“They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols TO WHOM THEY PROSTITUTE THEMSELVES. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come” (Leviticus 17:7-8 NIV).
There in the dry reading of Leviticus jumped out this idea of prostitution: sheep bowing down and giving homage to the will of goats. Goats are extremely curious, intelligent and notoriously independent, while sheep are extremely gregarious, not too bright, and notoriously dependent. Because sheep are inclined to meekly follow any dominance, goats are often used by shepherds to lead their flocks. Likewise, we see at the head of many churches dominant personalities guiding whole flocks in supposed submission to the Lord’s guidance.
“Goat idols” also means “hairy ones” and “demons” or “devils,” and especially refers to bowing down to the native strength of man’s rebellious and independent nature. Just as Esau is hated by God, being “hairy” and “red” with native/Adamic blood, so ultimately, those “whose strength is their god” are hated by God. Indeed, “They will be held guilty, they whose strength is their god” (Habakkuk 1:11 NASB).
Adam Clarke, in his commentary on our text fragment, said,
“The famous heathen god, Pan, was represented as having the posteriors, horns, and ears of a goat; and the... [Egyptians] had a deity which they worshipped under this form. Herodotus says that all goats were worshipped in Egypt, but the he-goat particularly. It appears also that... [an] ...innumerable herd of...imaginary beings, satyrs, dryads, hamadryads, [and] ...woodland gods, [were] held in veneration among the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans.”
In literal terms, physical prostitution was often involved in the worship of “Pan,” the “goat idol/demon.” In spiritual terms, and as the Lord opened this portion of Scripture to me, it is about metaphysical prostitution—a whoring from God! I would suggest that goat worship is man worshipping hireling leadership. In today’s application, it most often represents pastor worship (and sometimes prophet, apostle or teacher or title worship). Too many sheep prostitute themselves by joining themselves to their pastors in lieu of clinging to Christ. However much a pastor stands as an ambassador of Christ, he remains merely an ambassador who can only operate as a delegate. We must never lose sight of Christ behind everything and everyone; if and when we do, we worship the creature rather than the Creator (who is blessed forever amen). Indeed, “This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.”
“Don’t you ever be called ‘rabbi’—you have only one teacher, and all of you are brothers. And don’t call any human being ‘father’—for you have one Father and he is in Heaven. And you must not let people call you ‘leaders’—you have only one leader, Christ! The only ‘superior’ among you is the one who serves the others” (Matthew 23:8-11 PHILLIPS).
On one hand, we are to esteem others better than ourselves; on the other hand, let no one lord over you! Always bow to the Lord exclusively, no matter whose voice or action the Lord expresses Himself through. Respect elders and those who oversee your souls in delegated authority; even give them more respect, but not in blind allegiance. Learn to feed yourself and commune often and directly with the Lord in your own private closet. Our God is a jealous God and will fight for His bride’s allegiance, not with coercion, but with mighty displays of unconditional and exclusive love.
“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory and majesty and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him [for judgment]; and He will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right [the place of honor], and the goats on His left [the place of rejection]” (Matthew 25:31-33 AMP).
When very young, goats and sheep are nearly indistinguishable. Even as they grow, their physical similarities often make it hard to tell them apart. Their behavior, however, is a dead giveaway. Goats are not so much leaders as independent and venturous which intoxicates sheepish sheep and compels them to follow them. Goats are cults of personality. Everywhere you turn in Christendom someone is accentuating “strong leadership.” They are misguided! As the parable of the sheep and the goats reveal, the meek not only inherit earth but heaven also. The Lord’s true sheep only hear His voice and will not follow another. His sheep are not mesmerized by inflated egos and larger-than-life personalities; wolf salesmen in sheep’s clothing cannot trick them.
“Wander away from the midst of Babylon and go out of the land of the Chaldeans; be like the male goats [who serve as leaders] at the head of the flocks” (Jeremiah 50:8 AMP). In other words, wander away from the confusion you have regarding God’s gateway to truth and out of the delusionary magic trickery of the enemy; go out strong and stubbornly resolved in order to break away from spiritual adultery. Herein the goat symbolism is good; most of the time in Scripture, however, it is bad. When it comes to evil, be forceful and assertive like a goat in order not to be entangled or ensnared by it, but when it comes to good, merely congregate and humbly enjoy it like sheep. Never confuse goats with sheep; in the end, it will be like confusing tares with wheat.
“Little children (believers, dear ones), guard yourselves from idols—[false teachings, moral compromises, and anything that would take God’s place in your heart]” (1 John 5:21 AMP).