The Lord did not just make up rules for His people haphazardly. Every law had a purpose and meaning, each sacrifice, feast, posture points toward Jesus, our Christ. The Great Law and the Ten Commandments which demonstrate that great law point to The Lord, our God as One and Only.
God knew how quickly Israel would turn from Him to the left and to the right. He knew how quickly we would turn our faces and incorporate the pagan into the pure worship He prescribed. So He reminded Israel and He reminds us to keep our worship pure and true. Chapter 16 Verses 21-22 read,
“You shall not plant any tree as an Asherah beside the altar of the Lord your God that you shall make. 22 And you shall not set up a pillar, which the Lord your God hates.”
Asherah or elat was a mother goddess worshiped in Canaan as the mother of all living. She was a creature goddess, and her god cohort was named Ugarit or el. The asherah tree is the same Hebrew word for the terebinth tree which is the tree associated with the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. When Solomon ignored God’s commands and placed an Asherah pole by the altar of the Lord for his wives, it seemed harmless enough (2 Kings 21:7). After all it doesn’t take much to make an Asherah tree or pole, look like it belongs in the worship of El Shaddai, but God’s name is Jealous, and we are commanded not to worship any other gods. (Exodus 34:14).
Israel mixed in various traditions and practices to the worship the Lord had commanded, partly to make it more attractive to others, partly to please their spouses from different cultures and religions, and partly out of ignorance and rebellion. After all, what harm could there be by going and praying to God under an Asherah tree and calling Him by a name that referred to a false god?
We saw in the books of 1 and 2 Kings what happened to the nation. They became more and more paganist. They had civil war and spilt into two nations, one which blatantly followed a twisted version of worship of God, the other who continually allowed the temple to be desecrated by false religion. God had them go into captivity in Babylon and scattered because of how far they had gone from Him. Who were the few who stayed in a pure relationship with the Lord? The ones who refused to bow down to false gods.
Paganism can slip in to our lives so easily and sully the pure relationship we could have with God. Consider these Wiccan traditions. At the Spring equinox the goddess Eostre or Ostara is worshipped. Her rabbit companion helped her bring spring to the world. Decorated eggs are brought to the altar to symbolize the rebirth of the sun. The entire ritual is a celebration of the marriage of the young god and maiden lady, called Hieros Gamos.
The ritual is described here:
The altar is decorated with the colored eggs, spring flowers, any items that remind the worshipper of spring, seeds, soil, a book of shadows, and pen and paper. The worshipper casts a circle, reflects on the meaning of the season and praises the young god and his lady. Next, she chooses her favorite of the decorated eggs and speaks about what she likes about the egg and then continues to mediate on spring blessings. She picks up the seeds, speaks lovingly to them and so infuses them with love. She plants them and waters them, speaking love to herself. She then takes the book of shadows and writes some belief statements in the book. She closes the circle.[i]
That Wiccan ritual looks a lot like Easter to me. Sure what harm is there in decorated eggs, flowers on the altar, and Easter bunnies? How far from true worship do we carry ourselves when we include the pagan in celebrating the Resurrection of the Lord? I for one, think that we should celebrate the Lord’s resurrection! It is something we should celebrate every day and certainly every time we gather as a church. I think that marking the Sunday after Passover and thanking Our Lord for His miraculous work is fine. But when we teach our children that decorated eggs and rabbits are somehow connected to it, we cheapen Jesus’ work and sully the gospel of Christ.
I’m not saying not to celebrate Resurrection Sunday, even though it is no longer the Sunday after Passover, I am saying consider the danger and the sin of celebrating Easter, consider whether you are worshipping in Spirit and in Truth when you include paganism in your Christianity.
It is dangerous, it leads to death. God knew it and He commanded people not only not to include pagan rituals but to keep their sacrifices perfect and pure. Chapter 17 verses 1-7 reads,
“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.
2 “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, 4 and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. 6 On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
The consequences were death, very real and close-up death. Maybe if we still saw the consequences of our paganism so clearly we would be faster to abstain from defiling our lives. But we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us and He reminds us that He is the Spirit of Truth. He reminds us to remain pure. We don’t need the physical reminders anymore.
Believer, please reflect on your life and your worship. Ask the Lord to reveal any paganism, corruption, or false gods in it. Then purge them, put them to death, and remember what the Lord hates and who He loves.
[i] SilverLotus. (n.d.). Spring Equinox Lore and Ritual. Retrieved from The Lotus Pond: http://silverlotus.net/wicca/rites/wheel-of-the-year/spring-equinox-lore-and-ritual/