-4 reads,
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.
He goes on to command in 2 Timothy 2:23-24,
Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
Titus was tasked with organizing the believers in Crete when Paul wrote to him. Toward the end of the letter in 3:9-11 Paul warns,
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Let me repeat, “…these are UNPROFITABLE and USELESS.”
As far as allowing oneself to begin associating with evil, God is clear!
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. ~Proverbs 4:14-15
Reject every kind of evil. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:22
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. ~Psalms 34:14
The highway of the upright avoids evil; those who guard their ways preserve their lives. ~Proverbs 16:17
I could go on, but I am pretty sure you get the idea. We do not want to associate or align ourselves in any way with anything that is evil. In the pursuit of enlightenment, we cannot compromise God’s stance against associating with evil.
So, where does this leave us? Paul sums it up so simply in Colossians 3:2,
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Through the rest of the book, he lists out several virtues that we should be striving for.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. (3:12)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. (3:15)
Keep yourselves pure. God does not want us tainted by worshiping the idols of our culture. Do not let yourself get tangled in this insidious, false God that enlightenment can be. If you are finding ways to justify something that has been known as a sin for thousands of years, chances are, you are not being enlightened, but being led away by the evil one. If it leads to controversy rather than peace and is not a subject that pertains to our salvation and Christain living, don’t pursue it.
Have nothing, NOT ONE THING, to do with evil.
Set your minds on things above.
Keep your focus on God.