Jul 7 2019 Tear Down the High Places! Ways the World influences our Worship of God
14th July 2019
Many years ago, we went through a small group study called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” – by Pete Scazzero – and he was at the Pastor’s Conference. He has a new book – The Emotionally Healthy Leader – and this was a profound time for all the leaders.
Pete – speaking of his church in Queens – they have 70 languages spoken – in a community of immigrants – and they have had to deal with a lot to make this all work!
We are called to be a church OF the poor and marginalized, and not simply a church FOR the poor and marginalized.
That sounds sublime –
We put a significance emphasis on the word Grace – it is in our name! We are known for that, and that is great. But there is a subtle problem that can come from that – we are not to be a church FOR people who need grace and acceptance, but to be a church OF people who need grace and acceptance.
If we are FOR people – it makes us sound like we are the experts – but really, we are inviting others in to experience the mercy and grace of God.
Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. If you think you’ve arrived and are righteous, you don’t need Me! And that is a problem –
In that book I’ve been mentioning – Seculosity: Christianity at its core is a religion of law and grace – which is to say, a religion of grace, since grace has no meaning apart from the law. The righteous have no need of a savior.
What Paul said -the purpose of the Law is to show me I am a sinner and I need Jesus. I need to come to Jesus. What happens so often – once we come to Jesus, we think we need to start following the Law – but it is always about mercy and grace.
We as Christians can overemphasize what we can do or be for God, but a corresponding underemphasis on what God has done for us. It is out of that – that we can live for God – but whenever we try to do that without this foundation of what God has done for us – we will fail.
JFK – Ask not what you can do… But as a follower of Jesus – we need to ask what has Jesus done for me – and THEN – when we understand that – can we live for God.
We’ve been looking at Design Patterns – the inappropriate mixing of spaces – divine and human – and within that theme – One God, One People, One Place – and then that branches into the New Testament.
There was to be One Place of worship – but we’ll look at this one place today:
Deut 12: 2 "You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree… 5 "But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.
These are places called HIGH PLACES – used seventy-five times in the Old Testament. I will designate a place for you – and that will eventually be Jerusalem and the Temple.
But that is hundreds of years into the future.
Shiloh will be the place of worship:
Deut. 12:12 Then it shall come about that the place in which the LORD your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices… Make sure you do not offer burnt offerings in any place you wish, but in the place which the LORD chooses in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
As they go through the desert, they have the Tent of Meeting and the Ark of the Covenant. Let me lay this foundation.
As we get into the New Testament, Jesus is talking with the woman at the well – Your people say that we should worship in Jerusalem, we say it should be on this mountain – and Jesus says – Neither – it will be inside of you! You are the temple of God, Paul tells us later.
So there is this place of worship.
Solomon and the High Places – this is written in 2 different books – Kings and Chronicles – there are repeats in them, but marked, important, difference. Samuel and Kings were written during the exiles – 700-586 BC – written to give a history of Israel from Samuel through the exile – WHY they are living in exile – WHAT WENT WRONG.
Chronicles was written – after the exile – to give hope for the future – they just went through this terrible season.
The biggest difference – Samuel and Kings shares much of the bad stuff – whereas Chronicles does not share the bad stuff – for instance – Bathsheba is never mentioned in Chronicles!
Solomon has a dream and prays – and asks for wisdom and God honors and blesses him – and the problem is, we tend to take these things out of context when we preach on those things.
Then Solomon formed a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt
This is how it is introduced – and Solomon does the one thing he was commanded not to do…
, and took Pharaoh's daughter and brought her to the city of David, until he had finished building his own house and the house of the LORD and the wall around Jerusalem. (1Ki 3:1 NAS) 2 The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days
This phrase will be said over and over again – especially in Kings and Chronicles. On the other side, in Chronicles – it just talks about how wonderful Solomon is!
When you look at verse 2 – it seems like an excuse or accident – some may be ignorance. It is important to understand, they were not sacrificing to the Canaanite gods, but to Yahweh, but they were doing it on the high places, the places where the Canaanites worshiped.
What is wrong with that? They were commanded not to! They are doing it at the wrong place.
Now Solomon the son of David established himself securely over his kingdom, and the LORD his God was with him and exalted him greatly 2 Solomon spoke to all Israel, to the commanders of thousands and of hundreds and to the judges and to every leader in all Israel, the heads of the fathers' households
3 Now Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.
What you will see – and we probably won’t have time to do this – as they go through the leaders and kings – so and so was like his father, who did what was right, EXCEPT he offered sacrifices on the high places, etc.
4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.
Wow! A thousand! What a spiritual guy! All he is doing for GOD! We want to be that person. And there is probably an honest heart in Solomon. Look over to the same section in Chronicles:
3 Then Solomon and all the assembly with him went to the high place which was at Gibeon, for God's tent of meeting was there, which Moses the servant of the LORD had made in the wilderness. 4
Somehow, the tent left Shiloh and ended up in Gibeon! What is going on? Why did they move it out of Shiloh?
However, David had brought up the ark of God from Kiriath-jearim to the place he had prepared for it, for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.
So what we have – the Ark, the main point of the place of worship – has been moved to Jerusalem, but the tent is in Gibeon, where it is not supposed to be – and Solomon goes there and sacrifices – and what is happening, to bring it to reality – Israel and Solomon are mixing Canaanite practices with the worship of Yahweh. They are not engaged in full-blown idolatry, but that is what this will lead to – it will lead to the worship of the Canaanite gods. And in one sense, what they are doing is a form of idolatry – the theological term for this is syncretism – joining the ways of the world with the worship of God. I would just suggest that we all do NOT do this – do NOT join the practices of the world in our worship of the Lord! (This will be clarified later, for those listening to the audio).
15 Then Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream. And he came to Jerusalem and stood before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and made peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.
Solomon wakes up – and something is wrong. And he goes immediately to Jerusalem to make things right with God.
13 So Solomon went from the high place which was at Gibeon, from the tent of meeting, to Jerusalem, and he reigned over Israel.
Even in some of our most faithful times – there are things that we are unfaithful in.
If that is not confusing enough – let me give you some examples.
Christian Financial Stewardship
There are some great things out there. They have helped me tremendously. HOWEVER – within those Christian Financial Stewardship programs, there is a mixing of the practices of the world – modern materialism. That is a problem.
Moralism – mixing of moralism with Christian faith. This is tricky – because we are to be moral, right? But moralism was the high places of the Pharisees – a mixing of the ways of the world with the church.
When we say moral, all we think of is sex – but it is much more than that. Moralism began on that day that they took and ate from the tree. Moralism makes us feel right about ourselves – better than others – and we cannot moral our way into God’s acceptance. This is a mixing – church is about receiving – not winning or deserving God’s favor.
“A major problem for those of us with righteous minds … innocuous perceptions, painting our neighbor as our adversary…. Yet the specific obsession with moralism is often what excludes us from others…
Can spark the most dehumanizing judgments
In terms of us versus them.”
We have mixed the ways of the world with our worship of God.
This is a high place that leads to idolatry. And idolatry is the worst of sins – because it is the core of every sin.
… meant when he observed that there is no greater pathos…
Overreliance on superficial indicators of righteousness.
This is not what makes us acceptable to God – and the only thing that makes us acceptable to God is the cross.
Last week Dick talked about the church – what it is and is not – and sometimes, things like that become high places – buildings. They are important and valuable – but they can become a high place – a mixing – there was a time where it had to be a cathedral – and we say – that is a mixing. A few years ago, it had to look like a movie theater – and that is a MIXING.
Styles of worship – it is great that there are all kinds – but if that is the driving focus of a church – whatever style it is, from organ to rock band, you have mixed the practices of the world with the worship of God by doing that.
It can come out in silly ways – Pews and chairs! That can be a silly focus!
These issues – and I will close with this – most are softballs – but the really difficult and controversial ones relate to political and social issues. We are not political here – but these can become high places – with either a mixing of the ways of the world with those of God.
There are cards in the pews – if you have any question in relationship to those things – I would love to address them – just get them to me as you have a chance.
Think about this: Jesus was the most political person who ever lived, but he never engaged in the political system of his world.
1 Kings 15:14 But the high places were not taken away; nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the LORD all his days.
1Kings 22:43 He walked in all the way of Asa his father; he did not turn aside from it, doing right in the sight of the LORD. However, the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burnt incense on the high places. ( NAU)
2 Kings 12:3 Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.
Hezekiah and Josiah
He did right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father David had done (2Ki 18:3 NAU)He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan. (2Ki 18:4 NAU)
For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, 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 Asherim, the carved images and the molten images. (2Ch 34:3 NAU)
God and the High Places
For behold, He who forms mountains and creates the wind And declares to man what are His thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness And treads on the high places of the earth, The LORD God of hosts is His name. (Amo 4:13 NAU)
'Mountains of Israel, listen to the word of the Lord GOD! Thus says the Lord GOD to the mountains, the hills, the ravines and the valleys: "Behold, I Myself am going to bring a sword on you, and I will destroy your high places. (Eze. 6:3 NAU)