Sacrificing to the Goat-Demons
Lev. 17:6 The priest shall dash the blood against the altar of the LORD at the entrance of the tent of meeting, and turn the fat into smoke as a pleasing odor to the LORD,
Lev. 17:7 so that they may no longer offer their sacrifices for goat-demons, to whom they prostitute themselves. This shall be a statute forever to them throughout their generations.
The Israelites had been rescued from the Egyptians by God. They had watched the Egyptian army be swallowed up by the sea. They had seen Moses go up into the mountain to spend time alone with God and they had already gotten into trouble for worshipping the golden calf. You would think that they had let go of the past and were willing to be faithful to the God who had rescued them and was providing food for them on a daily basis. And yet, here in the midst of the instructions given to God’s people he has to tell them how to worship him instead of sacrificing to the goat-demons with whom they had “gone a whoring.” (KJV)
Who were the goat-demons? Clarke’s commentary tells us:
“The famous heathen god, Pan, was represented as having the posteriors, horns, and ears of a goat; and the Mendesians, a people of Egypt, had a deity which they worshipped under this form. Herodotus says that all goats were worshipped in Egypt, but the he-goat particularly.”
In other words, these people were still worshipping the idols of Egypt, including this practice of the worship of Pan. Not only did they worship him, but this concept of prostituting themselves before him went beyond simple infidelity in relation to God. In Egypt women were literally prostituted with goats in a style of worship of goat-worship, and now, imagine how contemptible this practice was in the eyes of God. And it must have been on-going in the midst of God’s own people.
When I read this it becomes almost beyond my comprehension that the Israelites could have continued in this type of behavior. I am also stunned at the benevolence of God who was watching it happen and yet provided an out for them. He loved them that much that he kept reaching out and trying to make a difference in their lives.
Do we hold onto the past and bring things that have been dear to us right into the midst of our God worship? No, we probably don’t worship Pan, but what do we worship? You see, the Israelites just couldn’t give it all up. There were certain things that brought about a sense of security for them and they were putting their trust in the past. Even when the past was unpleasant, there was a sense of routine or regularity to the past that made it attractive.
There may be times that old habits seem to give us a sense of security. When it comes to following Jesus, we just don’t want to give those things up! However, when it does come to following Jesus we are to be sold out to him 100%. There is no holding onto the things of the past, we must follow the route that God has laid before us. The past led to destruction for the Israelites and it will do the same to you and to me. Instead, we must fix our eyes on the Lord and only on him. There can be no worshiping the things of the world, only a pure and genuine worship of him.
Our loving God is reaching out to us and making it possible for us to be in a deeply personal relationship with him. His very presence was visible to the children of Israel! He has sent the Holy Spirit to be our comforter, advocate and counselor here in our presence. While God is reaching out to us, we shouldn’t go “a whoring” with other gods. Sadly, there are times that we do when we ignore him and what he has done for us in our midst and we publicly worship the idols of our past, or of self-centeredness.
There can be no goat-worship among God’s people.
Lord, may we be faithful to you today. Amen.