They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God… They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence…
They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.2 Kings 17:16-18, 32-33
Right after Israel gets removed from the Promised Land and sent off to a foreign land, the writer of 2 Kings explains why. The main issue with Israel wasn’t that they didn’t worship the Lord. It was that they worshiped the Lord along with worshiping other gods. They did all the practices of the nations around them. Their chief sin was their universalism, their religious inclusion. What offended the Lord so much was that they allowed their religious pluralism to become polytheism.
They bowed down to the starry hosts (read “practiced astrology and believed horoscopes“). They worshiped Baal (read “worshiped money and provision“), and sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire (read “celebrated abortion“). They practiced divination and sought omens (read “went to psychics, palm readers, tarot card readers, and sought spirit guides, mediums, energy healers, Reiki healers and crystals“). This sounds a lot like America right now.
You see, it’s not enough to say we believe in God. It’s not enough to say we are a Christian. What matters is if we have given ourself to Christ alone. Have we mixed our worship of the Lord with the worship of the gods of our culture? Throughout the scriptures God calls His relationship to His people a marriage. Likewise, this mixture of worship–this polytheism born of pluralism–is regarded as polygamy. It is cheating on the Lord. It’s infidelity.
Unhindered, sold-out devotion to the Lord is what we are invited into when we are invited into Christ. Jesus alone is worthy of our worship. It wasn’t atheism that caused Israel’s downfall. It was syncretism, the amalgamation of the worship of the Lord with the worship of other things in their life. Israel’s story is a gigantic warning to us about pure devotion. God is not interested in a polygamous marriage to His Bride, the Church.