AAL. He appears throughout Scripture, in one form or another, 130 times, and is the constant enemy of God’s people. Something about Baal intrigued God’s people, and he was a constant thorn in their side. For one reason or another, he was always near when disaster struck, and was constantly involved in the fall of God’s people. What was it about this pagan god, this demonically driven deity, which created such an issue with men and women who were supposedly devoted to the one true and living God?
The first time we encounter his name is in a lineage of rulers descended from Esau. A blip on the radar screen, the name “Baal-Hanan” (Genesis 36:38) pops up and disappears. This ruler was so fond of Baal, he incorporated the name of the monster into his own name, so every time someone called out to him they exclaimed, “Baal is gracious!” However, Baal was anything but gracious.
Why, then, was this specific pagan god chosen by misled leaders of Israel as part of the mixture into which they threw Jehovah? Consider the pointed questioning of the Lord through Jeremiah 7:8–9 (NKJV): “Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know?”
When we realize Baal is in popular use by the time of the Patriarchs, is a constant thorn to God’s people through the Old Testament, and is even cited by Paul (Romans 11:4), it might be wise for us to better understand the influence and power behind this pagan god. For sure, his religion is still in effect today. It may be labeled something other than “Baal,” but that which he and his cohorts have taught for generations still exist. In fact, Baal is doing quite well these days. The reasons for his continued appeal listed below are not exhaustive but will serve to point us in the proper direction when trying to detect his presence.
First, Baal’s popularity is a spiritual issue. We live in a deceived world and many are led by deceived teachers. The core value of Satan and his pawns is darkness and deception. He flourishes in deception and is having a field day. As 2 Timothy 3:13 says, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived (NKJV).”
Our day is rife with such deception, and behind it all is the master of deception, Satan. He has blinded the eyes of unbelievers so they cannot see truth and be saved. Remember, we are in a spiritual battle. Expect spiritual weapons, nothing else, to work in this fight. I wholeheartedly agree with Francis Schaeffer: “If we fight the Lord’s battles merely by duplicating the way the world does its work, we are like little boys playing with wooden swords pretending they are in the battle while their big brothers are away in some distant bloody land.” Our fight with Baal will not be won by politicians, legislators, judges, or lawyers. Only spiritual warfare will win the day in this fight.
Second, there was, and is, immense social pressure attached to Baalism. He is acceptable—a part of the societal fabric. Baal is perfectly OK with you being devoted to him and any other gods of your choosing. He does not demand total fealty. You can worship him and any other of the phalanx of gods . . . just as long as you keep him in the top spot. Rome was very “baalish” in this regard. They did not mind your split worship going to any of the other gallery of gods, just so long as you came back around to the worship of Caesar as Lord. When the Christians came along and challenged the supremacy of Caesar, they attracted the eye of Rome, which resulted in horrific persecutions.
In our day, it is acceptable, at least by most people, to believe in God or some other higher power. In fact, it is still fine to talk about “God”; just don’t venture over into the “Jesus is Lord” business or you will quickly find yourself swimming against the tide. Baal has done a good job in North America, including the American church, of convincing people it is normal and proper to mix a little Jesus with a little Freud and a dash of Hollywood.
If you don’t think Baal has a host of followers in our land today, let it be known out in the public square, not the relative shelter of your Facebook page or your local church gathering, that you believe Jesus is the only way to Heaven. You will quickly discover the abundance of Baalists around you. You might even be surprised to discover how many disciples of his occupy seats around you on Sunday!
Third, Baal was, and is, popular because of the sexual aspect of his worship. There was a constant reference to Baal and his many consorts, and fertility was one of the key components of the belief system. Baalism always leads to a sexual revolution of sorts. His presence always brings with it sexual deviancy far outside the norms and parameters set by the Creator. Baal’s temples constantly employed the use of both male and female prostitutes as means of worship. The Canaanite religions were rotten to the core with sexual rites which devolved into rape, incest, and pedophilia.
I don’t have to venture too far afield here, do I? Our land has become a cesspool of debauchery, and behaviors which were once outlawed are now flaunted. As Baal becomes more popular in America (and barring a mighty awakening, he will), you can expect to witness even more grotesque behaviors become commonplace and acceptable.
Finally, Baal is acceptable because he represents security to the blinded mind. Baal was considered the one who made sure the crops grew, the rain fell, and the harvest was bountiful. Being devoted to him ensured you would have plenty of grain, wine, and song. Money, the almighty dollar, came from devotion to Baal. It does not take the amazing vision of the eagle to see where the church has become desensitized to the presence of Baal as we have equated the presence of money with the presence of God.
We must be careful lest we fall into the same trap as those who have gone before us. We cannot allow the glaring lights of Baal—whether they shine above the modern Molech of abortion clinics, glow with allure over the entertainment centers of our land, or flash in church services by mixing him with Jesus—to distract us from our call to love the Lord God and Him alone.
We face unprecedented times. To put it bluntly, our axe head is not floating. We need an intervention. We need people who will determine to live for God in Baal’s shadow regardless of the cost. We need men and women who will hear from God and speak into the murky waters where our lost abilities have sunk and cause them to rise to the surface and become useful. May He find in us just such people.
Like so many, I look for the coming of Jesus. I expect His arrival at any time. I am also challenged by the fact many before us lived with that same edge of anticipation and passed from the scene with their expectations unfulfilled. My goal is to call for those who will commit to live for Jesus even if He does not come back in our immediate future.
The Scriptures call for people so sold out to Jesus it does not matter which Baal is the ruling entity of the day. All that matters to this sold-out crowd is to please the Master. Whether our part is to simply live for Jesus in a culture which despises everything attached to His name or to be one of those flaming instruments used by the Father to speak prophetically to the nation, may He find us faithfully conducting ourselves under His watchful eye and filled with His fiery Spirit. Jesus, not Baal, shall have the final say!
Toby S. Morgan is administrative bishop of the Church of God in Texas. This article is from the introduction to his book, Living for God in Baal’s Shadow (© 2020, Pathway Press).