Tearing Down High Places: Part 2

Recently, I shared how I came to realize that I had, in a very real sense, set myself and our marriage up as a “high place” for my husband. Although I never would have said it, nor probably even thought it, the Holy Spirit showed me that my hurt, angry and bitter response to my husband’s need for God – instead of turning to me – as he wandered through the home-going of his mother unequivocally confirmed that truth in my heart.

God Himself stated that it was not good for the man to be alone – and He made that statement in the perfection of the Garden where God served as Adam’s company and companion. In that perfect moment, a time before sin became a part of the equation, God not only gave Adam (and the rest of us) permission to desire and need human companionship… fellowship… community… with someone who was not God – He ordained it! Yet week after week, we sing beautiful, heart-stirring worship songs about intimacy and relationship with the Lord being our “all in all;” that He’s “more than enough.” How do we reconcile these two?

It must be that the yanking back and forth between two good, God-given, complementary desires came when sin became a part of the equation. One of the consequences of sin was that Eve’s desire would be for her husband. At first, that doesn’t seem to fit with all of the other consequences. I read that and think, “Of course! Her desire should be for her husband. That’s a good thing, right?”

That particular Hebrew word occurs three times in the Bible.  In Genesis 3, it refers to the longing a wife will have for her husband. In Song of Songs 7, it refers to the longing of a man for a woman. What is so sobering is that in Genesis 4, it refers to the craving of a beast to devour its prey.  When I look at that third connotation of the original word, when I see that it is used in the context of a curse -negative consequences resulting from sin… I have to ask myself if the Lord wasn’t telling Eve that part of her continual struggle would be fighting against a longing that, if not confessed and repented from, then submitted to the authority of the Lord and the help and power of the Holy Spirit, could devour both her and the one she has promised to love above all else?

That word devour illicit vivid images… remember Peter’s words about Satan “prowling about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour?” What about David’s vigilance as a shepherd, necessary to prevent lions and bears from mauling the flocks for which he cared? And then there is, for me, the unforgettable biblical account that I once taught to the ladies in our church’s Bible study. In 2 Kings 17, the King of Assyria sent people to repopulate the area once inhabited by the Israel – and lions were devouring the people. The solution? A Jewish priest was commissioned to teach the people how to fear and worship the Lord – which the nations did. But they also kept their own high places and worshipped their own gods at the same time. In verse 33, it is written, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods,” Later, in verse 41, “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; their children likewise and their grandchildren, as their fathers did, so they do to this day.”

Sobering words.

On his web page Spiritual Leadership, Henry Blackaby writes:

“Appealing to peoples’ carnal nature, the high places were always popular…” and

“High places are seductive… Such hedonistic religion appealed to peoples’ base senses of greed and sensuality. No wonder God commanded Joshua to obliterate…”

Resulting from that first sin in the Garden, I must recognize this continual temptation of a longing for my husband that distorts the original desire and need God placed within mankind to find joy and fulfillment in the companionship of a spouse or of others like us that complements the worship and adoration of Him as God and Lord. If my husband (…or child, etc.) subtly becomes the focus of my adoration and worship – and I set him up as a “high place,”  I then begin to demand that same sort of attention from him in return – trying to lead him to a high place centered on me. I become jealous, playing the part of jilted lover or forsaken friend when that does not happen. If not arrested, that longing can devour me… and the one who is the object of my longing.

Vigilance is key to stopping high place construction before it starts. I find I must continually present this temptation to the Lord each time the Holy Spirit reveals that I’ve begun… or have already built and begun worshipping once more at that pagan altar. I need to go back to the solution offered in 2 Kings 17. I must relearn a holy fear and reverence of the Lord. Yet I think it is clear from that chapter that a fear of the Lord who allowed devouring lions that terrify is not sufficient. Read of all the kings and rulers who feared and worshipped the Lord, but allowed the high places to remain… with consequences for those around them and for those who followed after them. The rest of the solution requires persistent, nitty-gritty obedience. I usually think of the following words, from Deuteronomy 6, as directed towards parents and leaders – but what if I applied them to all relationships…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words which I am commanding you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates… then watch yourself, and see that you do not forget… You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. You shall not follow other gods… you shall not put the Lord your God to the test… You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes… You shall do what is right and good in the sight of the Lord… So the Lord commanded us to observe al these… to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival as it is today. It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this, just as He commanded us.”

(Post by: Richelle)


9 Responses to “Tearing Down High Places: Part 2”

  1. 1 Ashley L May 1, 2012 at 3:26 am

    Thank you so very much for sharing, Richelle! I also have heard the word “desire” in this verse described in a similar negative light, especially as it relates to issues of submission/Ephesians 5 issues in marriage considering the second part of the verse about “ruling over.” I know that it can be a temptation for women to control rather than to let their husbands lead in certain ways that God has designed. I am not sure where you or anyone else stands on the whole complimentarian/egalitarian issue, but I think in either circumstance the temptation to rule over one’s husband can be seen negatively.

  2. 2 Ashley L May 1, 2012 at 3:43 am

    And again, I so appreciate your encouragement to keep our eyes out for high places. I am praying throught this issue and for the things in my own life that God brings up in this area. It can be so tempting to glaze over all of those references to idol worship and high places that are absolutely everywhere in scripture since it so easily conjures up images of ancient tradition and wooden gods, but it couldn’t possibly be a more relevant issue to any person of any time or culture. Thank you for bringing this issue up for us to be thinking and praying through in our own lives!

  3. 3 richelle May 1, 2012 at 11:03 am

    cbmw (http://www.cbmw.org/Resources/Articles/Summaries-of-the-Egalitarian-and-Complementarian-Positions) has a good summary of both positions: egalitarian/complementarian.

    and, i don’t want to sound like i’m avoiding giving an opinion – but i wonder if both aren’t biblical – and that God offers the freedom for individual marriages to grow and develop based upon the individuals in the marriage? or if at different seasons in our lives, our marriages need differing perspectives and so there is freedom to morph back and forth between the two models? this is an opinion that has been growing as i’ve been studying marriage with the ladies in our church here over the past year. don’t know if this makes sense or not – i’ve not really tried to write it or talk about it yet… please holler out if you think i’m totally off base.

    on the other hand, i do believe that within the church, God’s Word gives very clear and specific guidelines for men and women’s roles – they are different and like it or not, we can’t escape the fact that God has limited freedoms there.

    and thanks for your kind, encouraging words. i appreciate you, and am glad i can call you one of my cyber friends 🙂 !

  4. 4 Ashley L May 1, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    I love the C.B.M.W. website! So many great resources! I look forward to checking out that article. I have always personally sided with the complimentarian viewpoint, but i have many dear and godly friends who are much more egalitarian and who would see things differently than I do. It certainly isn’t a conviction level belief (something to break fellowship over) and I know that both sides have very strong reasons for believing how they do. It is definitely something that I think we should all think and pray about though! I have always wondered what this discussion looks like across cultures, and especially in matriarchal cultures…. Is the culture in Niger more matriarchal? Even in Russia, it seems as a lot of times that it is the women who run the families and various aspects of the society (lots of alcoholism, especially in the male population). I wonder how such cultures deal with this issue and the various corresponding scriptures and what the implications are for them… sounds like something interesting to study to me!

  5. 5 Kristin May 5, 2012 at 8:03 am

    This is so true and heart-wrenchingly honest. Thank you for sharing your personal struggles with this almost taboo topic that every missionary wife (actually every wife) deals with in their marriage relationship.

  6. 6 richelle May 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Culture in Niger – women are strong and they are the workhorses of this society, in general (although I know many men who are hard workers, so I’m not meaning to imply something derogatory). Islam has been such a part of this world for so long, I wonder what the traditional culture looked like. Women have fewer rights legally – kids automatically belong to the father, women are often abused, harder for them to own land (we had a friend who was given land and house by misso friends – when she went through the Muslim courts to divorce her husband for his abuse – the elders finally granted the divorce but she lost all rights to both their children and the house), start bank accounts, multiple wives… it isn’t a matriarchal culture…

    i did read a series on the complementarian/egalitarian debate – dealt with things on a theoretical, theological issue – and that author saw it as a much larger issue than either you or I have accorded it – very interesting reading and I’m digesting much of it – http://matthiasmedia.com/briefing/2010/10/complementarianism-and-egalitarianism-part-1-the-coming-divide-i/
    – if you are interested.

    thanks, kristin.

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