Appendix III

Idolatry: Especially the Worship of a Man by His Fellows.

1. Definition: Idolatry is man’s placing a visible object of worship before his eyes to protect him from God, thus silencing his conscience that he may indulge his lusts. God’s “invisible things are clearly seen” by all His responsible creatures. In idolatry, man deliberately “changes the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man,” and of lower creatures—even to “creeping things” (Romans 1:23). Idolatry is man’s deliberate, determined putting away from the thoughts of the concept of the holy God, and choosing and “changing” therefore a concept that will not judge his sin, and the setting up an “image” of that concept, a “likeness,” as an outward object with which the bodily senses may be occupied. This effectually excludes God.

2. History: Idolatry was unknown before the flood. The cherubim were placed at the gate of Eden, with “the flame of a sword.” Thus was man kept from the tree of life, that he might not live forever in his sinful state; and thus, perhaps, was he restrained from that hideous insult to God which idolatry ever is, just as in Israel’s case, “Israel served Jehovah all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, and had known all the work … that he had wrought for Israel” (Joshua 24:31). Not until after the apostasy that preceded the flood (and which the flood judged) do we find record of man’s being permitted to throw off all knowledge by means of idolatry. Probably the earliest idolatry spoken of in Scripture is in the same chapter (Joshua 24:2, 14).

From “beyond the river” (Euphrates)—that is, from Mesopotamia, more particularly from Babel (later Babylon), and still more definitely from the daring acts of Nimrod, the “mighty destroyer” whose wife, Semiramis, (one of the most able and wicked women of the human race) was, upon her death deified as “queen of heaven,” do we trace the beginnings of idolatry, which eventuates in Satan-worship by means of “the image of the Beast,” seen in Revelation 13. From Babylon, idolatry extended to every land, for Babylon became “a land of graven images … mad over idols.” “Babylon hath been a golden cup in Jehovah’s hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunk of her wine; therefore the nations are mad” (Jeremiah 50:38, 51:7). Idolatry spread thence to every nation, and God was blotted out from man’s knowledge. Read Isaiah 44:12-20. God’s sad and awful irony concerning the idolator!

And see the obscene stories and idols of every “mythology,” to show that it has always been as in Exodus 32 and Numbers 25.

3. Why man gladly makes a god of a fellow-man (as in Revelation 13):

        a. He can see, a man, and “the invisible things of God” (of whom he is afraid) are thus escaped. Especially is this escape from God easy if the man worshipped be possessed of overwhelming power, dazzling greatness, or mysterious wisdom.

        b. Man has to do with the infinite—he must: “God hath put eternity in man’s heart”; “his everlasting power and divinity” are clearly seen. Man wishes himself God. He hearkened to Satan’s “ye shall be as gods, knowing,” in Eden. Men therefore, in their weakness, are avidly ready to accept the claims of some other man in power and position, and with daring enough to assert himself a god. It is what every natural heart would like to be!

        c. To worship man, thus gratifies and satisfies man’s pride. Men unknowingly worship their imagined selves when they worship a fellow-man.

        d. Conscience is thus escaped, for the blaspheming self-deifier relieves his mind and heart as to God; not, of course, in the way of priesthood (for God is hated and banished, and the desire is to escape Him!) but in the way of presumption, for if our man-god defies God and is suffered, other men also can cast fear away—not independently, but leaning on their idol!

Thus is attained the first great end of idolatry—release from “the glory of the invisible God”: that glory being now exchanged for the “likeness” of the god man has chosen. This “likeness” is held in the idolater’s mind; he forms his “images” after that “likeness.”127

        e. Those who thus deify man are set free to practice all “human” lusts. The “wheel of nature” may revolve without restraint. And this is the second great end of idolatry. The awful course of Romans 1:21-31 is repeated in all idolatry. The moment Israel could look on a calf, and say, “These be thy gods, O Israel,” they were set free to “rise up and play”—which means obscenities that cannot be written! God being thus blotted from the mind by “the likeness of an image,” lusts were let loose. The unholiest doings of the human race this moment are connected with religion without God.

4. It should be noted, solemnly, that God “gives up” idolaters to their idols. “They that make them shall be like unto them.” See Psalm 115—a great lesson! The “covetous man, who is an idolater,” also: the “likeness” he holds in his mind is treasure; the “image,” gold coin, stocks, bonds. He becomes like a coin—metallic, hard, cruel, harsh. The “likeness” held in the Romish mind is the (imagined) “queen of heaven”; the “image,” pictures and statues of “the Virgin”; these Romanists also become like unto their Babylonian “goddess.” To say the very least, their inner hearts are feminized, and lose the sense of the all-holy God; to say the most, they become so vile that they are the scandal of history. But ah, what will Revelation 13 bring forth, when men take Satan’s Christ so deep into their hearts that “they worship the dragon because he gives his authority unto their darling, the Man of Sin!

5. The story of the Gentile powers shows:

        A. That authority in the hands of unregenerate man leads constantly to the assumption of divine prerogatives. For neither the conscience’s fear of God, nor regard for the welfare of man, can stem the flood of nature’s pride let loose by irresponsible power, when vested in man.

        B. That self-deification is able to destroy all good qualities. See Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 3, or Darius in chapter 6 as examples of that constant exaltation of self to divine honors by Gentile kings, with which every reader of history is familiar; notably, in the Roman emperors, from Julius Caesar on. What streams of martyr-blood have flowed from refusal to offer incense to the Emperor! (Read “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs”—a book every Christian parent should early read to his children.)

        C. That the spirit of self-deification can only eventuate, as in Revelation 13, in the open Antichrist of the last days. And you must be prepared, by Scripture study, for this, for it is already stealing on the world!

If you doubt this, see Lenin in Russia,—already held a god! Or Mussolini’s daring and growing claims in Italy, and Hitler’s in Germany. Or, sad to admit, the rush to grasp power, exalt self, and compel subjection at any cost of abandoned promises, and political, moral and domestic safeguards—when the opportunity is given, in the United States of America!

127 This is the claim of all idolaters, that they “do not worship the idol, but the concept behind the idol.” Paul tells us they “sacrifice to demons, and not to God” (1 Corinthians 10). And the awful hideousness of the idols they make reveals the true character of the demons they worship!

It should be remembered, however, that even the deepest idolaters, who have “refused to have God in their knowledge,” yet “know the ordinance of God, that they that practice such things are worthy of death” (See Romans 1:28-32). The state of the heathen is wilful and guilty. Do not lose sight of this for one moment! The terrible calamities, for example, upon China, and the horrible degredation of India—what is it but the “indignation” of Jehovah, the true God, the living God, an everlasting King, pouring out upon idolaters His wrath (See, carefully, Jeremiah 10:1-10). It is like a flash of divine jealousy—it is that. See the eleventh verse of this chapter, the one Aramaic (or earth-language) in a whole Hebrew book: “Thus shall ye say unto them, The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, these shall perish from the earth, and from under the heavens.”