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The High Places of Your Heart

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The High Places of Your Heart

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If you're at all familiar with the history of Israel and Judah, then you probably know this about their rulers: Most of them were pretty awful. They were awful to the point that the small handful of good rulers stood out just on principle of not being arrogant, conceited, foolish, blaspheming idol-worshippers.

Many of the good kings spent a large portion of their reign trying to reverse the evil their predecessors had introduced to their kingdom. They introduced sweeping reforms. They smashed idols and slew false priests. They renovated God's temple and reintroduced true worship to the people.

Of the 39 rulers in Israel and Judah after the time of Solomon, only eight of them (all exclusively from Judah) attempted this. Only eight saw the depravity around them and decided to do anything about it. And in the books of 1 and 2 Kings, only eight kings are described as "doing what was right in the eyes of the Lord."

Take Down the High Places

But those kings had failures as well. The overwhelming majority of Judah's eight righteous kings have their histories tarnished by one common shortcoming: They failed to take down the high places (1 Kings 15:11,14; 22:43; 2 Kings 12:2-3; 14:3-4; 15:3-4, 34-35).

Before entering Canaan, the Israelites were commanded to "utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things" (Deuteronomy 12:2-4). Instead of obeying this command, the Israelites adopted these pagan high places as additional centers for worship.

Some of them were even honest attempts to serve God—on man's terms. God mentioned only one location where He wanted His people to make sacrifices—His tabernacle (Leviticus 1:2-3). The high places were the Israelites' way of responding, "Okay, but...what about here too?" God had made a rule, and His people broke it. Worshipping at the high places, whatever the intent, was sin.

We aren't told why six of the eight righteous kings of Judah left the high places standing. Perhaps they didn't see them as a serious problem. Maybe they were exhausted from the effort of eradicating the other forms of sin rampant in their country and decided not to bother with the high places.

Whatever their reasons, we can look at the recorded history and learn that stopping short of destroying the high places was not enough in God's eyes. Their stories are all tarnished with what equates to, "They did what was right before God, except..."

What Are Our High Places?

So what does this mean for us? We're not kings. We don't have the ability to tear down our world's modern high places. Did God make a point of recording this fault of the kings for no reason at all?

God tells His baptized people today, "Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, [which] is in you, [which] you have from God, and you are not your own" (1 Corinthians 6:19). And as God's temple, it is our duty to stay wholly dedicated to Him and not allow ourselves to build any spiritual high places in our hearts.

The Israelites fell prey to the false idea that they could serve God however they wanted—that they could serve Him along with other gods or in locations of their choosing. So they went to the high places, with "every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes" (Deuteronomy 12:8). Without continued vigilance on our parts, we, too, can fall prey to that idea.

What high places do you have in your heart? Take a close look. What altars have you set up there, and what gods are you serving at those altars? Maybe you pay homage to money and possessions. Or maybe you bring sacrifices to popularity.

And what ways do you worship God that detract from how He wants to be worshipped? Maybe you've fallen into vain repetition in your prayer life or present your works to Him as if they are earning you your salvation.

Hezekiah and Josiah

The only two kings in history to follow God's command to tear down the high places left us an example to follow for dealing with our own spiritual high places. Hezekiah, the first of the two, made such an impact that the Bible records, "After him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him" (2 Kings 18:5).

Hezekiah "removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden image and broke in pieces the bronze serpent" (2 Kings 18:4). Why? What prompted him to do this, when the kings who had come before had fallen short?

To Hezekiah, nothing mattered more than God and His commandments: "He trusted in the Lord God of Israel...[He] held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him but kept His commandments" (2 Kings 18:5-6). So when he saw the high places standing in defiance of that same God, the only logical action was to tear them to pieces. What matters most to you?

Years later, Hezekiah's great-grandson, Josiah, would take the throne only to find that those before him had rebuilt the high places and reintroduced Israel to idolatry. His response? Josiah "made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul" (2 Kings 23:3).

Josiah's priorities were clear. God came first, and Josiah devoted himself to following Him. His whirlwind campaign to rid the land of all things pagan (see 2 Kings 23:4-25) was a natural consequence of devoting himself to God. What are you devoted to?

Seek out every obstacle that stands between you and God—and when you find them, follow the example of Hezekiah and Josiah. Smash them to pieces. Chop them down. Grind them to dust. Obliterate every trace of all opposition to God, every speck of resistance.

Spiritual high places are much harder to destroy than their physical counterparts. We can't put a dent in them on our own, however determined we are. Only when we turn to God in prayer, fasting, Bible study and meditation can we expect to tear down what separates us from Him. For "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Only two kings in all of history took the high places seriously enough to deal with them. Will you? UN

Jeremy Lallier is a staff writer at the home office.