In Israelite history, we find that the disobedience of King Solomon, the wisest, richest man who ever lived, resulted in the division of the nation into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. Israel quickly abandoned God, resorting to idol worship which set the course for its downfall, while Judah alternated between good kings (defined by their obedience to and public recognition of God) and bad kings (who followed the evils of idol worship). Every time Judah flipped from one to the other, the people emulated the king’s model. It has always perplexed me that the people turned so quickly from experiencing miracles and blessings in serving God to the evil of abandoning Him. Scripture repeatedly explains, “The high places were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers.” (2 Chronicles 20:33)
Could it be that our present day flip-flops and inconsistency of behavior are because we have not set our hearts on God? Most of us recognize idol worship as the most grievous action against God, and think of it in terms of worshiping Buddha, Allah, or some other false god. But isn’t an idol anything that is more important to us than God? Consider where we spend most of our time, resources, and/or thought-life; at what point do those things/people become idols? Jeremiah 17:9 is a huge wake-up call: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Because we can’t afford to be guilty of idol worship, we attempt to absolve our attitudes, words, and behaviors through redirecting to something or someone else.
In reality, we should be praising God for the high places in our lives, because their very existence exposes the presence of an idol, and that we are lying to ourselves about God being our Source and Priority. We must become willing to ask ourselves some hard questions. Is my kindness and generosity the high place of my goodness, the idol that replaces my righteousness in Christ only? Is my financial security the high place of my abilities/performance, minimizing God as my Provider? Are idols of prestige and influence worshipped at the high place of my self-esteem, thus establishing my identity apart from in-Christ-alone? Does my spouse or child occupy the throne of my heart on the high place of relationships? Does the high place of being in control of my life reveal I have placed myself on the throne? (uh-oh) The danger, in addition to displacing God Most High, is whatever is currently required to worship at these places will always demand more.
In the time of the kings, God was always looking for the one who was zealous enough for him to destroy the high places so that the people would return to the temple to worship Him. While it was a tremendous demonstration of honoring God, that action did not change the hearts of the people. Heart change occurs only when we realize how completely guilty we are, and how undeserving we are for Jesus to pay the price to clean up our mess. Only He can demolish our high places, freeing us from them. When He becomes our Priority, the Lord of our lives, high places become obsolete. Why would we ever rebuild what Jesus gave His life to tear down?