There was in OT times something known as an Ashera pole. It was a pole made that incorporated idol worship. The Lord brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and warned them not to adopt the Caanenite practices but to drive them entirely out with their idols and “Ashera poles”
Now let’s imagine for a second, God throughout the Bible is very clear he hates idol worship. The worship and trust of anything other then Him and elevating it to a place of god. That angers God probably just as much as if you found out, a person you were commited to and loved and were in a relationship with had a side little fiasco going on. What if you found out your wife had been smooching another man, or had set up a stripping pole in your living room? Or what if she was running a little prostitution business and this was going on in your room? This is a human metaphore for a much more broadscale spiritual lesson- Human beings and their sin and idols, provoke the Lord to great anger and cause His heart grief!
These people gave God grief upon grief and provoked him to anger. A lot of people say, “Well, God just seemed so angry in the Old Testament” but consider the analogy above. These promiscuous people God saved out of Egyptian oppression had a long history of forsaking God and his laws and whoring themselves with gods of the other nations. God gave them time to change their ways and number of times handed them over to their enemies saying
—-After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord. Because they had been unfaithful to the Lord, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem in the fifth year of King Rehoboam. With twelve hundred chariots and sixty thousand horsemen and the innumerable troops of Libyans, Sukkites and Cushites that came with him from Egypt, he captured the fortified cities of Judah and came as far as Jerusalem. Then the prophet Shemaiah came to Rehoboam and to the leaders of Judah who had assembled in Jerusalem for fear of Shishak, and he said to them, “This is what the Lord says, ‘You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak.’” The leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is just.” When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak. They will, however, become subject to him, so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands.” (2 Chronicles 12:1-8)
Earlier on also in Judges we see a pattern:
——Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them. They aroused the Lord ’s anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. In his anger against Israel the Lord gave them into the hands of raiders who plundered them. He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist. Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them, just as he had sworn to them. They were in great distress. Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. They quickly turned from the ways of their ancestors, who had been obedient to the Lord’s commands. Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord relented because of their groaning under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their ancestors, following other gods and serving and worshiping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant I ordained for their ancestors and has not listened to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died. I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep the way of the Lord and walk in it as their ancestors did.” The Lord had allowed those nations to remain; he did not drive them out at once by giving them into the hands of Joshua. (Judges 2:11-23)
1.) God had been good to them, saved them from the Egyptian oppression hundreds of years before. He gave them a land that was good and they repaid him by ditching the relationship and running to the arms of idols and other gods. So they first of were unfaithfully paying God back with evil for the good that he did for them.
[So human nature- lets all be honest and own we have wicked tendencies as such if we let our sinful nature truly call the shots]
2.) They not only repaid God with evil, but that evil led them to idol worship and choosing things that were useless hunks of metal, wood, stone and wood to bow down to. (Note, many in our times may not worship literal idols but in the West, people do so much evil for green paper as one example. Our culture places more value on physical appearence and looking good then character so often. People worship many gods, self being often number one and many in our nation have forsaken the Laws of the Lord, (Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.) Pride becomes a little god people elevate and set shrines for themselves to worship self. God hates pride as much as literal idol worship. Pride says “I am the best, I do not need anyone or God, I am most important and with my might and right hand make things happen. My will be done!”
Now lets look at a character in 1 Kings, he was quite a pole dancer —-
Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him. (1 Kings 16:33 -)
Ole Ahab was not a good guy. He was actually one, if not the most wicked of kings Israel had. One incident that truly sealed Ahab and his wife queen Jezebel’s fate was Ahab came across a vinyard he coveted that belonged to Nabal. Nabal would not sell it to him because he was commanded by God not to. So Ahab pouted over it. His wife Jezebel took notice and seemingly was the one who wore the belt in that relationship. As wicked as Ahab was, Jezebel was even more dasterdly I would say and had him under her pinky.
——His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?” He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned to death.” As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’” Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’ “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.” (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.) When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”
(1 Kings 21:5-29 -)
There seemed to temporarily be hope for this evil king and he humbled himself and seemingly repented. Yet unfortunately Abab shows throughout his story that it was not lasting. The good news is true repentence and turning to Jesus Christ can remove our sins as far as the “east from the west” yet we must truly surrender, not partial like Ahab who eventually died for his sin.
The Israelites also kept on in sin too—
—-They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger. (2 Kings 17:16-17)
“sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.”
Eventually God had had enough, and the Babylonians were sent against them and destroyed their city and deported them into a foreign land to serve them for 70 years. This was a very unpleasant time for the nation and the prophet Jeremiah who prophesied this would happen spoke the word of the Lord
This is what the Lord says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord , “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Jeremiah 29:10-14 –
This was both a message of certain judgement but also hope. It left the opportunity for these people to repent and still receive God’s forgiveness and restoration.
1.) The seventy years was set- often when people sin and the consequences come, they wonder why if they repented why they are still stuck in an unpleasant spot. Yet, there are consequences that often remain though forgiveness is certain when we turn back to the Lord and forsake our sins. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” This is guarantee for the believer that blows it and confesses “Agrees with the Lord his or her sin is sin and they did wrong” This is true for a non Christian who turns to Christ for forgiveness also “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved” and when someone believes the Gospel, and seees their need to be forgiven of sin and rebellion toward God, Christ saves them when they trust His sacrifice on the cross and raising from the dead to bring then cleansing and forgiveness. We as a result are called to follow!
It mean the consequences magically are erased. Yet, there is hope, when we turn back to the Lord and resume following him wholeheartedly, he can bring good out of even our failures!
Some may read this tonight and feel it speaking to them, yet I want to encourage anyone who does read this to turn to the Lord and not let guilt or feelings of unworthiness keep you from Him. The Word of God says “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23
No one of us is worthy of God. None of us can earn salvation or the love of God. Yet “God demonstrated his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)
God’s love welcomes us to come even though we are aweful left to ourselves, unfaithful and have sinned. His love wants to still save us and welcome us back!