The Destroyer at Dehra Dun
By John Folmar
I had expected much more. From outside, the Hindu temple in Dehra Dun, northern India, was ornate and impressive. But as Anand Samuel and I entered the temple, it was just a big room with cold concrete flooring. (We had removed our shoes before entering.) There were no priests, no teaching, no choirs, although music played outside all day long over loudspeakers. Painted flowers and Hindi signage covered the walls inside, warning adherents not to offer money to Shiva, the “Destroyer,” and not to be flippant in their acts of worship but to take them seriously.
A worshipper arrived and rang one of the bells in the entryway. Sounding the bell alerts the temple deity that a worshipper has arrived. She paused, bent down and kissed each step as she approached the altar, where she bowed and prayed to Shiva, whose statue was inside the holy place surrounded by flowers and cobra statues. She received a dish of fruit, offered it to the god, and then ate it as an expression of dependence and faith. And then she was gone.
What struck me was how hopelessly deceived this woman was.
Their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men.
They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see;
they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell;
they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk;
nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.
Who knows why the worshipper was there in the temple that night? Perhaps she was guilt-ridden for her sins, trying to justify herself by performing these acts. Maybe tragedy had struck in her life, or she was giving thanks for something good that had occurred, or she feared that the Destroyer would strike a loved one. Whatever motivated her, she was immersed in demonic deception. Idolatry isn’t a legitimate cultural expression of the divine spark within all of us. No, Paul wrote, “what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God” (1 Cor 10:20).
Of course, we’re no different. All of us by nature are every bit as deceived as that poor woman last week in Dehra Dun. We are all “blinded by the god of this age” (2 Cor 4:4) until gospel light shines in our hearts to deliver us. In God’s infinite mercy he has given us his true Son from heaven, the Lamb of God, perfectly revealing the Father’s character. Jesus Christ is the “radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of God's being” (Heb 1:3). Praise God that, through no merit of our own, he has delivered us from idolatry and futility and brought us into a relationship with the living God!
I came away from the temple in Dehra Dun with the following lessons for my life:
1. Praise God for the Bible.
Idol worshippers are “darkened in their understanding” (Eph 4:18), but we have received the light of revelation. God has not only appeared in this sinful world, he has spoken to us! He has revealed true truth, in such a way that we can read and understand and hear directly from our Creator. As John Frame has written, “Consider the immense significance of the fact that the Creator of heaven and earth, who sovereignly governs all the affairs of the universe, actually knows, befriends, even loves human beings—and that he speaks to us.” What a priceless gift, that we are delivered from demonic deception, and set free to enjoy genuine communion with our Lord.
Have you taken this gift for granted? Countless millions of idol-worshippers have no access to “the word of truth,” but by grace you have!
He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws.
Praise the LORD. —Psalm 147:19-20
2. The Bible is all we need for life and godliness.
In the ancient near east, many pagan temples resembled Shiva’s temple in Dehra Dun or Israel’s temple in Jerusalem: there was a holy place within the temple, reserved only for the priestly caste and the holiest occasions. Do you know what was commonly kept in that holy room? An idol, a representation of the god himself. Contrast that with what was kept in Israel’s most holy place: a Book.
God has spoken. He has revealed himself in true and living words, “so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17). We need no further data, image or instruction. Scripture is sufficient for all of life. God does not require us to believe anything about Himself or His redemptive work that is not found in Scripture. Nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in Scripture either explicitly or by implication. No wonder the psalmist said, “Oh, how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps 119:97).
3. Merely knowing the Bible is not enough.
The demons know the Bible. Satan himself tempted Jesus by saying, “It is written…” (Luke 4:8). Just because we possess the Bible, just because we read it and understand it correctly, does not mean we have been delivered from the devil’s schemes. So deceptive are our hearts that we can become puffed up with pride at our Bible knowledge. We can regard idol worshippers as beneath us, forgetting that we by nature were also “futile in our thinking” (Rom 1:21).
Without the Spirit of God, the Word of God is forever closed to us. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14).
Remember: Jesus’ chief opponents were religious leaders—the chief priests and scribes. They knew their Bibles better than anyone else. But they didn’t know Jesus. On one occasion he said to them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me; yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39).
How tragic—to know the Word (unlike the idol worshippers) and yet fail to see the main point of it all! The glory of the Bible is that it points to the living Christ, who said, “These are the Scriptures that testify about me.”
Think of the Bible as a living signpost, unerringly pointing you toward Jesus. As J. I. Packer said, “The written word of the Lord leads us to the living Lord of the Word.” Therefore, let us approach God’s Word daily with prayer and reverence, and with a grateful anticipation for what we will find there.
The lady at Dehra Dun, the one who rang the bell and kissed the steps, did not know the true God—but you can know him. She was captive to Satan’s blinding power—but you need not be. Turn to the Word of Christ, feed on it every day, because there we can come to Jesus by God’s grace.
Jesus, not Shiva, is the true Destroyer. Shiva’s followers claim he will one day destroy the universe, ushering in yet another hopeless cycle of death and re-birth. But Jesus Christ is the true Destroyer: he will destroy death itself, once and for all.
Christ appeared in this world and laid down his life for us on the cross, “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb 2:14-15).
Shiva has enslaved millions, but his days are numbered: “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The true Destroyer of death, Jesus, is also the giver of life. Let us enter into that life by “receiving with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).