Pastor Choi talks about the relations between idol worship and the destiny of a nation: idol worship brings forth rejection of God and the rejection of God brings down a nation. Taking the example of two kingdoms in Israel, he compares America’s today to the day of Elijah: idols are plenty and abandonment of God and God’s commandments and ordinances become a norm in our society. Pastor Choi exhorts God’s people to seek God with prayer and petitions, turn from wicked ways, and give attention to God’s truth on behalf of America.
Following is a summary of his sermon:
Altar in the Nation
Daniel 9:1-19 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
9 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years. 3 So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, “Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 5 we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. 6 Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers and all the people of the land.
7 “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You. 8 Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him; 10 nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets. 11 Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. 12 Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. 13 As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.
15 “And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have been wicked. 16 O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us. 17 So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary. 18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. 19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
This sermon concludes my series on the altar: individual, family, church, and nation. Last Sunday, I talked about the saddest day of Israel’s history when clergy and laity made a wrong choice tossing out God and inviting an idol to be their god. Since that day God’s people worshiped idols and consequently paid the price that culminated in the Babylonian Captivity. They were ushered into the Promised Land by the LORD God, but in less than 700 years, they were taken out and away from the same land because they worshiped idols abandoning the very God who gave them the blessings.
This morning we are going to think about the relations between idol worship and the future of a nation: idol worship brings forth rejection of God and the rejection of God brings down a nation.
History repeats itself and if we fail to learn a lesson from the past, we would make the same mistakes. We the people of God can learn from the history of Israel in the context of destiny of a nation and idol worship. One clarification: idol worship means we worship and serve anything or anybody in place of God. Idols dictate us what to do and we obey. Idols can be a molten image, but they can be abstract things such as humanism, rejection of God, science, greed, or love of money.
A brief history lesson: after Moses died, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. It took another 300 years for the twelve tribes to finally settle in. King David expanded the territory and finally brought peace into his Kingdom. He wanted to build the temple to the Lord. God said, no, not you, but your son will do it.
Solomon did it. He built the magnificent temple dedicated only to the LORD. He is a perfect example of backsliding. He started right and ended wrong. You see, his problem was too many women in his life: 700 wives and 300 concubines. All for in the name of diplomacy and security. All wives brought their own gods from their lands. Too many idols. He reigned for forty years.
After his death (928 B.C.), the kingdom of Israel was divided into two: the northern kingdom (the Kingdom of Israel) and the southern kingdom (the Kingdom of Judah). The northern kingdom lasted about 200 years. From its inception, it never stopped worshiping other gods until the fall in 722 B.C. The southern kingdom lasted 350 years, but it was no better than the northern kingdom, because it too worshiped idols right next to God’s altar in the middle of the temple in Jerusalem.
The worst example was King Manasseh (697-642 B.C.): “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem; …2 He did evil in the sight of the Lord, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord dispossessed before the sons of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 He built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” 5 For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. 6 He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord provoking Him to anger. 7 Then he set the carved image of Asherah [mother goddess, consort of Yahweh–mine] that he had made, in the house of which the Lord said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever.” (2 Kings 21:1-7).
One phrase to describe the history of idolatry in Israel is “a rollercoaster ride”: ups and downs. Idol worship, return to the Lord, idol worship, and return to the Lord: this pattern repeated for 400 years since the dedication of the temple to the Lord. Bad kings dominated; once in a while good kings popped up such as Hezekiah and Josiah. But, overall, 9 out of ten times, bad kings. One good one.
So what did God do about it? He repeatedly sent His prophets such as Jeremiah (626 – 587 B.C.) and asked them to come back to Him. He warned them against the danger of idol worship and asked them to turn their hearts back to Him. Did they listen? No, they provoked God to anger through their continued idolatry. So, God finally said, so be it. There came God’s judgment upon them: the Babylonian Captivity in 586 B.C.
I believe we are living in such a perilous time as that of Jeremiah. Idols are plenty. Abandoning God and rejecting His commandments and ordinances have become a norm in our society. People refuse to listen to the Lord and come back to Him.
About 50 years ago, when America removed prayer and the Bible from public schools, it was one of the saddest days in our history. Stores began to open on Sundays. Now, many stores open 7 days a week. Although we’ve never been completely free from idol worship in our society, the degree of forsaking our Heavenly Father today is getting worse in a very alarming rate. For instance, less and less people respect or fear the LORD: e.g. the monument of the 10 commandments in Oklahoma City was desecrated recently. Do you think it shocked the nation? I doubt it. Some of us are not even shocked let alone outraged. Families are being broken up at a record high rate. God’s Word spoken at God’s house is being censored by the government. Just last month, Houston mayor subpoenaed five pastors’ sermons in her city (later she rescinded). It is a bad omen of what’s coming in our society. One million witches in our land. Violence in our society sickens our soul almost every day: shooting incidents at schools and even at churches.
Many people already see the downfall of America, not just economically, socially, and even as a nation. A year ago, 68% of Americans thought that our nation was headed in the wrong direction (Bloomberg News National Poll, Sept. 20-23, 2013). This year, another poll by NBC News/Wall Street Journal (July 30-August 4, 2014) said that 71 percent thought that the country was on the wrong track.
Frank Bruni, columnist for New York Times, in his recent article “Lost in America” (August 25, 2014) wrote. After stating that Americans were apprehensive about their direction and hungry for hope yet don’t find it on the menu, he asked, “But to what or whom can Americans turn?” The government? Bruni doubts it. “A Gallup poll in late June that showed that Americans’ faith in each of the three branches had dropped to what he called “near record lows,” with only 30 percent expressing confidence in the Supreme Court, 29 percent in the presidency and 7 percent in Congress.” He concludes saying, “…this isn’t just about the economy. It’s about fear. It’s about impotence. We can’t calm the world in the way we’d like to, can’t find common ground and peace at home, can’t pass needed laws, can’t build necessary infrastructure, can’t, can’t, can’t. In the Journal/NBC poll, 60 percent of Americans said that we were a nation in decline. How sad. Sadder still was this: Nowhere in the survey was there any indication that they saw a method or a messenger poised to arrest it” (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/26/opinion/frank-bruni-lost-in-america.html).
Bruni doesn’t see any hope. Neither does he point out any solution. Just frustration on the direction we are going.
Let me tell you what is wrong with our country: forsaking God and His commandments and ordinances. Pushing God out from every arena of our society: government, military, business, schools, and homes. As long as we do it corporately, our nation will decline. Listen to George Washington, who must have foreseen it coming many years ago and gave us a warning in his inaugural speech: “We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained” (April 30, 1789).
America today is very much like the time of Elijah. By the time of Elijah, in Israel, there were many altars to idols; they tore down altars to God everywhere that the Prophet was afraid that he was the only one left (e.g. At Mountain Carmel, he encountered against 850 prophets of idols (1 Kings 18:19, 450 of Baal, 400 of Asherah). He said to God: 3 “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 4 But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal” (Romans 11:3-4).
Folks, don’t despair. We have an answer. We have hope. Not the hope in any human beings or government, but in God the LORD Almighty. Bring God in. Let us listen to Him. Tear down the idols. That must begin with God’s people. It must begin with ourselves: “and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NASB). The healing of our land depends on us and begins with us.
It is time that we paid attention to Daniel’s prayer. In the face of national collapse and calamity, Daniel teaches us to do the following: 1. Seek God through prayer and petitions 2. Confess our nation’s sins. 3. Ask for forgiveness. 4. Seek God’s favor on behalf of America by turning from iniquity and give attention to God’s truth.
Beware of the consequences of idolatry: you begin with God alone at first. Then, you sneak in one idol, and start worshiping it alongside God. It looks harmless at first. You add another idol later. As the number of idols increases, you eventually keep the idols and reject God and His commandments. That’s what happened to Israel. That was the cause of their downfall.
That’s what’s happening in America. We started as a godly nation whose foundation was God the Almighty. We began to sneak in one idol after another. In the past fifty years, the signs of rejecting God in our society become more visible. More daring attacks to tear down the altars to God are being made: God’s name is blasphemed; His Church and God’s commandments are dismissed by our leaders and people. Remember America is not even 250 years old yet. Remember those kingdoms with all God’s favor on them didn’t get spared from God’s wrath. We must not repeat the same mistake twice. We must begin with us. Seek God. Pray. Confess. Ask for forgiveness. Turn from iniquity. Give attention to God’s truth. Then, only then, God will heal our land. Amen.