Things That God Hates
Deut. 16:21 You shall not plant any tree as a sacred pole beside the altar that you make for the LORD your God; 22 nor shall you set up a stone pillar—things that the LORD your God hates.
God hates it when other gods are placed before him and this was a constant and on-going struggle for the Israelites. He had to spell it out for them — stop doing the things that the pagan world around you likes to do!
In trying to “fit in” with their neighbors they thought they might adopt some of their practices, mixed in with what the LORD was commanding them. The neighbors would plant a tree around or near the sacred altar to worship Ashera. These were the Ashera poles or trees. Sometimes an entire grove of trees would be planted around the altar, and this might be for the altar to be hidden and also so that impure sexual acts might be done in the presence of the altar as a form of worship.
Not only was worship of Ashera prohibited, so was the worship of Baal. Often in Baal worship stelae or stone pillars were erected, possibly to signify the visitation of a god.
Worship of God was not to resemble any kind of pagan worship. It was to be done out in the open, in public — nothing hidden from view! Divine worship was to be for the edification of all. Obstructing the worship of the LORD with things of the world, or trying to look like the world was offensive to God and this was made known to the people in the clearest of language. This is what God hated!
This language of hate is pretty powerful. If we were to place this into our contemporary context, what is it that God might hate?
What is it that we have placed around our worship that makes it look more like the world? This may not be something physical that we have placed around the church, but I’m thinking it may be something along the lines of the priorities which we have placed around the worship of God. I think our calendar may say more about what we’ve placed near or around worship than what happens in the church building.
Have I set up Ashera poles or a grove of trees around my altar to the extent that no one sees my worship? Sundays have suddenly become filled with all the things that our neighbors down the street do on the Lord's day. There is no clear path to the altar because it is obscured with sports and brunch and other quite lovely activities, but the worship of God has become hidden. It may still be there, but it is hidden in among the things that make us fit in with the world around us.
Worship of God is to be unobstructed and our lifestyles are to be a living testimony of our love for him. In this way our lifestyle of worship before God becomes edifying to all who are around us. God hates anything short of this vision for the people of God.
Lord, please help me keep my life and worship uncluttered. Amen.