Calvary Road Baptist Church


Hosea 4.17


This message from God’s Word is a very simple and straightforward declaration that God hates idolatry. That’s right. You heard me correctly. God hates idolatry. I know that some people find such a declaration fundamentally incompatible with their belief system. Sorry. You will have to revamp your belief system, which is an ongoing process that occurs in individuals as they grow, and mature, and learn that some of your previously held convictions and conclusions were wrong. Some of you once believed in Santa Claus. But then you discovered your parents lied to you and that there is no Santa Claus, so you revised your personal convictions. Others of you once held that Easter eggs had something to do with the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. That, too, was a lie that you have since hopefully progressed past. I understand the Biblical admonition to speak the truth in love. However, we need to recognize that speaking the truth in love as the Apostle Paul envisions the process, Ephesians 4.15, facilitates growing up spiritually and no longer remaining childish in your understanding. So, if I seem to be very direct in my tone this morning, it is only because I am convinced you are all spiritually capable of handling the unvarnished truth in adult fashion. God hates idolatry. As the Apostle Paul once asked in Galatians 4.16,


“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”


Please do not become angry with me for telling you the truth. Be mad at me for something else.

Some of you may reject the notion that God hates idolatry because you are wobbly and altogether indecisive with respect to God. You are just not at all sure God is real, that He exists, that He is the First Cause, and that He is the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, and all that herein is. When you look up at the sky at night or through a microscope at the critters swimming in pond water, you do not see the fingerprints of God everywhere. I have two explanations for your indecisiveness in this regard: First, of course, there is the fact that He is the invisible God, Colossians 1.15, and that no man has seen God at any time, John 1.18. Thus, because He is immaterial and composed of none of the things that comprise the physical universe in which we live and move and have our being, none of our five senses are in any way useful for directly detecting God. You cannot see Him, taste Him, smell Him, feel Him, or hear Him unless He specifically chooses to affect so your senses. Second, there are your mental faculties as they are affected and distorted by your sinfulness. Each of us was born sinful and spiritually dead, with our sinfulness contributing to the advancing degradation of our rational thought processes and capacity for accurate perceptions of reality. That is why sins, when first committed seem awfully wrong, but persisting in those sins so often makes them seem less and less wrong. They certainly are not less wrong the more you do them, but the effect of sinning on your thinking causes a distortion in your perceptions so that sins typically seem less wrong than before. This is only one way in which sin damages your mental abilities as an unsaved person. Even more subtle is the working of sinfulness to deny the existence of God as the One Who will ultimately judge you for your sins. Thus, if one sins and likes sinning, and if one is committed to continuing in his sins, he is all the more likely to question then or deny the existence of God so he can comfortably enjoy his sinning without feelings of guilt and fear of future punishment. Thus, the combination of being unable to detect God by groping after Him and not really wanting Him to be real so that you can sin without fear of future judgment, works in a sinner’s thinking to effectively deny the existence of God, or to reduce God to come caricature (such as when some refer to Him disrespectfully as “the man upstairs”) so that He will not be considered in a serious way.

Can we move on from our consideration of those of you who do not believe in God or do not want to take God seriously to those of you who have no doubt of God’s existence and who have convinced yourselves that you take God seriously? Of course, your dilemma revolves around the notion of taking God seriously as you imagine Him to be (or would like to imagine Him to be), rather than taking God seriously as He declares Himself to be. To be sure, you eagerly grant that God is merciful, gracious, compassionate, and loving. You are quick to point out that God’s Word very directly declares that God is love; twice.[1] Your issue is with God’s revelation of Himself in His Word as a God of wrath, a God of vengeance, and hatred. This despite scripture references to God’s wrath,[2] to God’s vengeance,[3] and to God’s capacity for hatred. Let me speak to God’s hatred for a moment. It is very clearly shown in God’s Word that sinners have a great capacity for hatred toward God. For example, those who engage in idolatry are said by God to hate Him, in Exodus 20.5. As well, it is readily acknowledged by the thoughtful among us that human beings are all of us capable of hating. That we do sometimes hate one another is regrettable, but where did our capacity for hatred actually come from? Did it not come from God, whose image we bear? Remember, we are made in the image of God.[4] Therefore, so many of our characteristics as human beings reflect the nature of God Who made us. He is moral, and we are moral. He is love, and we can love. He takes vengeance, and so do we. He angers and so do we. Have you considered that your capacity for hatred is in part a consequence of being made in God’s image and after His likeness? Not that God is sinful like we are though we were once sinless as a reflection of His holy nature.

Sadly, the characteristics that we possess because we are God’s image-bearers are tragically affected by our sinfulness, so that God’s anger is righteous while ours is usually not, and His vengeance is also righteous while ours is always not. But what about this matter of hatred? Have you ever considered God’s hatred? His capacity to hate? It is not always wrong for human beings to hate. After all, Psalm 97.10 begins,


“Ye that love the LORD, hate evil.”


There are many other passages in which the psalmist declares his hatred for those who hate the LORD, but my concern this morning is for you to come to grips with God’s capacity for hatred since there are so many known to me over the years who utterly deny that God hates anyone. Consider Proverbs 6.16-19:


16    These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

17    A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,

18    An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

19    A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.


The parallelism found in verse 16, the six things the LORD hates and the seven that are an abomination to Him is a restatement for emphasis and effect. That which He hates is that which He holds to be an abomination. The question is what are these seven things? A proud look. A lying tongue. Hands that shed innocent blood. A heart that devises wicked imaginations. Feet that are swift running to mischief. A false witness speaking lies. And the person who sows discord among brethren. It is undeniable fact that verse nineteen lists two types of individuals who commit two categories of sins. Thus, there are two categories of individuals said by Proverbs to be the object of God’s hatred. Argue against it all you want, but the fact remains. Hebrew scholars Keil & Delitzsch write about this passage, “The chief of all that God hates is he who takes a fiendish delight in setting at variance men who stand nearly related.”[5] There are people God hates. I know there is the bromide often repeated: “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” However, we must not give greater weight to a commonly repeated phrase than we do to an actual declaration found in God’s Word. Granted, it is far more commonly shown that a loving God hates with a holy hatred the act of rebellion that violates His precept and transgresses His will. However, it is no conflict in God’s nature to harmonize perfect love with holy hatred in ways we cannot comprehend. Thus, you need to be very careful who question the existence of God. That you have had no traffic with God means nothing more than He has had nothing to do with you, and is no indication that He is not real. And for those of you who do not question God, but would dictate to Him what His attitudes must be toward the wicked and their wickednesses, I would again suggest caution. If you love God you must hate evil. And if you do not hate evil you certainly do not love God. Therefore, be careful those of you who would sit in judgment of God and decry His sovereign right to be love by nature and at the same time to hate the wicked who so embrace sin that God hates both what they do as well as they who choose to do it without regard for the consequence.

So, we have considered God. We have also considered God’s capacity to hate. We should now spend a few moments reflecting on idolatry. We know what idols are. We, at least, have an elementary understanding of idolatry. When God gave the two tablets of the Law to Moses on Mount Sinai, He expressly forbad the fashioning of anything representative of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the water to bow down to or serve, Exodus 20.4-5. Of course, this prohibition was restated in Acts 15.20 in the Jerusalem Council, when James urged upon the Gentile Christians that they too “abstain from pollutions of idols.” The matter seems pretty clear, though the Roman Catholic Church refuses to recognize this prohibition of idolatry in their practices, and avoids all mention in their catechisms of graven images prohibited in the Ten Commandments because of their devotion to the veneration of statues.[6] Beyond this elementary grasp of idolatry prohibiting the worshiping and serving of statues and objects as representative of spiritual beings, creatures, or forces, there is a more sophisticated concept of idolatry taught in God’s Word that moves beyond the elementary devotion shown to a golden figurine or piece of plastic mounted to the dashboard of an automobile. Allow me to illustrate with five passages from God’s Word.

We begin with the prophet Samuel’s confrontation with Israel’s King Saul when he wickedly refused to carry out God’s order to execute judgment upon the Amalekites. I would like you to turn to First Samuel 15.23, where we take note of the first sentence of the verse:


“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”


Notice the inspired parallels drawn by Samuel in this sentence, showing us that as the sin of witchcraft is in essence rebellion of any type, so the essence of stubbornness is expressed by iniquity generally and idolatry specifically. So you see, idolatry is something more than merely venerating a statue, bowing down to an image, or presuming to serve some person or some thing represented by a gold or silver or wood or plastic figure. It is stubbornness. Whatever else it also is, idolatry is stubbornness.

We next turn to the New Testament letter to the Galatians. I read from Galatians 5.19-21:


19    Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20    Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21    Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.


These three verses describe unsaved mankind’s conduct as his sinfulness (labeled here by Paul as “the works of the flesh”) is demonstrated by various sinful practices, including idolatry. That idolatry is included in this list reveals that bowing down to images, venerating statues, serving handmade objects is not spiritual! Idolatry is of the same essence as sex sins, witchcraft, hatred, murder, and drunkenness, and according to Paul is conduct that is not normally engaged in by people who are heaven-bound.

Next, let me read to you Colossians 3.5 and Ephesians 5.5:


“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”


“For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.”


Why is covetousness idolatry? Why is a covetous man an idolater? “Covetousness is idolatry because it involves the setting of one’s affections on earthly things and not on things above, and therefore the putting of some other object of desire in the place which God should occupy in his people’s hearts.”[7]

The last passage we turn to before reading my sermon text is First Corinthians 10.13-14:


13    There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

14    Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.


Two observations to make here before my brief sermon at the end of a rather long introduction: First, Paul here assures the Corinthian Church members that their situations in life are not unique but common, that our faithful God will not bring into your life temptations you cannot deal with, and He will provide an escape opportunity from the temptations that His grace does not fit you to deal with. Second, for that reason, verse 14 reveals, flee idolatry. What are we to take away from that passage? Idolatry is not something God will enable you to resist. It is a sin of such seriousness, a matter so egregious, that at the first sign of temptation you are directed to flee. Do not attempt to resist that temptation. Run! Idolatry and fornication are the only two temptations God tells His children not to resist but to run from; they are so deadly, and He hates them so much.

Now, please, sit back with your Bible closed while I present my message for this morning. God hates idolatry. My text is Hosea 4.17, where the God of Israel speaks to the prophet Hosea about the northern kingdom, identified in our text by the name of the dominant tribe of Israel, Ephraim:


“Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.”


Why are God’s people told to “flee from idolatry” and also earlier in the same letter to “flee fornication”?[8] Because they are essentially the same thing. Idolatry is spiritual adultery, unfaithfulness to God while sex sin is the same thing with respect to your spouse or the person who will someday be your spouse if you are not yet married. You see, people are capable of sinful sexual activity though God’s intention and design was for sexual activity to be exclusively confined to your partner in marriage and nowhere and no one else. In like manner, people are capable of worshiping, bowing before, and serving a whole array of objects and critters, though God’s intention and design has always been that human beings worship, adore, and serve Him and only Him. As a man hates the discovery of his wife having sex with another man, and a woman hates the discovery of her husband having sex with another woman, for the wrongness of it, for the damage done by it, for the betrayal of it, and for the hurt caused by it, so it is with God when you, or when I, or when anyone, engages in idolatry. If you bow before anything made with human hands, you are guilty of idolatry, Exodus 20.4-5. If you adore or venerate or treat in a religiously respectful way or pray to someone represented by that manmade object you are guilty of idolatry. If you stubbornly refuse to do what you know to be the will of God, or stubbornly refuse to discover the will of God, you are engaged in spiritual adultery; you are an idolater. If you covet something, which is to say that you set your affections on some thing rather than God, you are an idolater, and God hates what you do. God hates idolatry.

Why does God hate idolatry? I can think of three reasons:




What is repudiation? Repudiation is refusing to have anything to do with someone, even if it is only briefly. It is refusing to accept someone, refusing to acknowledge someone, denying the validity of someone, or refusing the authority of someone. It is disavowing, discarding, and disowning someone.[9] Some of you know from firsthand experience what it feels like to discover that your husband or wife has been unfaithful to you in your marriage. You know the pain, the horror, the shame, the sense of betrayal of trust, the revulsion, and the outrage that is produced. Never mind that the betrayer says it only happened once and promises never to do it again. All these things I have mentioned are still there.

Now consider God, Who is sinless, Who is blameless, Who is gracious, Who is loving, and Who is in every conceivable way sufficient. He is, in fact, Jehovah Who Provides, Genesis 22.14. Idolatry is a repudiation of not only what He does for us. It is a repudiation of Who He is. No wonder He hates idolatry in all its forms. Idolatry is the repudiation that God is sufficient for you because you have turned to someone or something else.




You renounce someone when you give up on him publicly when you show for others to see your low opinion of him, when you openly display that your allegiance has changed.[10] A father renounces his son when he legally disowns him and publishes in a newspaper for the public record that their status has been legally changed. Renouncing someone is quite similar to repudiating someone, but for the fact that it is more public, more obvious, and, therefore, a more punishing consequence for the person who is being renounced. Does not a husband or a wife utterly renounce the person he or she is married to when he or she takes to another’s bed? You might think, “But it is not a public renunciation unless the spouse finds out about it.” Not true. The person with whom the infidelity occurs knows. That other woman knows the guy is betraying his wife. That other guy knows the woman is betraying her husband.

What about idolatry? Some people think that their idolatry is okay because everyone does it. The whole parish is engaged in venerating statues and bowing before idols, thereby making it okay. Really? A woman takes her husband’s adultery better if she knows his friends are doing the same thing? I don’t think so. The same is true with God. The Apostle Paul informs us that behind the idol that is worshiped instead of God, there is a devil, a demon. Every sacrifice and prayer offered to every statue are in fact an offering given to a devil, First Corinthians 10.20. That means actually worshiping the foul ghouls represented by every saint’s statue in the parish, every Buddha seated in every temple, and every image found in every shrine. It is granting to foul spirits the worship, the adoration, the attention, the praise, the service, the prayers, and the honor that is due only God. Think He does not hate idolatry? No wonder He hates idolatry in all its forms. Idolatry is the renouncing of God’s sufficiency for you because you have turned to someone or something else, with the entire host of heaven’s angels witness to it.




To replace is to give to another the place, the rank, the position, the honor, and the office someone else once held. It is superseding, supplanting, and displacing someone with another.[11] It might be possible to accomplish this in business, with the replacement being a better and more productive employee than the worker whose place has been taken, but it is hardly possible to end up with someone better when the one who is set aside is the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the One Who gives life, the One Who provides.

I do not know from personal experience but have observed at reasonably close quarters the discarding of one’s wife for a trashy replacement, for a slutty substitute, for a grimy but newer model, for another version. My observations convince me that when someone discards a spouse in favor of another a most despicable thing has been done, an astonishing betrayal has occurred, with damage and destruction to one’s self, to one’s spouse, to one’s children, to one’s extended family, to one’s neighborhood, and to society in general, that will be felt for generations. I find it beyond my comprehension to observe the son of a betrayer engage in the same pattern of stupidity that caused him such pain as a child. It happens all the time without so much as a second thought, people mindlessly destroying their own chances for real happiness and fulfillment by doing the same foul things they saw their mother do or their father do. And because daddy did it (or is doing it), or mommy did it (or is doing it), foolish children are incapable of admitting to themselves the incredible wrongness of it all, the damage and mayhem that results, or the savage brutality of their parent’s betrayal of not only the relatively innocent mom or dad who was victimized, but also the selfish destruction of their young children’s lives and chances of happiness.

Now take the harm, the pain, the hurt, the tears, the shamefulness, the dishonor, and the astonishing selfishness of it all, and use that to imagine when those same betrayals are perpetrated against the Holy One by the idolater, who desires some thing more than God, who exhibits some stubbornness before God, who seems more interested in pleasing a sex partner than God, or who wants something purchased with money more than God.


When a man’s wife cheats on him, when the woman he loves betrays him with another man, the harm done to him is incalculable. When a woman’s husband cheats on her, when the man she has given herself to with love and sacrifice goes to another woman, the impact is beyond the comprehension of anyone who has not experienced such evil. If the pain of such a thing is ever overcome, it is only after years of working at it, years of praying about it, and years of being stung by it. And when you have to see or talk to or have your life invaded by that person, the scab is once more torn off the wound, and the pain of it starts all over again.

Thankfully, God is astonishingly powerful, incredibly forgiving, and gloriously restorative. His Son’s precious blood does not cover sins, but miraculously and graciously washes them clean away. Is it not a great thing to be able to sing “There Is Power In The Blood”? Therefore, as God is willing to forgive the sin of idolatry committed by those who come to Him through faith in Christ, and as He can forgive the sin of adultery committed by those who come to Him through faith in Christ, and as He can heal those whose lives have been severely damaged by unrepentant spouses who savaged them without seeking forgiveness for the wrong they did, imagine if you can see the white hot rage of God toward unrepentant idolaters.

Do you exhibit stubbornness with respect to God’s obvious will for your life? If you are lost and you know God wants you to come to Christ, you exhibit stubbornness by not fleeing to Christ for forgiveness. If you covet something here on this earth more than you desire the favor and forgiveness of God, you are an idolater. Be careful.

God is real. And if you don’t know that for sure, it does not mean anything more than He has left you alone like He left Ephraim alone because he was joined to idols. You don’t want God to leave you alone. Consider also that God can hate. He certainly loves, but He also hates. “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” You don’t want that, my friend. You don’t want that. And finally, idolatry is certainly bowing down and serving images and statues. But it is more than that, isn’t it? It is also substituting something in your affections for God. If you love anything or anyone more than God, you are an idolater. And He hates that. You are acting like He is not worthy though He alone is worthy.

I urge you to keep these things in mind as you consider the claims of Christ in the Bible.


[1] 1 John 4.8, 16

[2] Matthew 3.7; Luke 3.7; John 3.36; Romans 1.18; 2.5; 5.9; 9.22; Ephesians 5.6; Colossians 3.6; 1 Thessalonians 1.10; Revelation 6.17; 14.10, 19; 15.1, 7; 16.1; 19.15

[3] Deuteronomy 32.35, 41, 43; Psalm 94.1; 149.7; Isaiah 34.8; 35.4; 63.4; Jeremiah 46.10; 50.15, 28; 51.6, 11, 36; Ezekiel 25.14, 17; Micah 5.15; Nahum 1.2; Romans 12.19; 2 Thessalonians 1.8; Hebrews 10.30; Jude 7

[4] Genesis 1.26-27; 9.6

[5] C.F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, COMMENTARY ON THE OLD TESTAMENT, Vol 6, (Peabody, MA: reprinted by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1966), page 108.

[6] Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: The Presbyterian And Reformed Publishing Company, 1962), pages 279-284.

[7] F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to The Colossians, To Philemon, And To The Ephesians - NICNT, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), pages 143-144.

[8] 1 Corinthians 6.18

[9] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1537.

[10] Ibid., page 1531.

[11] Ibid., page 1534.

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