I was the Director of a Bible school when a twenty-something year old student made an appointment to talk to me. She sat down in the office and with a very sincere and yet very scared look on her face she asked: "Is any of this real?" When I asked what she meant, she replied; "This. Christianity. Jesus. Is it real or is it just something man made up like a philosophy or business or way to control people?"
She believed in Jesus and she admitted He had saved her from what would have been a disastrous life. But once in the Lord she looked around at all the religions and philosophies and wanted to be sure she was going the right way; She didn't want to get tricked into following one way or the other if it was error. Essentially, she was looking at all the gods and goddesses and wondering if our God was THE God.
Our world is just as full of gods and goddesses as the ancient world's gods and goddesses, though in different forms. Pop culture, sports, movie and tv stars and their cultures and ways of thinking have made its way into everything from religion to sports to politics. Their celebrities are elevated to god status as are their way of thinking and reasoning. Anything placed in importance between man and God is idolatry, and it is all around us.
As people were dispersed across the face of the earth after the Tower of Babel they gradually lost knowledge of the one true God. They developed religious systems involving the worship of gods, represented by idols and barbaric rituals that ranged from cutting oneself in blood letting to human sacrifice, and so much more.
Ancient gods of the Middle East
Some of the gods of the ancient east included Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Canaanites associated with fertility. She was often described as a mistress of Baal, the Canaanite supreme god associated with fertility, the sun, and rain and lightning. Baal worship involved having sex with the Baal priests and priestesses, and sometimes human sacrifice. Solomon worshipped Ashtoreth after gathering wives of the Canaanites.
There was Chemosh the one who subdues all, the god of the Moabites and Ammonites, and was said to be a very cruel god, demanding human sacrifice. Solomon set an altar to Chemosh outside of Jerusalem on what is known as 'the hill of corruption', referenced in II Kings 23:13.
Dagon of the Philistines was the god of water and grain, with a human body but head of a fish. Samson died bringing down the temple of Dagon.
Marduk of the Babylonians had 50 names, including Bel, and was worshipped in Babylon, Assyria, and Persia.
What makes Abraham different?
Abraham came from this culture of many gods and goddesses to know the one true God. The first thing to know about Judaism is that it was the first monotheistic religion. In other words, it was the first time someone had said without a doubt there is but 1 God and the rest are imposters.
Abraham also was the first to introduce the idea that God was God for everyone, everywhere. Up to that time the Canaanites had their gods, the Moabites theirs, the Egyptians theirs, and so on. God came out of eternity to appear to Abraham, asserting and proving He is the one true God, and He is the God for everyone everywhere.
Consider what God and Abraham brought to mankind:
1) God is the true God, there are no others, the rest are imposters.
2) God is God for everyone, everywhere on the earth.
3) God is sovereign; He cannot be manipulated by ritual, impressed by sacrifice, indeed in the blood of bulls and goats He has no pleasure (Hebrews 10: 5-8)
4) God created earth, the natural forces and created man in His image and likeness.
5) God is so meek, lowly, humble and therefore approachable, that He offers to become a friend to any who want Him.
6) God is so eager to help mankind that He entered into a covenant with Abraham to bring a promised restoration to the whole earth.
7) He gave humans free will to choose good or evil, every person responsible for their own actions.
Up until Abraham none of these thoughts, none of these concepts, none of this knowledge was found in any religion with any god.
Consider your own walk with the Lord - rituals? Formula?
Every religion around Abraham was based on man making some ritual to reach or move or impress their god.
Every other religion reached their gods through a man-made framework of ceremony, statues, pictures, and other elements of physical worship. That was the culture then, that is the culture today among man-made efforts to reach God. Many well-meaning Christians have fallen from grace into works as well.
When God appeared to Abraham and became his friend, Abraham realized there could be no mechanism he could put in place by which to reach or appease Him. They were friends. There was no statue he could pray to because he knew God personally. There was no ritual, speech, prayer, building or liturgy he could devise to approach God because he already knew God personally. All of those mechanisms were now obsolete.
And to those of us who walk with God today in such freedom, we realize that too - buildings, liturgy, ritual, statues and icons - obsolete. We know God personally. Christ is in us. We have the mind of Christ. We've been sealed by the Father God's Spirit who is holy. Nothing we could do on this earth can improve upon having Christ in us by our spirits being born anew of the Father God's Spirit.
What person has a friend and then builds a framework of ritual and sacrifice and declarations by which he may access his friend? That's silly. He just talks to him. There is nothing between them but that they know each other. That is what Abraham introduced into the world - the ability to know God personally without religious ritual.
What god is so considerate that he tells followers to cancel debt, take a day off, take vacations, and love everyone? We'll pick it up there next week, until then, blessings,
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