“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
How much more plainly could God put it? He’s God. Period. Don’t serve or worship or exalt anyone or anything else. Just don’t do it! This is one of the most clearly stated commands we’re given. He even goes to great lengths to explain all the things we’re not supposed to do and the reason for the command.
Yet there is one name that keeps popping up: Ba’al.
It literally means “Lord,” similar to adonai or kyrios. Various deities were given the title “Ba’al” from Ur to Canaan to Carthage. A quick word search through the NIV shows the name “Ba’al” in its various forms and contexts used 134 times from Genesis all the way to Romans.
Ba’al is hidden inside the name of Babylon (Ba-baal-on). The name was even tossed around during the time of Christ. The head of the demonic forces, according to the Jews, was Beelzebul, which means “Lord of the High Place,” or “High Lord.” But the Jews, clever with word plays, switched the name to Beelzebub, or “Lord of the Flies.”
Ba’al took on various forms and functions from place to place. In Canaan Ba’al was known as the God of Thunder, Rain, Weather, and Agriculture. Knowing this helps us understand the actions taken by YHWH through his prophet, Elijah, in 1 Kings 17-18.
Ahab married Jezebel, a woman that today’s rappers would write ugly songs about. She lured Ahab into Ba’al worship to the extent that Ahab built a temple and an altar to Ba’al in the capital city. Elijah says don’t do it. Ahab says I’m gonna. Elijah says stop it. Ahab says make me. Elijah says okay.
So Elijah prays to YHWH, not Ba’al, and God withholds rain for three years. Ba’al is powerless to do anything about it. The ground dries up. Crops fail. The economy collapses. People suffer. But YHWH, not Ba’al, provides for his people.
That leads up to the famous showdown on Mt. Carmel. Two altars, two bulls, two deities, only one pillar of all-consuming fire.
God wins. YHWH is Lord.
Ba’al should have bit the dust. Word should have spread that Ba’al is utterly powerless. All his worshipers and prophets should have raised the white flag and turned to YHWH.
So if God could display his supreme power over all other gods, then why are false gods still being worshiped long after the BC-AD switch over??
I think it’s because idols and other gods are things we think we can control. We make up these gods and then think we can manipulate them into giving us what we want.
We create the iPhone and think that if we just use it correctly then it will bring us a sense of connection, fulfillment, entertainment, and efficiency.
We create cosmetic procedures and think that if we just get the right surgeon with the latest techniques we can turn back the clock on the aging process.
We create capitalism and believe that if we just use the system, invest here, spend there, sell that, buy this, then we will somehow come out on top.
We create social environments in which we put on our best show in order to gain acceptance and validation from those around us.
We create Ba’als in our image, and then they turn around and shape us into theirs. We become tools of our tools. We surrender power to that which we created to give us power. This is a miserable way to live!
River vs. iPhone – who wins?
Tornado vs. Mansion
Gravity vs. Cosmetic surgery
Death vs. Doctor
Time vs. Money
God wins. He won in Genesis, he won in 1 Kings, he wins in Revelation, and he still wins today. Everything you own will eventually end up in a land fill. You body will die and return to the earth.
So if your Ba’al is god, then worship him/it. But if YHWH is God, then worship him (1 Kings 18:21).