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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Fouts

Biblical Idolatry: From II Kings 18 to II Timothy 3

One thing that will be sure to evoke a response from someone is Scripture. Whether done online, while speaking, or in one-on-one conversation, Scripture will always get a response. That response is oftentimes unpredictable & will vary from person to person. It is the only thing I have ever seen that will produce accusations of overuse & underuse from the same post or message.

Why this is this case is largely due to the paradigm of teachings we see on what Scripture is, and the prevalence of both extreme viewpoints on this scale.

Everyone in some fashion is familiar with one of these extremes in particular even if you don’t hold or don’t know anyone who holds that particular view. Scripture being seen as just an old book of Wisdom is one that those of us who grew up in evangelicalism were warned of. It’s presented as a lie of the World, Satan’s deception to cause us to backslide. But the other side of the paradigm is possibly more common than this, and many are unaware that it’s even a possibility.


SCRIPTURE AS AN IDOL.

The moment you suggest that someone has an idol, the immediate response is going to be denial 99% of the time. This is not surprising, the majority of the time we don’t realize we are actively worshipping something until it is shown to us. But when you suggest that that idol of worship is Scripture, the response becomes increasingly more defensive, even to the point of accusations of apostasy being thrown back. How can Scripture be an idol? To answer that we need to first look at what it actually is.


II Timothy 3:14-17

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.


Scripture is inspired by God, profitable for teaching, profitable for rebuke, profitable for correction, and profitable for training in righteousness, equipping us for our work. It is Christocentric, providing us with the wisdom that leads us to salvation in Christ. It is what Paul says he has clung to in the midst of his trials of persecution, and the message that he preached that caused him the persecution in the first place. Simply put, Scripture is a tool. A tool that the Spirit has produced for our benefit and our use in proclaiming Christ. So again, the question that comes up is how, if we believe it is what we just said it is, can it be an idol? How can something produced from the Spirit for our Salvation be an idol?


II Kings 18

Within the Chronicles of the Kings, we find the stories of 19 kings in Judah after Solomon dies & the kingdom is divided. In the opening summary of these king’s stories, they are identified as doing either evil or good in God’s sight. and one of the main focuses of this determination was the approach of the king towards idolatry. Of the 19, 11 of these kings are described as doing evil, many of the kings not only encouraged the idolatry but participated in it themselves. The good kings on the other hand were characterized as attempting to follow the law and many even attempted to remove idolatry from the land. Hezekiah was one of the good kings of Judah, and more than that II Kings 18:5-6 Hezekiah is described in this manner:


5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord God of Israel; not one of the kings of Judah was like him, either before him or after him. 6 He remained faithful to Yahweh and did not turn from following Him but kept the commands the Lord had commanded Moses.


One of the key pieces to this distinction is the way that Hezekiah handled idolatry. As I said before, the majority of the good kings of Judah attempted to correct the idolatrous nature of the nation, but Hezekiah is described as finally removing ALL of the idols, including a very specific, idol described at the end of verse 4.


4b He broke into pieces the bronze snake that Moses made, for the Israelites burned incense to it up to that time. He called it Nehushtan.


This is the bronze serpent from Numbers 21, created by Moses to provide Salvation to the Hebrew people bitten by venomous snakes in the wilderness. These snakes were sent by God as punishment for the people’s discontent & blasphemy. The bronze serpent was set up on a pole in the middle of the camp, and whoever looked upon it was saved. Nehushtan, is also the Serpent referenced by Jesus in his talk with Nicodemus in John 3:14-15.


14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life.


The Nehushtan was a tool given by God, both for our physical benefit & to point to Salvation coming from God alone, and prophetically through Christ alone. Yet, 750 years later, the people are offering burnt offerings to the TOOL rather than the God that gave it to them. Sound familiar? Hezekiah recognized that the tool was just a tool. It had no power to save.


This is where we are now within American Evangelism. Scripture, a Christocentric tool from the Spirit for the equipping of the Church, has been prioritized in a way that it was never supposed to. In an attempt to honor God’s message, it is promoted as a god itself, equated with Jesus as it continues to be promoted over the very Spirit that inspired it. As a result, the Spirit is stifled, intentionally or not, and a weaponized message of abuse & oppression is presented as inerrant and infallible so that anyone who rebukes this message is ushered out of the assembly as an apostate that “denies Scripture.” Just as we see in II Kings, Satan is able to use the very tools God has ordained and given us to point to Christ, to instead point to our own desires, producing a culture of idolatry & abuse.


Scripture cannot save us, it provides us with the wisdom needed to see that Christ alone has that power. It cannot defend us from harm, but it can equip us to be prepared for the persecution that comes. It is a tool, that has become an idol, but unlike the Nehushtan, we can dismantle this idol without destroying it. We can put Scripture back in the place it belongs, sheathed in the belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:17), equipping us in our work, and providing us with the wisdom that leads to Salvation in Christ alone.

 

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