The homily today discusses how the people we associate with can either make us better or make us worse. King Solomon allows his foreign wives to lead him into harmful and dangerous worship and living. In “Going Behind the Word”, the names of the Canaanite gods mentioned and who they were are explained.
Going Behind the Word
In the history of the people of Israel, one sad element of the story is the split of the kingdoms into the Northern Kingdom, Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, Judah. In the northern kingdom, what happened was that the kings that led the people often chose to worship the gods of the Canaanites, and to build “high places” where they were worshiped.
This was something God warned the people against when He led them out of the land of Egyptians. He warned them not to associate or marry the Canaanite people. But why? What was the reason? To put it simply, it was because he knew they would be led to worship other gods. These gods were the types of gods that led the people into doing really horrible things.
Who is Astarte?
Astarte was a female deity, with a connection to the moon, who was often associated with Baal who was connected to the sun. While some associate her with fertility, scholars tend to connect her to the worst of sexuality and violence. For example, there are some theories that suggest she was associated with incest and temple prostitution. She is also associated with war.
Who is Milcom?
Milcom was a national god, probably the same as Molech who will be described below.
Who is Molech?
Molech is a god most closely associated with child sacrifice. And the purpose of the sacrifice of children was so that the transgression of the parent (usually the father) could be healed by the killing and offering of the first-born. So, to build a “high-place” to such a god was to doubt that Yahweh, God, could be the source of the ultimate forgiveness of sins.
Who is chemosh?
Chemosh too was probably a god related to the need of human sacrifice.
Why would this worship be tempting?
It can be difficult for some, maybe even many to believe that God can forgive sins. How is it that someone who deliberately rejects God could have their sins forgiven. We can tend to see our lives in economic terms. What I mean is that when I sin it becomes important to offer something to make up for my sins.
The hard part here is that when it comes to Yahweh, this is not the type of God the Jewish people had. Rather, it was harder to believe in God who forgives me out of love, especially if it does not appear as visible that I could be seen as being forgiven.
It could be seen as easier that if I could make up for my sin by some almost impossible action that I would really make up for my bad transgression. In a way, it was easier to fall into idol worship because it was a way to put me in charge of my own forgiveness. By sacrificing my first born, for example, I could be sure I was forgiven by what I did, and not have to trust in the true forgiveness that occurs because of what God did.
We are forgiven by what Jesus did
So, if I am looking for control, I could believe that it was better for me to take matters into my own hands. But in our faith, the truth is that we can never receive true forgiveness by taking matters into our own hands. We can only experience forgiveness when we believe that when we repent it is all about the God who has paid the price for our sin by taking it on himself.
So while it was the case that King David did not always follow God’s commands, he did always know that it was by the grace of God that he was able to be forgiven. It was only by God’s grace that he was King at all.
And so as we read about the downfall of Solomon, it is most helpful for our relationship with God that we realize that great faith is only possible when we recognize that we can only experience the life of faith by depending on what God does for us. We need to resist the pride that says we can save ourselves.