Likely by now, you've heard - God is a jealous God. He will not tolerate rivals.
Throughout the Old Testament, we see Him taking on the gods of the regions. Baal. Asherah. Molech. He repeatedly orders His people to smash those gods, tear them down, completely destroy them as His style of holiness moves into a place. Sometimes, His people even listen and do just that. But what about when they don't?
Join me in Leviticus 26.
If you will not listen to me...if you reject my laws...if you reject my promise...then this is what I will do to you: I will terrorize you with disease and fever. You will suffer from eye problems and depression. You will plant your crops and get nothing because your enemies will eat them. I will condemn you so that you will go down in defeat in front of your enemies. Those who hate you will be your rulers. You will run away even when no one is chasing you. 14-17
For a little context, this chapter of Leviticus begins with these words: Never make worthless idols or set up a carved statue or a sacred stone for yourselves. Never cut figures in stone to worship them...because I am the Lord your God. He's talking about idols, among His other laws and conditions of His promise. But idols are chief among them. And if you don't listen to what He says about other gods? Life is going to suck.
You'll be surrounded by defeat and discouragement. You'll be hungry. You'll be sick. Your enemies are going to laugh at you. Nothing is going to go right. That's step one of the curse. But presume that isn't enough...
If you still will not listen to me, I will discipline you seven times for your sins. I will crush your arrogance. You will have no rain, and your land will be hard as cement. You will work hard for nothing because your land will produce no crops and the trees will produce no fruit.
Nature itself will rebel against you. The way things are won't be the way things are. You won't even know what you think you know. You thought it was bad before? It's about to get worse! And if you still don't listen to what God says...
If you resist and don't listen to me, I will increase the punishment for your sins seven times. I will send wild animals among you. They will rob you of your children, destroy your cattle, and make you so few that your roads will be deserted.
He will turn the very order of creation on its head. Man was given dominion over all the earth and wild animals, but now, it will be wild animals who will have dominion over man. They will devour you. They will destroy you. Because hey, if you don't respect God's wisdom in creation, then why should His creation respect you? But there's a chance you still might not listen and obey, in which case....
If this discipline does not help and you still resist, then I, too, will resist you. I will punish you seven times for your sins. I will bring war on you to get revenge for my promise that you rejected. When you gather in your cities, I will send plagues on you and you will fall under the control of your enemy.
If you aren't listening to God, and you're supposed to be His people, then He will just find other people with whom to punish you. He will put His favor on them and send them against you, so you remember what it is to be His people with His favor. You will be defeated by people who have no business defeating you except that now, since you refuse to be, they have become God's people.
All of this because man chooses to worship idols. All of this because he's not obeying the primary law of God - not to have any other gods. Not to turn to stones and statues. All of this because man makes a choice against pure love. And then there is this...
If in spite of this you do not listen to me and still resist me, I will fiercely resist you. I will discipline you seven times for your sins. You will eat the bodies of your sons and daughters. I will destroy your worship sites, cut down your incense altars, and pile your dead bodies on top of your dead idols. I will look at you with disgust. I will make your cities deserted and ruin your sacred places. I will no longer accept the soothing aroma from your sacrifices.
That line about eating the bodies of children? That is a reference to the sacrifice of children to Molech, one of the popular gods of the region. God says, it reaches a point, where He just lets us do it. He pulls His presence completely away, takes away the option of the Temple, and leaves us to our idols. Our idols will destroy us. And God, in His tender mercy, will clean up the mess by piling our bodies gingerly on the very idols that killed us.
If you're thinking by now, why doesn't God just destroy the idols? The answer is...He can't. Okay, He can; He won't. He's waiting for you to do so.
Because this jealous God, this God who will not tolerate rivals? He's also a God of Love. And love...must be freely chosen. You have to decide your idols aren't worth it; He can't just knock them down. He can bring discouragement and defeat. He can turn nature against you. He can turn creation on its head. He can choose other people. He can withdraw His presence from you. But He cannot kill your idols. Only you can do that. That's a matter of the heart, and only your heart can choose.
It's sad, really, but it's also beautiful. God, your jealous God, wants your love so desperately that He's willing to let you die for it. The question, then, is are you willing to live for it?