In the prophet Ezekiel’s divine vision that came to him while in exile in Babylon, he was carried back to Jerusalem in the spirit to see the many forms of idol worship being carried out in the Lord’s temple. The worship of these false gods and idols by those who were supposed to be leading God’s people filled the Lord with great jealousy and anger. He chose to share what was going on and His feelings about it with the prophet and with us. Ezekiel writes of his vision:
2 I saw a figure that appeared to be a man. From what appeared to be his waist down, he looked like a burning flame. From the waist up he looked like gleaming amber. 3 He reached out what seemed to be a hand and took me by the hair. Then the Spirit lifted me up into the sky and transported me to Jerusalem in a vision from God. I was taken to the north gate of the inner courtyard of the Temple, where there is a large idol that has made the Lord very jealous.
6 “Son of man,” he said, “do you see what they are doing? Do you see the detestable sins the people of Israel are committing to drive me from my Temple? But come, and you will see even more detestable sins than these!” Ezekiel 8:2-3,6 (NLT)
What is the great attraction of false gods and idols that they are able to seduce people away from worshiping and serving a truly good God who loves them? The question is valid even today.
Many centuries before Ezekiel, Moses warned the people that when they entered the Promised Land, they would be tempted by the gods and idols of those who lived around them. Part of the attraction is that behind these idols lie dark demonic forces offering all sorts of sinful temptations to lure people away from the light and into the darkness. Moses prophesied of these people:
16 They stirred up his jealousy by worshiping foreign gods;
they provoked his fury with detestable deeds.
17 They offered sacrifices to demons, which are not God,
to gods they had not known before,
to new gods only recently arrived,
to gods their ancestors had never feared.
18 You neglected the Rock who had fathered you;
you forgot the God who had given you birth. Deuteronomy 32:16-18 (NLT)
Both in Judah and in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, idolatry permeated and corrupted the land, turning the kings and their people against God and towards the worship of other gods involving shameful practices. Demonic influence was so great in the land that, after countless warnings, the Lord finally allowed the empires of Assyria and Babylon to destroy each Kingdom. This essentially tore down everything that the Lord had built under the Old Covenant, but He had a plan to rebuild it all using a new one, one that would never fail.
The New Covenant arrived in the land seven centuries later in the person of Jesus Christ. This Messiah, born in the kingly line of Judah and David, would bring the antidote to sin and to the power of darkness.
Jesus illustrated this antidote one day after crossing the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. Here in the land of the Gadarenes He encountered a man who was full of demons, or unclean spirits. These spirits are believed to be angels who in a rebellion had chosen to follow the devil rather than to stay with God – even angelic beings are subject to the devil’s deception. The apostle Mark writes of Jesus’ encountered with this demonized man, known as Legion.
6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he said, “What business do You have with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had already been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged Him earnestly not to send them out of the region. 11 Now there was a large herd of pigs feeding nearby on the mountain. 12 And the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us into the pigs so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the pigs; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea. Mark 5:6-13 (NASB)
The demons within Legion recognized Jesus for who He was – God Himself. Unlike so many humans, even ones who follow Him, they had a full grasp on Jesus’ divinity, absolute power, and authority, far above any other human or even angelic being. Yet Jesus rarely exercised the power available to Him, using it to only heal sickness, forgive sins, drive out tormenting demons, or on occasion, to raise the dead. Otherwise, He was on a humble mission of teaching the multitudes about the coming Kingdom of Heaven and journeying on His way to the cross, where He would lay down His life in exchange for ours, allowing us to be raised to life just as He was raised from the dead.
A legion of dark angels was driven out of Legion that day, leaving in such a panic that they drowned a huge number of pigs as they drove them down a hillside into the sea. This episode clearly demonstrated that the antidote for the grip of demonic idolatry is Christ, Himself. He is the true Light that drives even demonic darkness away.
What darkness tempts me to turn away from the love of God?
Lord, be our Light and our freedom. Break any chains of darkness that claim a hold on us. Like the demoniac Legion who has been set free, we sit at the feet of Christ, cleansed by Him, in our right mind and spirit. We ask for Your blessing and protection against all forms of darkness. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.