Holydaze – the Origins of the Holiday Season Part 7

by | Dec 30, 2020

hol·i·day  /ˈhäləˌdā/

Origin: Old English hāligdæg ‘holy day’

Removing the High Places

Temple of Baal in Syria
destroyed by ISIS (terrorist group) and restored in New York as a Unesco World Heritage site

While we are talking about pride, we should address another
parable in the Old Testament. There were pagan worship sites called “high
places,” where the Israelites worshipped gods such as Asherah (aka Ashtoreth)
and Baal. These high places are not only sites of idolatry and harlotry but
symbols of pride. Read the follow statement from Joseph Herrin’s writing
titled, Removing the High Places.

We are given a pattern and a
parable of the attempts of Yahweh’s chosen people to establish the reign of God
in the earth as we look to the history of Israel and Judah under her kings.
Most of those who were chosen to serve as spiritual parables to the saints
today were outright idolaters.  Although
they would oftentimes mention Yahweh and pay Him lip-service, their hearts were
far from Him. They loved the world and the things in it.

There were only a few, three to be
exact, who received the commendation of having followed Yahweh with a whole
heart. A much larger number fell into a middle ground where they had some
devotion to God, but they did not fully commit themselves to following Him with
passion and jealousy. As we read of some of these kings who are revered to this
day, we find that Yahweh did not find them perfect and He assigned a statement
to follow the record of their devotion, and this statement holds much meaning
for the saints today.

II Kings 12:2-3

Jehoash did right in the sight of
Yahweh… Only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed
and burned incense on the high places.

II Kings 14:3-4

[Amaziah] did right in the sight of
Yahweh, yet not like David his father… the high places were not taken away;
the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places.

II Kings 15:3-4

[Azariah] did right in the sight of
Yahweh, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Only the high places
were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high
places.

II Kings 15:34-35

[Jotham] did what was right in the
sight of Yahweh; he did according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Only
the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned
incense on the high places.

Over and over we read that there
were kings who sought to serve God, and who followed Him to a great degree, but
who fell short of that standard of holiness that Yahweh desired. After all was
said and done, and the Holy Spirit inspired men to write about their works, a
caveat was added at the end of their testimony that revealed a deficiency in
their obedience. They did not remove the high places.

No Christian should think that
these things were recorded without purpose. These things were written for the
instruction of the church. These things were written as examples of us (I
Corinthians 10). As we read about the lives of these kings of Israel and Judah
we are to discern things about the condition of the lives of the saints of God
who are called to be a nation of kings and priests unto their God.

In the same way that there were
many who were called from among God’s chosen people to be kings unto Him, yet
whose lives were marked with idolatry, so too are there many among the saints
who live lies of great idolatry. Though they be known as the called of God, and
though they associate themselves with the name of Christ, they follow after all
the gods of the people in whose midst they find themselves.

There is a lesser number who seek
to separate themselves from the idolatry of the world. These ones remove from
their midst all the idols of the world that appear detestable in their sight.
They are devoted to Yahweh to a greater degree than some, but they still fall
short of the desire of God. Perhaps no king of the Old Testament came closer to
Yahweh’s perfect will, while still falling short, than King Asa. We read of him
the following:

II Chronicles 15:8, 16-17

Now when Asa heard these words and
the prophecy which Azariah the son of Oded the prophet spoke, he took courage
and removed the abominable idols from all the land of Judah and Benjamin and
from the cities which he had captured in the hill country of Ephraim. He then
restored the altar of Yahweh which was in front of the porch of Yahweh… He
also removed Maacah, the mother of King Asa, from the position of queen mother,
because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah, and Asa cut down her horrid
image, crushed it and burned it at the brook Kidron. But the high places were
not removed from Israel…

Asa came so close to doing the
perfect will of God, yet he too fell short in removing the high places of
idolatrous worship. What does this signify for the Christian today? We can gain
understanding as we examine the words of this Scripture. We are told that Asa
removed “the abominable idols” from the land. We also read that he cut down the
“horrid image” that his mother had set up, and consequently removed her from
all position of honor due to her sin. These were tremendous steps of obedience
that surely cost him personally, and were a trial to accomplish. To his credit
he obeyed Yahweh to this extent and his deeds were forever recorded.

Why then did the high places remain
untouched? These too were places of idolatry, and an offense to a holy God.
Yahweh desired that they be removed as much as all the other symbols of
idolatrous worship. The reason was that to Asa and the people these high places
did not have the appearance of being “abominable” and “horrid.” The people were
not offended by the blatant nature of the high places. The high places had
stood for a long time, and they were constructed by one of the most revered
kings of Israel, King Solomon. Even when other kings had instituted reforms and
a return to devotion to Yahweh, the high places had been left untouched, and it
therefore seemed acceptable to purge all that was idolatrous from the land
while leaving these high places intact.

Does the church in any way commit a
similar error today? Are there symbols of idolatry that are an offense to a
holy God that the people of God are not offended by? Are there high places
among Christianity that have withstood numerous revivals and reformations while
being left intact? Surely there are, and uncloaking their identity will reveal
the reason that Christians have so much trouble separating themselves from
them.

Let’s answer the question “Does the church in any way commit
a similar error today?” with a classical Roman account of the Roman Catholic
Church giving instruction to do exactly what Asa did.

Gregory
I, Letter to Abbot Mellitus, c. 597-601 AD

To his most beloved son, the Abbot Mellitus; Gregory, the servant of the servants of God. We have been much concerned, since the departure of our people that are with you, because we have received no account of the success of your journey. Howbeit, when Almighty God has led, you to the most reverend Bishop Augustine, our brother, tell him what I have long been considering in my own mind concerning the matter of the English people; to wit, that the temples of the idols in that nation ought not to be destroyed; but let the idols that are in them be destroyed; let water be consecrated and sprinkled in the said temples, let altars be erected, and relics placed there. For if those temples are well built, it is requisite that they be converted from the worship of devils to the service of the true God; that the nation, seeing that their temples are not destroyed, may remove error from their hearts, and knowing and adoring the true God, may the more freely resort to the places to which they have been accustomed. And because they are used to slaughter many oxen in sacrifice to devils, some solemnity must be given them in exchange for this, as that on the day of the dedication, or the nativities of the holy martyrs, whose relics are there deposited, they should build themselves huts of the boughs of trees about those churches which have been turned to that use from being temples, and celebrate the solemnity with religious feasting, and no more offer animals to the Devil, but kill cattle and glorify God in their feast, and return thanks to the Giver of all things for their abundance; to the end that, whilst some outward gratifications are retained, they may the more easily consent to the inward joys. For there is no doubt that it is impossible to cut off every thing at once from their rude natures; because he who endeavours to ascend to the highest place rises by degrees or steps, and not by leaps. Thus the Lord made Himself known to the people of Israel in Egypt; and yet He allowed them the use, in His own worship, of the sacrifices which they were wont to offer to the Devil, commanding them in His sacrifice to kill animals, to the end that, with changed hearts, they might lay aside one part of the sacrifice, whilst they retained another; and although the animals were the same as those which they were wont to offer, they should offer them to the true God, and not to idols; and thus they would no longer be the same sacrifices. This then, dearly beloved, it behooves you to communicate to our aforesaid brother, that he, being placed where he is at present, may consider how he is to order all things. God preserve you in safety, most beloved son.

Source: Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation,
written in 731 (book 1, chapter 30) (
see online)

To the undiscerning, who don’t know the God of the Bible,
this might sound perfectly reasonable. Asa likely used a similar justification
for his reasons to not remove the high places. Throughout history the Catholic
Church made it a point to not remove pagan temples but to convert them to churches.
Many cathedrals to this day were converted from or erected over top of pagan
temples. Even some of the statues in some cathedrals are sculptures of Roman
gods which have been relabeled as Catholic saints. More recently, you may have
heard of the Pachamama controversy, where a figurine of an Andean goddess was
allowed to be displayed in a Catholic Church with the approval of Pope John
Paul II. Just last year, Pope Francis also repeated this act of idolatry. He
said that it wasn’t intended to be worshiped but was merely a symbol of
fertility. Pope John Paul II justified it by saying that the goddess has been
reinterpreted as a mediator between man and God, like Mary. Do you think this
pleases God? We can’t allow idols into our churches and we can’t allow idols
into our homes and hearts. Not if we desire purity and faithfulness towards God.

The Origin of Sin and Idolatry

It is important to keep the whole
Bible in perspective as a Christian. If we know that sin began with Satan, we
know that idolatry also began in his heart. So then, all pagan practices can be
traced back to him. His sin spread when he convinced a third of the angels in
heaven to rebel against God. God cast him down to the earth.  Likewise, if we look at the Fall in the garden
of Eden, we can see that sin began in Eve first when she desired to be like God
through rebelling against His command, to rise above her station to gain the
knowledge of good and evil. Then Adam ate and God confronted them about it.
When they were expelled from the garden their sin spread with them, manifesting
itself in many ways. They walked with God but now they were walking in their
own power. There was a truth that was understood by Adam from the beginning,
that he was made in the image of God. There was a doctrine that existed in the
original spoken Word which resonated with all of creation until sin was found
in the heart of man. This original truth that Adam and Eve knew from the time
of their creation before the Fall became more and more distorted and varied as
man multiplied on the earth. The truth of God 
was mixed with man-made ideas giving rise to many pagan belief systems
and traditions that imitated yet modified the original truth. Eventually God
got tired of it and sent a flood to destroy all but 8 people on earth and the
animals on Noah’s ark. Many of these pagan traditions died with the flood of
Noah’s time, but it didn’t take long for man to continue with these same kinds
of devices again. After all, sin was already in the heart of man. It was only a
matter of time before it would manifest in diverse ways once more.

As an argument to discredit
Christianity as the one true religion, many non-Christians say that it is just
another syncretized religion that arose out of the Jewish and Grecco-Roman
cultures. What I have seen is that Christianity existed even from the
beginning, because Christ existed from the beginning. That truth has always
been present and understood by many prophets and saints in the Old Testament. For
one, Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day:

Your father Abraham rejoiced
to see My day
, and he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him,
“You are not yet fifty years old, and have You
seen Abraham
?” Yahshua said to them, “Most
assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM
.
” John 8:56–58

So did Moses:

By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called
the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the
people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches
than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.
Hebrews 11:24–26

and David:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Yahshua of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to
you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as
you yourselves also know—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and
foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put
to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was
not possible that He should be held by it. For David
says concerning Him [Yahshua]
:

‘I foresaw the LORD (Kyrion) always before my face, for He is
at my right hand, that I may not be shaken. Therefore my heart rejoiced, and my
tongue was glad; Moreover my flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not
leave my soul in Hades, nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You
have made known to me the ways of life; You will make me full of joy in Your
presence.’

“Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the
patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to
this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and
knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body,
according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he,
foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ
,
that
His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. This Yahshua God has raised up, of which we are all
witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having
received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which
you now see and hear.

“For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says
himself: ‘The LORD (Kyrios) said to my Lord
(Kyrio)
, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your
footstool.” ’ “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that
God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Acts 2:22–36

God was not talking to Himself in
that last paragraph. The Father was speaking to the Son, the Word. All these
men foresaw Christ. They knew God’s plan of salvation before it arrived, and
they rested in it even before the New Covenant came. This shows us that God has
declared the end from the beginning, just as Scripture records:

Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is
no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring
the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done
,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure,’ Isaiah 46:9–10

The beginning began with God
speaking His Word. His Word is truth. Therefore, all the things we see in pagan
religions which resemble and preceded the rise of Christianity in the first
century AD are distortions of this truth that existed from the beginning. Satan
ever tries to imitate God, but the Spirit of Christ gives us discernment to
know the difference. When someone tells you Christianity came from paganism, or
that it evolved out of polytheism into monotheism, tell them that monotheism
existed from the start. The many came from the One. Now we are returning to the
One.

History’s Many Fallacies

Often times scholars and
researchers make the effort trace modern religious and cultural traditions back
to Babylon. While this is a noble cause the truth is that even Babylon’s
beliefs came from a time long before its existence. The further back you go the
more muddied history gets. Do not cling to scholarly work done to expose these
traditions through historical analysis alone. Archaeology, or any of the sciences
for that matter, cannot provide us with a competent view of the development and
proliferation of paganism. Even ancient historians will tell you that their knowledge
of history might be wrong. Take the following for example:

Eusebius of Caesarea

I warn and advise everyone from the start, that no-one should ever pretend that he can be completely
certain about matters of chronology
.
It will help if first we remember
the advice of our true master, [p3] who told his companions [Acts, 1’7]:
“It is not for you to know the hours and seasons which the Father has set
under his own authority.” He, as our Lord and God, uttered this saying not
only about the end of the world, but also, in my opinion, about all dates, to
dissuade men from such pointless investigations.

Indeed, my own words here will confirm this saying of our
master, [by showing] that it is not possible to
gain an accurate knowledge of the whole chronology of the world
from the
Greeks, or from any others, not even from the Hebrews themselves. But it is possible
to hope for this only: that what is said by us in this present treatise will
help us to recognize two things. Firstly, no-one,
like some have done, should believe that he is calculating dates with full
accuracy, and be deceived in that way.
But he should realize that this
has been brought up for discussion, only so that he can know the means and
manner of the proposed investigation, and so that he should not remain in
doubt.

There is no reason to be surprised that the Greeks do not
appear in the most ancient times. They have fallen into various fatal errors,
and for a long time before the generation of Cadmus they were completely
ignorant of writing. They say that Cadmus was the first to bring them the
alphabet, from the land of the Phoenicians. And so the Egyptian in Plato’s book
[ Timaeus, 22’B ] rightly despises Solon; “O Solon,” he says, “you Greeks are always children. An old Greek
man is never to be found, and no-one can learn
from you about ancient times
.”
But many
improbable stories have been told by the Egyptians and Chaldaeans
.
For
instance, the Chaldaeans calculate that their recorded history has lasted for
more than 400,000 years. [p5] The Egyptians make up myths about gods and
demi-gods, and also about some shades; and they tell many crazy myths about
other mortal kings.

Yet what forces me to examine
such matters in detail now, when I value the truth above all else? Even amongst
my beloved Hebrews one can find inconsistencies, which I will mention at the
appropriate time. But I have said this much in reproach of those chroniclers
who are eager for such hollow glory.

In accordance with these objectives, I will scrutinize the
books of the ancient writers.
(Eusebius of Caesarea, Chronicon, Book 1)

Eusebius is telling us that his
interest in history is not so much to prove the truth but to scrutinize historical
writers, because he knows most of them are wrong on many points. It is not only
Eusebius who makes this assertion. There are plenty of historians who have held
precisely the same sentiment. In Eusebius’ Chronicon, you will find
accounts from different sources that agree on some parts and differ on others.

This is the nature of
historical writing, period. It is no different even in modern times. Writers
are influenced heavily by their culture’s perceptions, as well as their own
perceptions and biases. Often times these perceptions and biases are influenced
by popular consensus or forced on writers by the patrons of their works.
Remember, historians are usually paid for their work. In ancient times being a
scribe was a very prestigious trade. Because of these and many other reasons,
history is very murky and messy. Finding multiple sources that largely agree on
any particular subject is rare, especially when it comes to the ancient near
east, a place where an immense amount of syncretization and cultural exchange
was happening in a relatively small region of the world.

For this reason, the Bible is possibly
the most trustworthy book ever written. There aren’t many works out there that
have thousands of semi-early reproductions of the original manuscripts
available for analysis, versions which agree with about 95% accuracy. That
level of agreement is almost unheard of in ancient studies. Even so, there is
still enough wiggle room for a 5% difference to devolve into hundreds of
denominations. Even the earliest so-called “church fathers” disagreed on many
points regarding theology, and they lived so shortly after the apostles. It
doesn’t take much, and it doesn’t take long for the truth to get buried under a
flood of reinterpretation. You can see why it is not so far-fetched to say that
even Christianity has become corrupted in its 2000-year lifespan. So, it would
be no shock to discover that Christmas, for example, is not Christian at all.

Looking back at the definition
of evangelion in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, take
note of the statement, “To the many messages, however, the NT opposes the one
Gospel, to the many accessions the one proclamation of the [Kingdom of God].”
The true Gospel corrects the incipient fractures in the human heart with all
the doctrines it supposes by the singular, anointed truth that is contained in
Yahshua, the One who was declared from the beginning. He gives us a new heart.
His heart. When this happens, we see the truth. When we see the truth, we also
see what masquerades as light and truth. These things are revealed as darkness
and death. If we carry that light of truth with us at all times no darkness can
fool us into thinking it is light. As Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:9-11:

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of
Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous
deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the
truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong
delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who
did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

With that said, even the best
of us fall prey to error. We must be on guard at all times but also be ready to
be challenged. When we think we know the truth we tend to become stubborn and
obstinate in it. Stubborn is never good because it is an attitude that comes
from pride. Caution is always good when being presented with something new, but
don’t just turn your nose up at it. Conversely, don’t just accept it, unless
you know the voice of God well and know for certain the Spirit is confirming it.
This takes much training, though. Test all things to see if they are true. This
is how you exercise your senses and become trained in righteousness.

For everyone who lives on milk is still an infant,
inexperienced in the message of righteousness. But solid food is for the
mature, who by constant use have trained their
senses to distinguish good from evil
.
Hebrews 5:13-14

Some will tell you, in their
complacency and laziness, that it is God’s place to change your heart and to
open your eyes to new things. While this is mostly true there is clearly effort
required on your part. Further, if it is purely God’s work to change you or to
keep you on track, then why do we have all these exhortations in Scripture?
Because we have a choice to go against the Spirit and the better judgment He
has trained us in.

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected;
but I press on, that I may lay hold of
that for which Christ Yahshua has also laid hold of me
.
Brethren, I do not
count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things
which are behind and reaching forward to those
things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the
upward call of God in Christ Yahshua.

Philippians 3:12–14

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary
principles of Christ, let us go on
to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works
and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of
resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits. Hebrews
6:1–3

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by
the renewing of your mind, that you may prove
what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2

Do you see the effort required
on your part in these passages? The language is such that we are exhorted and
commanded to do and be certain things by our own effort. Yes, it is God who
permits us, even enables us to move forward in our walk of faith, but it is our
responsibility to walk out that faith which was given to us. Let us not be lazy
or complacent. Let us test all things.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good.
1 Thessalonians 5:19–21

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because
many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

I challenge you to test the
Christmas spirit to see what the Spirit of God says, what Scripture says and
what the evidence of its history and existence says about it.

(Continued…)


Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws  

 

Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com  

 

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063

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