2008-07-26 - Morning Baal Worship
Judges 6:28, When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah (plantation of young trees) which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built.
The above verse is part of the fascinating story of Gideon, who, by God's power, won a marvelous victory over the Mideanites with only 300 men. When the Lord is on our side, where is the difficulty? I can do all things through Him who strengthens me, Philippians 4:13. Prior to the Lord's great victory through Gideon, we have the calling out, by God, of Gideon from a low position in society to that of a military general. Most of us know the account of the putting out of the fleece twice by Gideon, but just before this, we have the interesting account of Gideon destroying the altar of Baal. We might be prone to pass over this passage in our Bible reading and study, but there are insights we can gain from Gideon destroying Baal's altar. There is at least one in the verse we started with.
The term Baal means Lord or Husband. It was the principal name used in male idols of the east, as Ashtaroth (Don't confuse Ashtaroth with Asherah, which is in the verse we started with - they are not the same thing.) was the common name for female deities. The Moabites, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and sadly often the Israelites worshipped Baal. Abominations of every kind were part of the worship of Baal. Altars were erected to him in groves, or as our verse says, an Asherah. An Asherah was a grove of young trees where Baal was worshipped. The Moabites worshipped Baal before the time of Moses, but the Israelites began to worship Baal as early as Numbers 22:41. We see them worshipping Baal in the book of Joshua, and here and other places in the book of Judges. The prophet Samuel seems to have eliminated the worship of Baal in 1 Samuel 7:4, but about 200 years later, this worship was again found in Israel. This is about the time we have the well-known account of Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-46).
The above is a short account or history of Baal worship in Scripture, and it is by no means complete. What do we see in this verse reproduced today? We see that the men of the city rose early in the morning, to go to the grove where the Baal idol was, and to worship. They began their day with their false god. The rose early in the day, so that they might spend time with a piece of wood, carved by human hands, which they had made into an object of veneration. This is to the shame of many of us who do not rise early in the morning to worship the living God. How many of us begin the day with no prayer to Him, no time spent in His precious Word, maybe even not even a passing thought of the One whom we will live this day, and every day, in the presence of? It is to our shame, because we see here in this passage that idol worshippers rise early to worship wood. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Hebrews 2:3.
I don't generally give applications in these devotionals, but today I would like to make a suggestion to those of you who struggle to spend time with the Lord, and have regular personal - private times in Scripture and prayer. I suggest that you start small. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than it is currently set, and use that time to read a chapter of the Bible and pray. Start with Psalm 1 or Galatians 1 or John 1, and just do a chapter a day. Keep a small prayer list of three things you would like to start the day praying about. Begin the habit, and I suspect you will see it make a difference in your life, and that habit will, I have no doubt, grow - and your life will be the better for it.
Soli Deo Gloria,