What in the world is an Asherah pole? Asherah was a Canaanite goddess who is often depicted as a divine consort to other male gods. Her sacred symbol is a pole or a tree that is venerated by those who worship her. Asherah becomes part of the Israelite religious landscape when they enter the promised land and are exposed to foreign gods. Despite God’s command to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan and obliterate their religion, the Israelites marry foreign women and adopt their foreign gods. There are repeated references in scripture to good kings and prophets condemning and tearing down the Asherah poles that come to adorn sacred worship space reserved for God alone.
(Image courtesy of otagosh.blogspot.com)
So why should we, the products of progress so far removed from the antiquated ways of the ancient Middle East, concern ourselves with some mythical goddess called Asherah and her strange poles? Perhaps it is because we are not that far removed from it. We still have Asherah poles that have manifested themselves in new and shiner forms. We have idols that compete for our attention, our veneration, our devotion that should belong to God alone. I’m not talking about false gods. We readily understand that these modern incarnations of Asherah poles are not gods, divine entities, but they still take our attention away from God, steal our time and resources from God, and dominate our words and thoughts. They are that which we become obsessed with acquiring, keeping, and showing to others. For some it might be cars, for others real estate, for some of us it is the image of a life style beyond our financial means to afford. Sometimes it is our devotion to a sport or a team that keeps us from Sunday worship. Other times it is our choices made on Saturday night that leave us too exhausted, too “under the weather” to get up and worship Sunday morning. An Asherah pole is anything that we are willing to choose over God which can be anything that we justify spending money on when we don’t tithe, anything we do when we should be at worship, anything we think about all the time to the exclusion of God.
I’m not saying that these things are fundamentally evil, but it is how we act and react to things that indicates when they become a stumbling block to us. Having a car is fine, even better when we use it as a vehicle of kindness to others, such as taking people who cannot drive to appointments and worship, carrying items for mission and donations to charitable causes, and as a means of going to work to support ourselves and our households. When our vehicle becomes a status symbol, or when we refuse to use it to further our work as disciples that we need to re-examine our possession. The same goes for owning a home. I have no problem with loving sports and being a supportive fan of your favorite team, but I get irked when people skip worship to watch the Sunday game. What are you saying theologically when you choose to abstain from what is generally one hour of corporate worship of your God for a televised sporting event? Lastly, there is a certain demographic that makes Saturday night such a social event that they are literally too wasted to go to church on Sunday. I myself love a good time, but I do not let it keep me from the most important time of the week.
Perhaps that is the real issue. We have Asherah poles in our lives because we fail to see the significance of Sunday morning, which is a fundamental part of our spirituality and our relationship with God. There are many other religions with far more strict rules and regulations that dictate how practitioners will spend their time. Christians are not mandated to pray at five specific times of the day. We are not required to grind our lives to a halt from sun down to sun up over a twenty four hour time period. We do not have to begin each day with a trek to the local house of worship to have face time with God before we can go about our business. We take it for granted that God asks that we take one day to rest for ourselves and, out of that one day a week, we are to come together and worship. At most, the majority of Christians lose a couple of hours on a Sunday morning. Those Asherah poles quickly become a crutch used as an excuse for not furthering our walk with Christ. Jesus came to make the lame walk (Luke 7:22), so tear down that Asherah pole and walk.