Monday, January 5, 2009

Idolatry in the Old Testament

I think the Lord's position on idolatry in the Old Testament is really interesting. Sometimes people think the God of the Old Testament is some huffy, jealous god who doesn't want anybody worshipping anybody but himself. That's not how I read the scriptures. The primary objection to idolatry is that it is both useless and stupid: the following statement is typical of the Old Testament.

9 ¶ They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.

  10 Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? ...

  14 He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.

  15 Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.

  16 He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:

  17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.

  18 They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.

(Isaiah 44:9-18, emphasis added.)

If the Lord finds it offensive to have his children abasing themselves before dumb idols, he is certainly not taking offense on his own behalf but on theirs. He would that we follow Jesus and rise to his own level, rather than grovel in the dirt before nothings. See Hab 2:19 and 1 Kings 18.

On a somewhat related note (futility of false belief), I share one of my favorite stories:

"A man came to me in Kirtland and told me he had seen an angel, and described his dress. I told him he had seen no angel, and that there was no such dress in heaven, he grew mad and went into the street, and commanded fire to come down out of heaven to consume me - I laughed at him and said, you are one of Baals prophets, your god does not hear you, jump up and cut yourself; and he commanded fire from heaven to consume my house." (Joseph Smith's diary,


"The presentation or 'gift' of the Holy Ghost simply confers upon a man the right to receive at any time, when he is worthy of it and desires it, the power and light of truth of the Holy Ghost, although he may often be left to his own spirit and judgment." --Joseph F. Smith (manual, p. 69)

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

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