Deuteronomy 16:21–22 (CSB)
21 “Do not set up an Asherah of any kind of wood next to the altar you will build for the Lord your God, 22 and do not set up a sacred pillar; the Lord your God hates them.
After touching on justice among the Israelites, and the appointment of officials to ensure the administration of it, Moses now shifts to address a spiritual justice of sorts. I think there are two points made here.
- Nothing is equal to God, or even comes close to him. The command about erecting an Asherah or pillar is not about aesthetics of the altar, or even some sort of negative trait inherent to a pole or pillar itself. The issue is what these items represented: false gods. The issue is that nothing should be equivalent to God in our lives, in our worship. To set anything alongside God suggests that we think God is lacking somehow, and this other god will somehow complement or complete him. No wonder God “hates them”!
- Nor does God need anything to elevate him. I do not know for sure what the pillar referred to in Deut. 16:22 is, but the image that comes to my mind is a pillar that the altar to God would be placed upon… in other words, some structure that would elevate God further. Now God should be worshipped, absolutely, but God does not need us to make him worthy of that worship by placing him on a pillar… God is worthy of worship in and of himself! So just as no false god can complement God by being alongside him, no false idol can raise God to be better than he already is.
- Ok, three points… if our worship is not in line with how it is prescribed by God, it is detestable. I think we touched on the “defect” in an animal thing before, and I still do not think it is as much about the animal having a “flaw” as much as it is giving up what we prize the most. If God is not worthy of our best, then who is? When we withhold our most prized possessions, which are leased to us by the way, from God, then we are actually saying that we are more deserving than he is… we worship ourselves, we make ourselves that false god that we set next to, or even above, God.
Lord, thank you for being the only, perfect, awesome God! I am sorry for putting my idols alongside you, and sometimes even placing them ahead of you. I pray for a heart that worships only you Lord, above all else, and for you alone. Amen.