In biblical times, pagan religions built holy shrines to their plethora of gods on top of high hills to show their importance and so that all could see them. The land around Jerusalem was very hilly and many of these shrines to false gods dotted the landscape.
When the Israelites conquered the Promised Land—land promised to them by God—He warned them to avoid acting like the natives in that land. God told them to destroy all forms of idol worship and images of false gods.
The need to blend?
Many Israelites obeyed this command, but many others "felt the need" to blend in with the culture of the conquered country. Some left the high places standing and in time started using this pagan system to worship the pagan gods and sometimes even try to "honor" the one true God. They did this despite God’s direct command to never do it!
The "high places" survived for many generations. The Bible records how various kings of Israel did not remove them—whether they were "dedicated" to the God of Israel or to other foreign gods of the land. King Hezekiah was an exception to the list of kings who neglected their duty before God (2 Kings 18:1-7). Unfortunately, his son returned to the evil traditions of the past.
In our modern times we don’t often consider these things. Yet the principles involved in these ancient trends still apply today. The nature of humanity has not changed. Historically we see over and over that radical, positive reform and a complete return to the true God of the Bible did not happen without the total destruction of the sinful high places of the past. God was not pleased even when the Israelites "worshipped" Him by using pagan, idolatrous practices to do so—because that pseudo-worship was built on traces of sin.
Modern high places
Today, we may not have physical shrines or idols to various gods, but we do have "high places" in our lives. Our high places can be traces of past sins that still take a place in our lives or our culture of choice.
Just as the ancient physical high places represented spiritual ungodliness enticing the Israelites to sin, so we have things that tempt us to go back to behaviors contrary to God. Consider just two examples:
- Movies full of filthy language or inappropriate content still lying around our house.
- Illegally downloaded music files on our computer or MP3 player.
If we believe God’s way of living, then we should get rid of them so we’re not tempted to watch or listen to them again.
King Hezekiah’s example
You can "follow" God and strive to be a good person, but harboring traces of sin in your life can prevent you from becoming great. King Hezekiah was a great king in God’s service. His example is one to follow by deleting those things from your life that go against God’s way.
Let’s tear down our high places! VT