If you’ve read through the Old Testament, you might remember references to the “high places.” A place where stones were stacked, poles stuck in the ground, statues raised, or sacrifices offered. These high places were well known, out in the open, places of worship. In most ancient religions, child sacrifice and sexual perversion were normal happenings at these high places.
When the children of Israel arrived in Canaan, God warned them to not get involved in these evil practices. Over and over again, He commanded them to tear down the “high places.” Today the practices may be different, but the heart is the same. Mankind continually seeks to live life his way, on his terms, fulfilling his desires.
In Asia, high up on the mountains, red ribbons and scraps of paper are tied to trees, with the hopes that prayers will be heard. Mounds of rocks are stacked high, each rock representing a prayer, a hope, a petition to some unknown, unhearing being.
Often as westerners, we pat ourselves on the back and say, “Good job. We may not be perfect, but at least we don’t have statues and prayer mounds.” But, the church of the west is far from blameless. Rather than open to public scrutiny, we hide the high places in our lives.
Just like the children of Israel, we fail to worship God and Him alone. We fail to remove destructive habits, temptation, and full blown sin from our lives. We have become content and comfortable being “half-way” Christians. Even worse, we’ve convinced ourselves that God is “ok” with our lifestyle, with our choices. We’ve bought the lie that God is happy if we are happy.
God is unchanging. Yes, He is always love. Love greater than any you have ever experienced or can comprehend. Love seen in every act of creation. Demonstrated by death on a cross. Unfailing love which pursues us. Even unbelievers know and cling to the claim, “God is love.”
But God is not a one dimensional character in a book. He is Life. He is Creator. He is Father. He is Healer. He is Righteous. He is Judge. He is Truth. He is Love. He is Jealous.
As the Israelites were preparing to move into Canaan, God said, “Watch yourself that you make no covenant with the inhabitants of the land into which you are going, lest it become a snare in your midst. But rather, you are to tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and cut down their Asherim, for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
God is unchanging. Our Creator, our Lord is jealous for our worship. He is jealous for our hearts. He is jealous for adoration. God knows how easily we fall into sin. King David says it this way, “You have searched me and known me. You scrutinize my path and are intimately acquainted with all my ways.” Because He knows us, He gives us instructions to stay away from those things which continually make us fall.
Its easy to look back thousands of years, and think, “Those foolish Israelites. They just kept falling back into the same sin over and over again.” Yet, I am no different. When I fail to worship God, and God alone, I fall, too. When I ignore the sin around me and invite it into my home, whether by the front door, tv, or internet, I fall. What sin, what thought processes, what habit, what aspect of my life, am I allowing to flourish? Many times I sit, hoping God will change his mind and deem certain sins as permissible because then I wouldn’t have to change.
But God is holy, unchanging. I don’t want to serve Him out of fear or only out of duty, but I do need understand who He is and that He HATES sin. Merciful and forgiving? Yes, but He desires to be so much more in my life. He desires to walk through life with me, teaching me about Himself. He desires an abundant life for me, not one where the chains of sin impede movement. He desires to give good gifts not punishment.
How many times have I chosen my culture, my opinions, my desires, my sense of etiquette or right and wrong rather than submitting to God’s desire and plan? How many times have I accepted the lifestyle and culture around me rather than standing firm in my choices? How often does my Father forgive my slight indulgences and my overt disobedience? Again and again and again. Thank goodness, He is slow to anger and He’s love is far reaching.
Walking through the hills and seeing those piles of stones, my heart aches. I know each rock represents many who are lost and desperately need to know Jesus’s saving grace. But, they also represent the hidden high places in my own heart. A reminder that I, too, am in need of a Savior.