Pastor Brian Schwertley on God condemning political polytheism in heathen nations

Brian Schwertley

In Deuteronomy 18 we are told that God drove the heathen nations out of their lands because He hated their false religions. “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you” (Dt. 18:9-12). “These foreign offices and practices, which were an abomination to the Lord, were to be forbidden in Israel precisely because they were part of the reason for God’s judgment of the Canaanites, which would be seen in their ejection from the land. If the Israelites adopted similar practices, they too would become liable to ejection from the land.”One could argue that the main concern of this passage is false forms of revelation. But, are not all false religions and cults founded upon false revelations?

In Isaiah 19 the prophet says that God will judge Egypt for its idolatry. “The burden against Egypt. Behold, the LORD rides on a swift cloud, and will come into Egypt; the idols of Egypt will totter at His presence, and the heart of Egypt will melt in its midst” (Is. 19:1). The prophet Jeremiah says that God will bring judgment upon Egypt, Pharaoh and their false gods. “The LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, says: ‘Behold, I will bring punishment on Amon [a sun god] of No [ancient Thebes], and Pharaoh and Egypt, with their gods and their kings—Pharaoh and those who trust in him” (Jer. 46:25; cf. Is. 46:1). God singles out Amon the Egyptian chief deity of Thebes (No). “Amon was later merged with Re to become Amon-Re, the king of the gods and peculiarly the god of the rulers of Egypt.” Pharaoh who lays claim to divinity is also singled out. Is it not clear that Jehovah punishes idolatry even in non-covenanted nations? Jehovah, the only God, the Lord of the universe, hates religious pluralism. To Assyria God said, “Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation…. As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved image excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria, as I have done to Samaria and her idols, shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols” (Is. 10:5, 10, 11)? God proclaimed judgment against Moab for idolatry. “‘Moreover,’ says the LORD, ‘I will cause to cease in Moab the one who offers sacrifices in the high places and burns incense to his gods’” (Jer. 48:35). Jehovah also crushed the idols of Babylon. “Declare among the nations, proclaim, and set up a standard; proclaim, and do not conceal it, say, ‘Babylon is taken, Bel is shamed. Merodach [or Marduk, a Babylonian god] is broken in pieces; her idols are humiliated, her images are broken in pieces…. A drought is against her waters, and they will be dried up. For it is the land of carved images and they are insane with their idols’” (Jer. 50:1, 2, 38). “Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge, every metalsmith is put to shame by the carved image; for his molded image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. They are futile, a work of errors; in the time of their punishment they shall perish…. Therefore behold, the days are coming that I will bring judgment on the carved images of Babylon; her whole land shall be ashamed, and all her slain shall fall in her midst…. ‘Therefore, behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will bring judgment on her carved images, and throughout all her land the wounded shall groan’” (Jer. 51:17, 18, 47, 52). If God so hated the idolatry of the Assyrians, Moabites, Egyptians, Babylonians and the inhabitants of Canaan that He poured out His wrath upon them, why should He exempt the inhabitants of America, Canada, or Great Britain, etc., for their idolatries? Political polytheism was a common practice in ancient nations—a practice condemned by God. There is no evidence in the New Testament that God has had a change of mind regarding idolatry.

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