What is the Link between “Idols, gods, and demons?”
© 2023 C. O. Bishop
Psalm 106:37, 38; 1st Corinthians 8:1-6; 2nd Corinthians 4:4
“Thou Shalt Have No Other God Before Me”
We have sometimes asked the question, “What (or who) are the “other gods?” What ere the gods which the heathen nations served, and which Israel was warned to avoid?”
The LORD (the God of Israel) repeated the warning many times, that Israel must not serve other gods. Yet, in Isaiah 43:10, and other places, that same God of Israel (YHWH, “the Great I AM,”) says that there are no other gods…there never have been and never will be!
What other gods?
So, what is going on with the various other “gods,” mentioned, (sometimes by name,) in the Old Testament? (The scriptures mention Nisroch, Dagon, Baal (Baalim, plural), and Astarte (Ashtoreth, plural.) In addition, there are Moloch (sometimes spelled Molech, or Milcom), ‘The Queen of Heaven,” Tammuz, and others, by name.)
It sometimes confuses us, a little, to see them all named in various contexts, and then to see in other contexts that God, the Creator says that “there are no other gods.” God understands our confusion, so, He explains it to us:
The Physical Idols are not the Only Issue
In 2nd Corinthians 8:1-6, we see that the physical idols themselves, at least, are nothing. They are just a piece of wood, stone, metal, plastic, or whatever. But, in that passage, Paul says that, for believers, there is another problem. There is a “testimony issue” involved, regarding the “eating of meats sacrificed to idols.”
If your host (or whomever) told you that the meat in question was sacrificed to an idol, then don’t eat it. In that way, they cannot claim that “you took part in a sacrifice to an idol.” But, he also said, “if you are not told, don’t ask.” (The meat is not hurt by the sacrifice, nor are you. But your testimony could be damaged.)
The Spirits behind the Idols
However, in Psalm 106:37, 38, God gives us another, grimmer perspective. There, we see that there is a “spirit-entity” behind the worship of those idols. The service of those spirits is what is so strongly condemned. Notice that in verse 37, it says “…they sacrificed their sons and daughters to devils (literally ‘hairy ones…goat-gods.’)” As if in explanation, in verse 38, it says they sacrificed these innocent children “…to the idols of Canaan.”
Therefore, the idols themselves were just physical materials. But, as we understood from the passage in 2nd Corinthians 8, there were spirits represented by those idols. God concludes that, in reality, the people were sacrificing their children to those demonic spirits!
The God of this World
Finally, in 2nd Corinthians 4:4, Paul refers to Satan as “the god of this world.” (Hinduism is said to have 200 million gods…it is hard for me to even to imagine it. And there are thousands of other religions.) Ultimately, the millions of idols and false deities in the world all can be traced back to Beelzebub, the “prince of the demons.” (It literally means, the ‘lord of the flies.’) The same spirit is also simply called Satan (meaning, “the adversary.”)
The adversary (also called “the devil,” as we are told, in 1st Peter 5:8) is “prowling about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is not omnipresent, but he has millions of “henchmen” in the persons of the demonic host. As believers, we need have no fear of him. However we are warned that he never sleeps. He is always watching for the opportunity to entangle believers in sin, so as to render them ineffective for God. So, we are admonished to be sober and vigilant, watching against such traps. (Sober means “take this seriously.” Vigilant means “be watchful.”)
Covetousness and Idolatry
As believers, we may never find “classic idolatry” (with an image we worship) to be a problem. But, in Colossians 3:5, we see something that should reduce our complacency. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:”
The usual word for “covetousness,” (Greek philargurion… “the love of silver”) is not used here. Rather, it is the broader term (Greek pleonexian…”greed” or “avarice”) used, here. God says that our constant yearning for “more,” (whether for physical things or worldly honor or whatever,) is a form of idolatry. We don’t see it that way, but God’s clear warning is there for us to read.
What Conclusion can we Draw?
We have to draw the conclusion, that, just as there was a “spirit entity” behind the idols of the ancient world, there is also a Spirit enticing us to greed. The whole pattern of Worldly pursuit draws us away from the path the Lord is walking, and in which He desires to lead His people.
There is a passage describing people who followed that lure. Philippians 3:19 says, “Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”
You see, these people had chosen an “attachment to things.” They never learned a genuine “attachment to the Savior.” And, the result is everlasting shame, instead of the glory of God. We really want to avoid any form of idolatry in our lives. Be warned: even though it is invisible to us, this is reality!