Today’s Old Testament lesson (2 Kings 21:1-18) gives us a quick overview of Manasseh’s reign as king of Judah…and a rather disappointing reign it is. Unlike his father Hezekiah, who launched a revival during his years on the throne, Manasseh’s tenure is one long string of sins and detestable practices. But at the center of his wayward behavior, there stands the decision to bring idols into the Temple of the LORD. Several times we’re told:
- “He built altars in the temple of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, ‘In Jerusalem I will put my Name.'” (v. 4)
- “In the two courts of the temple of the LORD, he built altars to all the starry hosts.” (v. 5)
- “He took the carved Asherah pole he had made and put it in the temple, of which the LORD had said…’In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever.'” (v. 7)
Of course, looking at a story like this from the “safe distance” of many years and a radically different culture, it’s easy for us to wonder how anyone could be so foolish as to bring idols into the holy place of God…unless we remember:
- That “idols” need not be carved statues, but can instead be any object/cause/goal that displaces God as the true center of our devotion and loyalty; and
- That “the temple” these days is not necessarily a church building, but is instead our own heart and our own faith community. As Paul tells the church at Corinth: “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)
Seen from this vantage point, bringing “idols into the place of the Name” is an all-too-present danger. After all, how often are we tempted (both as individuals and as bodies of believers) to take the good gifts of God (certain blessings, certain beliefs, certain “causes”) and make of them objects of devotion that end up competing with God Himself for our love and attention?
What are we bringing into our hearts today? Let’s eagerly remove anything that would compete with the LORD for our wholehearted devotion; and in so doing, may we – like living stones – be built into a spiritual house that becomes a suitable dwelling for the Name above all names.