Does God Accept Every Kind of Worship?
GOD created man with a spiritual need—a need to worship. It is not something that evolved. It was a part of man from the beginning.
Sadly, however, mankind has developed many different ways of worship, and for the most part, these have not produced a happy, united human family. Instead, bloody wars are still being fought in the name of religion. This raises the important question: Does it matter how a person worships God?
Questionable Worship in Ancient Times
The ancient nations who inhabited the Middle East provide a historical case that helps us to answer that question. Many worshiped a god called Baal. They also worshiped female companions of Baal, such as Asherah. The worship of Asherah involved the use of a sacred pole believed to be a sexual symbol. Archaeologists working in that region have dug up numerous images of nude women. These images, states The Encyclopedia of Religion, “feature a goddess with emphasized genitals, holding up her breasts,” and “probably represent . . . Asherah.” One thing is certain, Baal worship was often very immoral.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Baal worship included sex orgies. (Numbers 25:1-3) Shechem, a Canaanite, raped the young virgin Dinah. In spite of this, he was viewed as the most honorable man in his family. (Genesis 34:1, 2, 19) Incest, homosexuality, and bestiality were common. (Leviticus 18:6, 22-24, 27) The very word “sodomy,” a practice of homosexuals, comes from the name of a city that once existed in that part of the world. (Genesis 19:4, 5, 28) Baal worship also involved bloodshed. Why, Baal worshipers would throw their children alive into flaming fires as a sacrifice to their gods! (Jeremiah 19:5) All these practices were related to religious teachings. How so?
“The brutality, lust and abandon of Canaanite mythology,” explains Dr. Merrill Unger in his book Archaeology and the Old Testament, “is far worse than elsewhere in the Near East at the time. And the astounding characteristic of Canaanite deities, that they had no moral character whatever, must have brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time, such as sacred prostitution, [and] child sacrifice.”
Did God accept the worship of the Canaanites? Of course not. He taught the Israelites how to worship him in a pure way. Regarding the practices mentioned above, he warned: “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, because by all these things the nations whom I am sending out from before you have made themselves unclean. Consequently the land is unclean, and I shall bring punishment for its error upon it, and the land will vomit its inhabitants out.”—Leviticus 18:24, 25.
Pure Worship Becomes Contaminated
Many Israelites did not accept God’s view of pure worship. Instead, they allowed Baal worship to continue in their land. Soon the Israelites were seduced into trying to mix the worship of Jehovah with that of Baal. Did God accept this mixed kind of worship? Consider what happened during the reign of King Manasseh. He set up altars to Baal, burned his own son as a sacrifice, and practiced magic. “Further, he put the carved image of the sacred pole [ʼashe·rahʹ in Hebrew] that he had made in the house of which Jehovah had said . . . : ‘In this house . . . I shall put my name to time indefinite.’”—2 Kings 21:3-7.
Manasseh’s subjects followed the example of their king. In fact, he “kept seducing them to do what was bad more than the nations whom Jehovah had annihilated from before the sons of Israel.” (2 Kings 21:9) Instead of heeding the repeated warnings from God’s prophets, Manasseh committed murder to the extent of filling Jerusalem with innocent blood. Though Manasseh eventually reformed, his son and successor, King Amon, revived Baal worship.—2 Kings 21:16, 19, 20.
In time, male prostitutes began to operate in the temple. How did God view this expression of Baal worship? Through Moses, he had warned: “You must not bring the hire of a harlot or the price of a dog [likely a pederast] into the house of Jehovah your God for any vow, because they are something detestable to Jehovah your God, even both of them.”—Deuteronomy 23:17, 18, footnote.
Manasseh’s grandson, King Josiah, cleansed the temple of immoral Baal worship. (2 Kings 23:6, 7) But things had gone too far. Not too long after King Josiah’s death, idol worship was again taking place in Jehovah’s temple. (Ezekiel 8:3, 5-17) So Jehovah caused the king of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and its temple. This sad fact of history is proof that some forms of worship are not acceptable to God. What about our day?