February 25th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Kings 17:1-41
2-25-62 7:30 p.m.
In our Bible, we turn to 2 Kings, chapter 17. We begin reading at verse 13 reading through verse 23; 2 Kings, chapter 17; 2 Kings, chapter 17, starting at verse 13, reading through verse 23. This passage is in the center of the chapter out of which the message is taken tonight. We’re talking tonight about Mixed-Up Religion – mongrel religion, blended religion. And this is the background, how it came about, 2 Kings 17:13 through 23.
Now we all read it together:
Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets.
Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their God.
And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them.
And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.
And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and use divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.
Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight: There was none left but the tribe of Judah only.
Also Judah kept not the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel with which they made.
And the Lord rejected all the seed of Israel, and afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of the spoilers, until He cast them out of His sight.
For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the Lord, and made them sin a great sin.
For the children of Israel walked in all sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them;
Until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as he had said by all His servants the prophets. So was Israel carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day.
Now, that is the center of the seventeenth chapter of 2 Kings; it begins like this, "In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah began Hoshea, to reign over Israel in Samaria, And against him came up Shalmaneser the king of Assyria; and Hoshea became his servant, And in the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria carried Israel away into Assyria and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan and in the cities of the Medes."
That came to pass in 722 BC because of the sins, because of the blasphemies, because of the idolatry, because of the disobedience of Israel, the northern ten tribes, whose capital was at Samaria. Because of their iniquities, the Lord raised up the winged bull of Asher and those merciless and cruel and bitter Assyrians who were the scourge of the whole earth, they came in 722 BC; and under Sargon their king they destroyed Samaria and they took away captive the ten tribes of northern Israel. They settled those captives in the cities of Assyria and in the cities of Media.
For a while, Samaria, Israel, the northern ten tribes – all of that country to the north – remained empty and vacant. And then, after the passing of a very few years, Sargon the king of Assyria, brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Ava and from Hamath and Sepharvaim and placed them in the cities of Samaria, instead of the children of Israel.
These settlers, these colonists that were moved there by the king of Assyria – some of them were Babylonians, some of them were Cuthites, some of them are Avites, some of them were Hamathites and some of them were Sepharvaites. Babylon, of course was the city down in the lower part of the Euphrates Valley. Cuth was a city to the east. Ava was a district between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Hamath is the great and ancient city; the capital of northern Syria, located in the Orontes Valley. And Sepharvaim was a city close to the city of Hamath. Those people were heathen idolaters; and they were moved into the land by Sargon, the king of Assyria.
And so it was, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they feared not the Lord. They were heathen idolaters, and when they came into the land, transplanted by the king of Assyria, they brought with them their heathen idols and they worshiped their heathen gods. They feared not the Lord. They came into the land, and they lived in houses that were already built. They drank of the fruit of vineyards that were already planted. They tilled fields that were already cleared and they had nothing but contempt for Jehovah God for had not the gods of the kings of Assyria swept before them Jehovah and Israel, like you would scatter dust before the storm?
So when they came into the land, these transplanted colonists, they feared not the Lord and they worshiped their heathen gods. Then the Lord did something – He always does something. Therefore, the Lord sent lions among them, which slew them. Isn’t that a remarkable thing – what happens when people don’t fear God – when they don’t reverence the Lord – something always happens.
In the land of Egypt Pharaoh said, “Who is Jehovah, that I should obey His voice?” Just like these people, “Who is the Lord God that we should call upon His name?” – and something always happens, God always sends something.
Now, down there in Egypt, I remember He sent lice. And here in Samaria, He sends lions. It doesn’t matter to God! He’ll use a little bitsy thing, or He’ll use a great big thing, or He’ll use a medium sized thing – but something God’s going to use – it always happens. Isn’t that strange how God can use little bitty things, little tiny things. Lice, just imagine that, just imagine that, lice! You just itch, scratch, all over – everywhere – lice! When you went to bed, lice! When you sat down to breakfast, lice! Look at your child – lice! Dip him, lice, the dip full of lice! Isn’t it an amazing thing? God used little things.
I never forget over there in Africa, I had heard about driver ants – you know – those ants just eat you up! They’re ferocious and fearful things. And, if you don’t get out of the away, in a matter of minutes, you are white; bleached bare bones in a matter of minutes – driver ants! Well, when I went over there in Africa, I was looking for driver ants. And you know what I was looking for? I was looking for an ant as big as the palm of my hand – stand up on his feet like a tarantula. Oh, I was looking for some beast walking through the forest, challenging the king of the jungle. That was what I was looking for.
Well, I want you to know one day I came across a column of driver ants and I got out of the car and I looked at them. You know, those things are little eentsie, teentsie, tintsie, bitsy little things. They’re about that big. And when you see them go by, you say, “how in the earth would a little old thing like that be a ferocious enemy, and why should you be full of fear at a little old thing like that?”
Well, it’s remarkable what itsy, bitsy, teentsie, eentsie, tintsie little old things can do to you. Each one of them takes out an infinitesimal little bit. They are carnivorous animals and they come by the millions and they come by the uncounted billions. And it will surprise you how you run out of stuff when you get to take out little bitsy pieces of you. It’s a remarkable thing, a remarkable thing!
That’s what God did down there in the land of Egypt – lice! And then in the day of these people in Samaria, He did just the opposite. A fellow would walk out of his house and a lion would meet him. He would go walking down the trail and a she lioness would be roaring at him – hungry – feeding her whelps and her cubs. Oh, it was an awful thing and an awful day!
Well, they wrote a letter to the king of Assyria and they said, "We’re down here where you placed us in this land, and we’re about to be destroyed by lions. Now, therefore," they said to the king of Assyria, “you send us a priest who will show us the manner of the god of the land, in order that we might appease this wrathful God who has sent these lions to destroy us.”
Well, the king of Assyria commanded and he said, “You carry thither down there one of the priests whom we brought thence into captivity. And let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the manner of the God of the land.”
So, a tragic thing happened. They picked out a priest, a Bethelite, a priest who had served Jehovah God under the form of an ox. They picked out a priest from Bethel and they sent him down there in order that he might teach those colonists the manner of the God of the land.
Now, those Bethelites – those priests of Samaria – were about half-heathen at best. For Jeroboam the son of Nebat – In order to pull Israel away from going down to Jerusalem where Rehoboam was king. This man Jeroboam I: "I built golden calves, oxen at Bethel and at Dan." And he said, “These be thy god, oh, Israel who delivered thee out of the land of Egypt.” – the same kind of thing that Aaron had done in the wilderness before Sinai. “These be thy god who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” They were serving Jehovah under the image of and under the likeness of an ox. Now, that’s the kind of a priest who came and taught these people the true God.
Now, it says here they wanted to know the manner of the God. That is, they were not interested in being converted. They were not interested in being saved. They weren’t interested in being born again, and they weren’t interested in worshiping the true Jehovah God. But they wanted to know the rites and the rituals and the ceremonies and the sacraments and the creeds and the professions by which they could be introduced to the God of the land.
Well it was very easy, for this Bethelite priest, oh, thus to introduce Him. For all his life he had worshiped God under the form, under the image, of a golden ox, a golden calf. So it was easy for him to teach these people how it was; you could worship God and, at the same time, bow down before graven images.
So there you have them. They are converted by the lions. They don’t love the Lord. They don’t love the land. They just feared the lions and they’re interested in some kind of a manner, some kind of a ritual, some kind of a sacrament, by which they can appease God and at the same time bow down before their golden images. And that’s exactly what they did. Now listen to it. So he came and taught them the manner of the land.
And every one of those nations made gods of their own and they put them in the houses of the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in their cities wherein they dwelt.
The men of Babylon made Succoth-Benoth and the men of Cuth made Nergal and the men of Hamath made Ashima,
and the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak and the Sepharvites burnt their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim.
So they feared the Lord and made unto themselves of the lowest of them priests of the high places…
[2 Kings 17:29-32]
"They feared the Lord and served their own gods." What an astonishing thing! What an amazing thing – this mongrel, mixed-up religion! So they feared the Lord and served their own God. So they feared Jehovah God and worshiped at the shrine of Ba-chur the god of drink – drunkards, but Christian drunkards! So they feared the Lord and worshiped at the shrine of Venus – whoremongers, but Christian whoremongers! What an astonishing thing! So they feared the Lord and worshiped at the shrine of Mars – scoundrels, but Christian scoundrels! So they feared the Lord and they worshiped at the shrine of Mercury – gossipers, slanderers, but Christian gossipers and sainted slanderers, mothers in Israel!
Why, it’s the beatenest thing you ever heard of in your life! They feared the Lord and served their own gods – that half-breed, blended religion. This thing is a sham conversion, and it’s a sham religion. Now, they’re not infidels, like the psalmist says, “The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." They’re not infidels, they feared the Lord – but, they are not real converts and they’re not real Christians. And they’re not really saved and they’re not really regenerated.
They feared God and they bow down before idols and worship before images. And that pleases Satan so much – this mongrel religion of serving the Lord and serving the devil at the same time – trying to be with God and being with Mammon at the same time – putting Baal and Ashtoreth and Dagon and Baal and Baalim and Astarte and Aphrodite – all of them in the same temple and he will bow down before them all.
So they feared the Lord and served their own gods – a sham religion and a sham conversion. And that’s the devil’s business did you know that, filling this world with deceit; and the most wretched of all deceitfulness, you’ll find in the name of God, and in the name of religion? He is a master at deceit, that’s what he does in this earth. If you didn’t have laws, your milk would be adulterated; your drugs will be adulterated. If you didn’t have laws, your weights, and your measures, and the contents of your packages would be adulterated. The Pure Food and Drug Act, and all of these things imposed by the government, has to be watched day and night in order to protect the public from the deceitfulness by which Satan sews down even our beloved nation and our dear people. But you haven’t found any cheats, and you haven’t found any deceitfulness, until you find it in religion – why, it’s an amazing thing!
Could I just pause here while I’m thinking about deceit, and sham, and deception, to tell you about something that happened in a little church that I pastored one time? It’s just the beatenest thing I ever heard of in my life and it happened in a little church that I pastored. There was a man there, and he was a widower, and that’s always a dangerous condition for a man to be in. Did you know that? He was a widower and he was well-to-do. And as though it weren’t dangerous for a man to be a widower, for him to be a widower and well-to-do is almost to court the abyss itself.
Ah, well, upon a day there came a man, a stranger into that little town, that little village. And he introduced himself to this well-to-do widower and he said, “I’d like to see you privately, privately.” And so they went into an inner chamber and that man, that stranger said, “I’m a gold miner and I’ve gone broke, but I have retrieved out of my fortune this gold brick.” And he unwrapped a gold brick, and he said to this man, “I will let you have this gold brick at half of what it’s worth, if you’ll give me the money immediately, for I am in desperate need of it.”
Why the man said, “How do I know that this is a gold brick?” And the stranger said, “We will go to the assayer’s office in the county seat and let him drill through it and then the assayer can tell you whether this is a gold brick or not.”
So the next day they went into the county seat town and there was a little place, and the name and the assayer’s office. And, you see, this guy didn’t know that the assayer was the accomplice – he’s the other one in the trick. So the assayer had all kinds of metals and things around him. And this man walked up to him and said, “I have here a gold brick. And I want you to take this brick – and by your weights, and with your drills, and in your chemicals and testings – I want you to tell him what’s in this brick.”
So the man took the brick and he tested it and he drilled a little hole all the way through it and, when he got through with all of his laboratory tests, he said, “This is solid pure 24-carat gold.” And then he turned to that rich widower in our little village and he said, “I will give you $75 for the dust from the drill.” And he pulled out $75 and put it in the man’s hands, just for the dust from the drill.
Well, that bug-eyed, well-to-do farmer went to the bank, got his money, and paid it out to this stranger who was prospecting out of the West, and carefully put aside his gold brick. And the day came, and the day came when he was to use his money for certain other reasons – certain other programs. So he took out his fabulous buy; and he took out his marvelous discovery; and he took out the wonderful benefaction of this friend, unknown to him, from the West. And he took it down to convert his gold brick into the coin of the realm to be received by the United States Federal Government at such-and-such price per ounce. And when he did, and when he did, and when he did, and when he did, the United States Government says, “Where did you find this solid hunk of brass?” And the man said, “Brass !? Man, brass!? Why, the assayer paid me $75 just for the dust.” The United States government said, “Somebody may have paid you $75 for some dust by this drill hole in this thing, but it’s brass.”
Oh, you can’t imagine, you can’t imagine – unless you can compare it to religion – how much, how very much of things that go for religion; and things that go for the worship of Christ; and things that go for the adoration and reverence of the true God – how much of it is not gold, but brass – how much of it is deception from Satan who changes himself into the an angel of light.
Ah, these people taught of the Lord, but never converted; for the man that taught them, was a half-heathen himself. He was a half-infidel himself. He was an image worshiper himself and the religion that he gave them was a mongrel, half-breed religion, worshiping the Lord God under the image of a golden cow.
Well, you say, "Thank the Lord all of that’s in the past. We’re reading about that in 722 BC. Thank the Lord that is in the past." Now, you look at how this chapter closes. So these nations, these people there, feared the Lord and served their graven images, both their children and their children’s children, as did their fathers so do they unto this day. And the man that wrote that has gone to his father, years and centuries ago. But, what he said is as true now as it was when he wrote it. “As did their fathers, so do they until this day. They fear the Lord and serve graven images.”
They fear the Lord, and call on the name of the Lord, and bow down before graven images – why, that’s the most monstrous, and the most unbelievable, and the most indescribable thing that has ever fastened upon this world – to fear God and to bow down before a graven image. Where did such a thing ever come from and how did such a thing ever be born in this earth? How did such a monstrous system ever come to be? How? You stagger at it! But when you open a book and when you read, why there, how it came about is so simple, is so plain.
There came a time, there came a time when the emperor of the Roman Empire said, “I am no longer a heathen; I no longer worship pagan gods – I have become a Christian.” And the very minute that that pagan Roman Emperor said, “I have become a Christian,” in that very minute – from being persecuted and hated and despised, castigated and outcast and martyred – the Christians found themselves popular, for the emperor had become a Christian. And the vainglorious prophets – when they saw that – they saw an opportunity, in one stroke, to Christianize the whole civilized world.
And in one stroke they saw an opportunity to Christianize heathenism. And just like you would slap your hand or snap your finger, they turned the temples into churches and they took the idols of all of those temples and they gave them the names of the Christian saints and Christian martyrs. And they say, “That is no longer the Queen of Heaven, this is Our Lady of Mercy. And this is no longer Jupiter, this is Peter, the apostle of the Lord.” And they took all of those graven images and they gave them the names of the saints and the martyrs of God.
And the priests, the priests, the priests were on the payroll of the state. They were paid by the Roman Emperor. And when these priests saw that the Roman Emperor had become a Christian, they ran to their baptism. And then, being on the state payroll – paid by the government – these priests became priests of these graven images with new names – Christian names. And the temples were no longer pagan temples – they were Christian churches. And the images were no longer pagan images – they were the images of the saints. And the priests were no longer priests of Jupiter, or of Bacchus, or of Venus, or of Diana – the priests were the priests of the most-high God. They were dressed in the same vestments. They bowed before the same images. They sacrificed at the same altars. The people sniffed at the same incense. They observed the same holy days and they followed through the same carnivals. And they kept that religion intact, except they gave it Christian names and devoted it to the great Lord God in heaven.
So they feared the Lord and bowed down before their graven images. Well, you can’t believe it! You can’t believe it – and were it not in the Book – and were it not in the very heart of the Christian life that has been the blessing of this world ever since – were it not in the heart of that life, you wouldn’t believe it. Oh! Oh, as their fathers do, so do they until this day!
Now, there are always concomitants of that kind of a thing. There was placed in my hand – and I started to bring it here for you – there was placed in my hand, an invitation. It is scarlet in color, like the scarlet woman in Revelation 17. “In the city of Dallas, come,” it says, "come," it says. "Our mother’s club’s barmaids will serve liquor.” That’s what it says, “Our mother’s club’s barmaids will serve the liquor. Come and take your chance at roulette and craps," and several other kinds of gambling devices – here in the city. I thought it was against the law, I thought it was against the law to have roulette and craps and gambling devices in the City of Dallas. But no, no, not if you do it in the name of the Lord God!
So they feared the Lord and bowed down before their graven images – and wherever that goes, there will you find the promiscuity, and the gambling, and the vice, and the drunkenness that always follows after. There is no such a thing in this world as a pure spiritual religion; and at the same time bowing down before graven images. It never existed! It never will!
For the Lord God said, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. Either the likeness of things in heaven above or the things in earth beneath, neither shalt thou bow down thyself before them.” [Exodus 20:4] “God is Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” [John 4:24]
We have no idea what Jesus looked like. Isn’t it a strange thing? If God wanted us to know what Jesus looked like; that there’s not a syllable, there’s not a sentence, there’s not a paragraph, there’s not an iota, there’s not a “t,” there’s not an alphabetical letter, there’s not a suggestion in the whole Word of God concerning the physical frame of Jesus our Lord – not a one!
Paul said, “Yea though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now we will know Him no more.” [2 Corinthians 5:16] Our religion is of the soul; it’s of the heart; it’s of the outflowing and the outpouring of life. And there is to be no sign of a graven image depicting what God might look like or what His so-called saints might look like, as they intercede in His presence in heaven.
Our religion is to be a religion of the spirit. It’s to be a religion of the soul. It’s to be a religion of the heart. It’s a religion of devotion. It’s a religion of commitment. It’s a religion of holiness. It’s a religion of being born again. It’s a religion of giving your life to God. It’s a religion of the love, and the worship, and the devotion to Jesus our Lord. It’s on the inside and all of the accouterments we have are in themselves nothing at all. We can have church service out under a brush arbors. We have it under a tabernacle. We could have it in a barn. We could have it out on a street corner. We have it in a jailhouse. We could have it anywhere in the world, because our religion, and our faith, is of the soul. It’s of the spirit. It’s on the inside and a man can be saved if he were nailed to the cross. And a man could be saved were he in stocks, and in dungeons, and on the inside of a vile and loathsome prison. But wherever a man’s soul is, there can he call upon the name of the Lord God.
And the only reason that you have a preacher is just that he might give his life to the study of the Word and might break to us the bread of life. But in no sense is he a mediator between your soul and God. You go to God for yourself – talk to Him for yourself – bow down before Him for yourself – open your heart to God for yourself – say, "Lord remember me" for yourself. That’s the real religion – that’s the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. And this thing of putting them together – never do, never do!
There’s a heaven and there’s a hell; and a man can be in one or the other; but he can’t be in-between. You can’t serve God and the devil at the same time. You can’t give yourself to the blandishments and the pleasures of this world and, at the same time, know the joys of the Lord. “Wherefore,” says God, “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord.” [2 Corinthians 6:17] Or as Elijah on the top of Mount Carmel, “Choose you this day whom you will serve. If Baal be God, serve Baal. But if Jehovah be God, serve Him.” [1 Kings 18:21] And that’s the same kind of a call the Lord makes to His people today.
If there’s a Lord in heaven – and if there’s a Jesus Christ who died for our sins on the cross – stand up – be counted for Him! Before men, before angels, before God in heaven, before the earth, before all eyes that might see and ears that might hear, "here I am and by the grace of God, here I stand" – that’s what it is to be a follower of the Lamb!
Lord, Lord, my soul, my heart, my life – the devotion of the love of all that I hold dear Lord, I give unto Thee! That’s what it is to be a Christian. Here I am and here I come Lord into Thy hands! I commit my life, and my love, and my visions, and my dreams, and my hopes, and my prayers – all the things that I ever longed for – Lord, they are bound up in Thee! And, if in this life we walk, Lord, may I walk with Thee. And if in death we die, O God, may I die unto Thee! And if in the judgment someday I stand, O God may I stand with Thee! That’s what it is to be a Christian; that’s what it is to be saved. It’s something on the inside of your soul and your heart; and its outward expression is that holy commitment whereby by a man stands and gives himself in faith and in trust to the Lord God.
Would you do it? Would you do it? Would you do it now? Would you do it tonight? “Here I come, preacher and here I am. I give you my hand. I give my heart to God.” If you are in the balcony, come, down one of these stairways on either side, at the front or the back, come. If you are on the top of that last balcony, come. In this press of people, on this lower floor, a couple you come, one of you come, a family come, or a you, as God shall say the word, shall open the door, shall lead in the way. “Here I am pastor, and here I come.” Make it tonight. Make it tonight while we stand and while we sing.