Shun the Snare of Creature Worship!
BY INSTINCT and by nature, human creatures desire to worship and reverence someone they consider higher or mightier than themselves. “There be gods many, and lords many.” Hero worship is a common practice throughout the world, among all races and people. The Chinese worship their ancestors; the Communists their dictators; the “bobby-soxers” their crooners. The idolizing and worshiping of creatures take on other forms too, for, instead of exalting someone else, certain individuals place themselves on a pedestal to be looked up to and admired. With others “their god is their belly”.—1 Cor. 8:5; Phil. 3:19, NW.
Satan the Devil was at one time a heavenly cherub exceedingly glorious and beautiful in perfection. But, becoming conceited and puffed up in his own estimation, and desiring that men and angels worship him rather than Jehovah God, he rebelled against God and misled Eve into sin and induced Adam to fall. (Ezek. 28:17) Since that rebellion millenniums ago, this presumptuous and wicked one has used every device to turn men from their Creator. If the Devil cannot have creatures laud him directly, he tries to turn their praise toward other creatures, that they may forget the only Source of life.
Thus it was that Satan raised up Nimrod as a glorified killer of animals, a sportsman and hero extraordinary, whom the people deified and worshiped as “a mighty hunter before [against or ahead of] Jehovah”. (Gen. 10:8, 9, AS; Ro) That was the beginning of not only hero worship but also the doctrine of the “divine right of kings”, and many other forms of idolatry which are still in vogue both in heathendom and in Christendom. It is therefore understandable why Jehovah God, upon separating the Israelites from the creature-worshiping nations to be a holy nation exclusively devoted to His pure worship, gave them these laws, the first two of a set of ten: “I am Jehovah thy God, . . . Thou shalt have no other gods before [like Nimrod, who was placed “before”] me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I Jehovah thy God am a jealous God.”—Ex. 20:2-5, AS.
The sad history of the nation of Israel, however, shows that time and time again that stiff-necked people violated these divine laws and fashioned themselves images of various beastly creatures which they idolized and worshiped. It was not long after leaving the bull-worshiping land of Egypt that the Israelites made for themselves a molten calf out of gold and offered sacrifices to it as if it were God. (Ex. 32:1-35) Such type of creature worship was also the “sin of Samaria”, instituted by Jeroboam, the son of Solomon, when he split off and formed the ten-tribe kingdom. In order to prevent these Israelites from going up to Jerusalem to worship at the temple of Jehovah, Jeroboam set up two golden calves to which the people were to offer sacrifices and prayers.—1 Ki. 12:25-33; Hos. 8:4-7; Amos 8:11-14.
DIRE CONSEQUENCE OF EXALTING SELF
Satan the Devil also caused ambitious, self-important and high-minded individuals among the Israelites to forget God’s fundamental laws prohibiting creature worship, and as a result frightful consequences fell upon them. Miriam and Aaron sought to exalt themselves, but suffered abasement. (Num. 12:1-15, AS) Some time later Korah, together with Dathan and Abiram, gathered two hundred and fifty princes and men of renown together in open rebellion against Moses. Thinking their assigned privileges of tabernacle service in the theocratic arrangement were too menial, and craving more honor and praise and glory, they conspired to seize the authority delegated to Moses and Aaron. In one great engulfing catastrophe the ground beneath them simply opened “and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods”. “And fire came forth from Jehovah, and devoured the two hundred and fifty men that offered the incense.”—Num. 16:1-35, AS.
Israel’s first king, Saul, was another who fell into the devilish snare of worshiping self. Setting up one’s own will above and in rebellion against the will of God, and stubbornly going one’s own way and following one’s own pleasures and desires, is nothing more than making an idol of self. It is putting the creature above the Creator. Now Saul was such a person, and for that reason Jehovah God rejected him. “Samuel said, Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt-offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of Jehovah? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry.”—1 Sam. 15:22-24, AS.
Greed and covetousness are manifestations of selfishness, a form of making an idol of self, and hence are condemned in the Scriptures as idolatry. “Deaden, therefore, your body members which are upon the earth as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and COVETOUSNESS, WHICH IS IDOLATRY.” “Let fornication and uncleanness of every kind or greediness [’covetousness,’ margin] not even be mentioned among you, just as it befits holy people. For you know this, recognizing it for yourselves, that no fornicator or unclean person or GREEDY PERSON—WHICH MEANS BEING AN IDOLATER—has any inheritance in the kingdom of the Christ and of God.” (Col. 3:5; Eph. 5:3, 5, NW) Heed this warning: “Flee from idolatry,” every form of it, for “those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom”.—1 Cor. 10:14; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 John 5:21, NW.
The record of wicked Haman the Agagite also serves as good counsel. This veritable impersonator of the Devil, and a most vain and conceited self-made idol, rose and fell from his perch in the fifth century before Christ. All the servants of the Persian king Ahasuerus “bowed down, and did reverence to Haman”—all the servants except one, Mordecai, a true Jew who faithfully worshiped only Jehovah the Most High. Now Haman was an overweening braggart of the worst sort, boasting before his wife and friends of “the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him”. But such availed Haman nothing as long as Mordecai refused to grovel in the dirt when he passed by. In the end, Haman was hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai, but faithful Mordecai was exalted to a position next to the king himself.—Esther, chapters 3 to 10, AS.
EXAMPLES SET BY CHRIST AND APOSTLES
The example to follow is Christ Jesus. At the outset of his ministry the “Devil took him along to an unusually high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to him: ‘All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.’ Then Jesus said to him: ‘Go away, Satan! For it is written, “It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.”’”—Matt. 4:8-10, NW.
Jesus was not covetous during his prehuman existence as the Logos, for “although he was existing in God’s form, [he] gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God. No, but he emptied himself and took a slave’s form and came to be in the likeness of men. More than that, when he found himself in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake”. (Phil. 2:6-8, NW) “Obedient” at all times! Unlike the Devil, Korah, Saul and other rebels, Jesus was not self-willed; to Jehovah he said, “not as I will, but as you will.” (Ps. 40:7, 8; Matt. 26:39, 42, 44; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38) Jesus was not greedy for power, position or prestige. He refused to become a man-made king, and when it was his Father’s due time for him to present himself as Jehovah’s king, he did so with the greatest meekness and humility. (John 6:15; Zech. 9:9, LXX; Matt. 21:4, 5) When the people attempted to show reverence and honor to Jesus by calling him “good”, he rebuked them, saying such titles belong to God.—Luke 18:18, 19.
Jesus also instructed his disciples that they too should avoid exalting self or other creatures. “Do not you be called ‘Rabbi’ [”My great one; My excellent one”], for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for One is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders’, for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister [servant]. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:8-12, NW) Thus we see Jesus echoed the truthful words of Elihu, who declared: “Let me not, I pray you, respect any man’s person; neither will I give flattering titles unto any man. For I know not to give flattering titles; else would my Maker soon take me away.”—Job 32:21, 22, AS.
Some time later the apostle Peter was privileged to be the first to take the Kingdom message to the Gentiles, but he did not take credit to himself because of that or allow them to worship him. “As Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet and did obeisance to him. But Peter lifted him up, saying: ‘Rise; I myself am also a man.’”—Acts 10:25, 26, NW.
Again, we read how Paul and Barnabas cured a lame man among the pagans of Lystra, and immediately the crowd shouted: “The gods have become like men and have come down to us!” They called Paul “Hermes” and Barnabas “Zeus”, and they would have offered bulls in sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas, had these not vehemently protested: “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are human creatures having the same infirmities as you do, and are declaring the good news to you, for you to turn from these vain things to the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all the things in them.” (Acts 14:8-15, NW) Paul and Barnabas were well aware of what had just happened to wicked old Herod; for, when that boaster was delivering a public address, “the assembled people began shouting: ‘A god’s voice, and not a man’s!’ Instantly the angel of Jehovah struck him, because he did not give the glory to God; and he became eaten up with worms and expired.”—Acts 12:21-23, NW.
THEOCRACY KEEPS CLEAN OF IDOLATRY
Christendom is full of every form of creature worship. Like the ancient Pharisees that craved the most prominent places in the public eye, so also have the modern-day clergy by their dress and conduct. Ambitious for a following, with ears itching for the plaudits of men, they have brought in hundreds of sects and cults, and by replacing the Bible with the commandments of men they cause the credulous people to worship multitudes of idols. They have canonized a host of dead men as “saints”, declared a human creature to be the “mother of God”, and to these the people pray. Leaders like Luther, Wesley, Calvin, etc., are hallowed and their names are engraved on monuments, plaques and shrines as a memorial. “Empty-headed,” they have “exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created.”—Ps. 96:5; Matt. 23:2-7; 2 Pet. 2:1; Rom. 1:21-25, NW.
But all such demonic practices are entirely foreign to the clean theocratic organization. Among true Christians there cannot be divisive sects, one saying he belongs to Apollos, another to Cephas, another to Paul, another to this or that man. Christ is not divided, and neither is God’s organization. “Let no one be boasting in men.” (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:3, 4, 21-23, NW) It is not even lawful to worship angels, and when holy men of God tried to do so in times past they were told: “Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave . . . Worship God.” The angels that appeared to Jacob and the parents of Samson would not allow those people to worship them either.—Rev. 19:10; 22:8, 9, NW; Gen. 32:29; Judg. 13:15-18.
A mild yet subtle form of idolatry that must be guarded against is the practice some make of applauding excessively when their favorite speaker or some prominent individual among the Lord’s people addresses an assembly. The mere stepping of this individual upon the platform sometimes brings a round of applause. If this person gives a poor talk and receives a maximum ovation, yet a little-known speaker gives an excellent talk and receives a minimum applause, is this not a step toward creature worship? If the applause is given for what is said and not for who says it, then it is given to the Author of the message, Jehovah God; and that is the way it should be.
Yes, human creatures are made with a desire to worship something, so why should they not worship ‘him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea’, Jehovah God? The fear and reverence of creatures leads into a snare, but “the fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom”. (Rev. 14:7; Prov. 29:25; Ps. 111:10, AS) Hence creatures should not be wise in their own eyes. They should not be “measuring themselves by themselves” or “comparing themselves with themselves”. For “if anyone imagines he is somebody, he is deceiving himself, for he is nobody”. If anyone must boast, therefore, “let him boast in Jehovah,” for, of a truth, “not the one who recommends himself is approved, but the man whom Jehovah recommends.” (Prov. 3:7; Rom. 12:16; Gal. 6:3, Mo; 2 Cor. 10:12, 17, 18, NW) Consequently, wise men, mighty men, or rich men should not glory in their wisdom, might or riches. Rather, “let him that glorieth glory in this, that he hath understanding, and knoweth me, that I am Jehovah.”—Jer. 9:23, 24, AS.