Study Guide
by David Chadwell

Lesson 1  |  Lesson 2  |  Lesson 3  |  Lesson 4  |  Lesson 5  |  Lesson 6
Lesson 7  |  Lesson 8  |  Lesson 9  |  Lesson 10  |  Lesson 11  |  Lesson 12

Lesson One


The concept of idolatry is strange to most American Christians. All our lives we have accepted the existence of only one God. He is the living God. We accept this God to be the Creator, the Origin of life, and the Author of salvation. We have worshipped only one God. Culturally, we have been surrounded by people who worship only one God--the same God. Many of us have not had [perhaps do not have] a close friend or acquaintance who worshipped [worships] another god. We do not understand the thinking or the perspectives of people who worship other gods. All our familiar thoughts of deity focus on one God. All our familiar acts of worship focus on one God.

In the Bible both Judaism and Christianity are based on the existence of one God. He is the true and living God. When He established Israel as a nation, He distinguished Himself from all other gods people worshipped. The writings of the Old Testament frequently contrast the God of Israel from the gods worshipped by other peoples. In the Judaism and Christianity of the Bible, acceptance of the living, creator God meant rejection of all other gods.

The American experience and culture common to most Christians has been a "world" and culture that knew and accepted one God. That was not the world and the cultures of the Old and New Testament periods. Old Testament Judaism existed in a world of idolatry. The cultures of that world acknowledged the existence of many gods. New Testament Christianity existed in a world of idolatry. The cultures of that world acknowledged the existence of many gods [except Judaism which, from the time of the Babylonian captivity forward, was fiercely monotheistic]. What seems strange and unthinkable to us seemed natural and correct in world of the Old and New Testaments.

The spiritual focus of the world's population has changed little through the centuries. If all Christian religions who accept Jesus as the Son of God are classified as one group, only a third of the world population is Christian. There are religions other than Judaism and Christianity that acknowledge the existence of one God. However, the majority of today's world population either believes that (a) no god exists or (b) many gods exist.

Old Testament Israel had a love affair with idolatry. That love affair began with their forefathers before Israel existed as a people or a nation. That love affair continued until the time of the Babylonian captivity.

The "gods beyond the river":

Carefully read Joshua 24:14,15.

  1. According to Stephen in Acts 7:2, before Abraham lived in Haran, where did he live?

  2. The region of Mesopotamia followed the Euphrates River, likely the River referred to by Joshua. Genesis 11:31 states that Abraham and his extended family migrated from Ur, located in the southeastern section of Mesopotamia, to Haran in the northwest section of Mesopotamia.

  3. Please notice in Joshua 24:14,15:

    1. That Israel's forefathers [Terah? Abraham?] had served "the gods" of the region beyond "the river" [their home region prior to their migration].

    2. That Israel [who was then in Canaan] still knew those gods.

    3. That Israel consciously needed to abandon those gods and exclusively serve the God who delivered them from Egypt.

    4. That if Israel chose not to serve the God who delivered them from Egypt, it did not matter what gods they worshipped. They could serve the gods their forefathers served or the gods of the Amorites [the gods of the people who previously occupied part of Canaan]. If they rejected the God who delivered them, which gods they chose to serve was meaningless.

The teraphim: this word seems to refer to images used by a family for two purposes: (a) to consult for guidance when making family decisions, and (b) to provide protection for the family. In the following references, note who possessed teraphim.

  1. Genesis 31:19 (also see verse 30):

  2. Judges 17:1-6

  3. 1 Samuel 19:11-13

  4. 2 Kings 23:24

Baal: this was the most important god in the Canaanite pantheon. [pantheon: the gods officially recognized by a people] He was the storm god. Closely associated with him was Ashtaroth [a goddess associated with fertility, love, and war]. These [and other gods and goddesses] were popular among the Canaanites prior to Israel's conquest, and these gods became popular in Israel after the conquest. This corrupt pantheon of gods produced depraved people. [See Deuteronomy 7:16, 9:5, 12:31, 18:9-12.]

  1. Judges 2:11-13

  2. 1 Kings 16:29-33

David Chadwell

Faith: In Our Gifts or Our God? (lesson 1)
Wednesday evening adult Bible class, Winter Quarter 2000
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Copyright © 2000
Permission is granted to freely copy and distribute with text unchanged, including author's name.
next lesson

Lesson 1  |  Lesson 2  |  Lesson 3  |  Lesson 4  |  Lesson 5  |  Lesson 6
Lesson 7  |  Lesson 8  |  Lesson 9  |  Lesson 10  |  Lesson 11  |  Lesson 12

 Link to other Writings of David Chadwell

  Link to West-Ark's Online Library

West-Ark Church of Christ