Ancient Innovators

 

1 Kings 3:2-4 Meanwhile the people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the LORD until those days. And Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places. Now the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place: Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.

Something is very striking about this passage. Solomon was no idolater. His worship was directed solely towards Yahweh, and Him alone. It is clearly stated: Solomon loved the LORD. In spite of all this, the Bible places the word ‘except’ in verse 3. The one exception to Solomon’s unspotted record was that he burned incense at the high places.

To whom did Solomon burn incense at the high places? Baal? Ashtoreth? Beelzebub? Dagon? No, Solomon clearly offered incense and sacrifices to no one except the true God of Israel – Yahweh.

Why then does the Bible say, ‘except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places’?

The answer is clear: ‘the high places’ were an innovation in worship. God had not instructed Israel to worship ‘at the high places’. This was instead a practice they had observed in the surrounding Canaanites.

Deuteronomy 12:2 “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. “And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place.  “You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things. “But you shall seek the place where the LORD your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go.

 

Once again, we see an Old Testament illustration of the Regulative principle. God does not appreciate innovations in worship. To adopt a pagan practice, and then ‘dedicate it to God’, ‘enlist it in God’s service’ is displeasing to the Lord. Particularly when He has instructed how, and in the case of Old Testament Israel – where, He wishes to be worshipped.

Israel no doubt thought that the direction or object of worship made the circumstances irrelevant. After all, why would God quibble over details like place and elevation when He is an omnipresent, invisible, all-knowing God? Surely the sincerity of the worshippers would turn those high places into places that God delighted in.

1 Kings 15:14  But the high places were not removed. Nevertheless Asa’s heart was loyal to the LORD all his days.

2 Kings 12:3 But the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.

2 Kings 15:3-4 And he did what was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done,  except that the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.

2 Kings 17:32 So they feared the LORD, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places.

2 Chronicles 33:17 Nevertheless the people still sacrificed on the high places, but only to the LORD their God.

Funny, God never seemed to get over it.

In fact, the reforms of Hezekiah and Josiah specifically targeted the destruction of the high places – even when these had been used to worship Jehovah.

Does God care about what we include in our corporate services? Does it matter if we innovate in worship? Is it not acceptable to use something of the world ‘for Jesus’? Does it ever offend God when we use the music, dance, or entertainment of pagans in His service?

Does God really ignore everything about our worship except motive?

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