Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 17, 1970

Dealing With Idolatry

Vaughn D. Shofner

The zeal of Josiah, the great reformer in the days of the kings, caused him to be "like a man all of fire walking among stubble."

The land of this man of God was honey-combed with idolatry, when at the age of eight years he became king, and he began in the eighth year of his reign to seek the Lord; and in the twelfth year he began to destroy high places, groves, images and all outward signs and relics of idolatry. "He did right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left" (2 Kings 22:2).

Among the many things used in the pagan program intended to paralyze the way of the Lord, and carnalize the heart of the people, was a stable of beautiful horses "at the entering in of the house of the Lord" (2 Kings 23:115, kept for the idolatrous use of seducing the people into a form of religion that was completely subversive to the order of God. Secular historians tell us that these horses, "given to the sun," were led forth in pompous parade each morning to meet the rising sun, and at evening to behold the sinking sun, which the people in their unholiness worshipped.

Josiah, doing right in the sight of the Lord, and turning not aside to the right or the left, reasoned that there could be no compromise with this wickedness, and therefore he set himself to the task of destroying everything upon which the vain imagination of the people centered; "and he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire"(2 Kings 23:11).

His action was not the result of a rash conclusion; reached by prejudice against the popularity and enormity of the thing, but his just and fair attitude approached the situation in the realm of reality. Therefore, knowing that sin finds its strongest seat of power in the imagination, he wisely chose the only way to deal with such.

From the beginning satan has set his snares in the imaginations of men. In this manner the serpent snared Eve, arousing the imaginative forces of her mind with the declaration that if she ate the forbidden fruit she would become as wise as God, having access to unheard of knowledge. Her imagination ran riot. She had not desired the forbidden fruit before, but now she was afire with the urge to eat it. Instead of destroying the serpent, she kept imagining things about the wonders and delights of a world of wisdom, the fascinating glamour overwhelmed her and she was separated from God.

The wise mind of Josiah reasoned right. He knew that there could be no decree issued against this idolatry which alone could break the spell and bring the people back to God. He knew that as long as the things used in the idolatry could be seen; just as long as the sun's morning rays fell upon the arched necks of this fine fleet of horses; just as long as the warm glow of the gloaming could be seen scintillating from gilded chariots, a fascinating spell would render the people unreasonable and the carnal craze would shout through human lips: "Surely none but the bigot could say a thing so beautiful; a ceremony that arrests and holds the attention of so many, should be stopped! Surely the Lord expects us to use our abilities to engage progressive ways of worship. After all we live in a different age than the one in which our fathers lived, and we are able to reach higher states of rapture!"

So, Josiah laid the axe at the root of the evil when he burned the chariots and took away the horses from the gaze of the people. Complete destruction; complete removal of the things causing the evil was the only way to "do right in the sight of God."

In like manner, the very essence of Christianity's mission is to utterly destroy the citadel of sin in the secret place of the imagination. Paul said Christianity casts "down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Cor. 10:5). That great forerunner of Christ, John, shouted against the vain religion of the day, and warned, "and now the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire" (Matt. 3:10.) And Jesus said, "Every plant that my heavenly Father path not planted, shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:13).

And until today there are those who rail against the "Josiahs" who try to keep the church in the simplicity of the Lord's way. They conclude, by the force of their vain imagination, that surely the good done by their "trees" of beautiful and popular ways should keep them from being destroyed. They believe that good horses and gilded chariots should be kept around because of their power to bring more people to the house of the Lord. They refuse to see that the verdant beauty and cooling shades are produced by some poison trees. They refuse to accept the reality of their idol-chariots, and fail to admit the fact that the crowd which carnal things draw is idolatrous, and that placing the stable "at the entering in of the house of the Lord" only changes the location of idolatry.

Pagan religions today parade their idol-chariots as they bow to countless days and seasons because of the appeal they have to the vain imaginations of humanity, and in spite of the fact that they are unknown to the writers of the Bible. Great organizations much larger than the Lord's local church form stables at the door of God's house, promenade their attractions in grand procession and deceive the multitudes with the glittering tinsel of their chariots of idolatry. Mess halls and recreational parlors form other stables "at the entering in of the house of the Lord," from which gilded chariots are drawn to meet the morning sun and evening afterglow, reflecting the carnal brightness which casts a spell of fascination upon the people and keeps the imagination in the realm of riot.

Take them away! destroy them! gentle friend, for that's God's way of dealing with idolatry. Anything that turns the mind from the simple ways of God, is idolatry. We cannot argue that these things are all right if not abused with any more consistency than Josiah could have argued against the destruction of property in an endeavor to keep the temptations around him. We understand that horses, as such and in the right place, and chariots, as such and in the proper place, are acceptable, but horses and chariots, days and seasons, mess halls and recreational parlors, used to hold the crowd in "the presence of the Lord," become presumptuous acts of idolatry, pure and simple! Let us, gentle reader, lay the axe at the root of the trees and burn the idol-chariots!

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