Idolatry The Cause of the Broken-down Condition
That principle works - and mark you, it works personally too, if your heart is so set upon something that you will not take "no" from the Lord; you insist, you will have it; and your threat to the Lord, even if it is not put in the form of a threat, is that unless the gives you that, or does that for you, you are not going on. If there is anything like that, the Lord will give it to you, He will let you have it. It will be a curse to you. Abraham did that over Ishmael - and what a curse! You see, there is the principle. Now the point is this, that these people allowed idolatry to come into their lives, in spirit and in principle; and the Lord, through His prophet, "rising up early," appealed; but they refused to listen to the voice of the prophet, so the Lord said: 'All right, have what you want - away to Babylon!' They lost everything.
What is idolatry? If it is not bowing down to idols of wood and stone, it takes many many subtle forms, and very often indirect ways. it is just heart communion with anything that takes God's place, that gets in God's way. What a lot of ground that covers! The ultimate effect is that the Lord is frustrated, the Lord is hindered, the Lord cannot have what He is after. That is idolatry in principle. It displaces the Lord, it makes difficulties for the Lord.
I said earlier that, although Israel was cured of that outer form of idolatry, the principle or spirit of idolatry was not eradicated: for in the days of our Lord they were worshiping tradition - and tradition can be an idol. Yes, tradition can be an idol: you can be so committed and devoted to tradition that the Lord does not have a chance. It obstructs the Lord's way, like the rubbish that Nehemiah could not pass - the beast that he rode could not pass the rubbish. Very often the rubbish in the Lord's way is the rubbish of a dead tradition, of a dead history, something that belongs to the past and is not alive now. That is the principle of idolatry. That was the fundamental and ultimate cause of the brokenness of the wall, the wreckage, the rubbish, the debris: idolatry, heart union and communion with that which is not of the Lord.
Remember that this book of Nehemiah is full of bad conditions, of evils and errors, and these things correspond to the state of the wall. I want you to get this, although I shall come back to it again. You look at that wall and examine it, and you can look through it, so to speak; and in looking through you see that the conditions of the Lord's people tally exactly with the condition of the wall. There are all sorts of wrongs and evils and errors, and that is the rubbish, that is the broken-down state of things. You see, the people's state corresponded to the state of the wall; the wall was just an illustration of spiritual conditions: so that when you come to 'look through' this wall, you find that what you are dealing with really is not a wall but spiritual conditions; and as Nehemiah went forward to deal with the wall, he found that he had at the same time to deal with spiritual conditions in the people. They were one and the same thing. It would in effect be foolish to put up a beautiful wall when the conditions behind the wall were a contradiction. You see the point? The two things must be consistent - the spiritual state and your testimony. The testimony must have a spiritual condition behind it. A spiritual condition must support the testimony. You cannot work upon building up something that is not in the energy of truth.
We shall see further what the wall means, and what the wall is made of; but for the time being, the Lord bring us into His own vision, into His own intention, and energize us with the same energy as that which possessed His servant Nehemiah and His servant Paul, and many others whom He has used to recover something more of the testimony of His Son.
(continued with # 11 - The Fundamental Matter of Worship")