Yesterday we looked at the first of the Ten Commandments telling us to worship no other gods but only God Almighty – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You can read that post here – No Other God.
Today we continue on by considering the next commandment. This one, I believe, is closely connected with yesterday’s one.
“Do not make for yourselves images of anything in heaven or on earth or in the water under the earth. 5 Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals. I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.
Exodus 20:4-5 (GNT)
God is not against sculpture! Yet He clearly commands the people of Israel not to make any images of animals or beasts. Why would that be a problem?
As we mentioned yesterday, the people of Israel had just escaped the clutches of Egypt and had been surrounded by a culture which worshipped many gods of different kinds. Many animals were worshipped also, or their images used as a focal point.
God did not want the Israelites to adopt this practice. For them, God was the only One to be worshipped. They were not to make images of created things, but should worship the Creator Himself alone.
Any “god” made by human hands is no god at all.
Such a practice may seem rather alien to our ears. I don’t recall meeting anyone who made themself an idol or image and began to worship it. So does this really apply to us?
While we may not worship carved images much these days, there are plenty of things we might describe as idols in our lives.
The idolatry of money springs immediately to mind. We all need money of course, and it is important to work and pay our bills. But how many people actually end up worshipping their money, unhealthily obsessed with their bank balance or possessions? It is one thing to love one’s job, but quite another to work incessantly for the bigger house, better car, or latest gadget. All such things are temporary.
There are countless other examples. Fame is one. People idolise pop stars or movie actors, many of whom are engaged in all manner of sinfulness on and off screen. If not chasing after the superstar, they may be seeking fame itself believing it to be a high achievement.
Idol worship can come in less obvious forms as well. Family, for example, can become an idol to some. It can start with just wanting to be a good parent or spouse, but grow into a dependence or even our very reason for being. There is no suggestion at all that we should neglect our family responsibilities, but neither should they become the most important thing in our life, that is, above God Himself.
Jesus made this point in Matthew’s Gospel:
“Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples.
Matthew 10:37 (GNT)
Again, to be really clear, Jesus is not saying we should not care about our families. We absolutely should love and care for those close to us. What He is saying is that Jesus must be first and foremost in our lives, even above our family. That is a real challenge.
What are the idols in your life? Are there things which are taking God’s rightful place?
Exodus 20:5 goes on to say that God “tolerates no rival” (from the Good News Translation) and in other versions of the Bible says “I am a jealous God.”
God is the only One in the entire universe who has a right to be “jealous.” For us, we are no better than any other human being. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s standards so have no right to look down on anyone else. Yet God is perfect, and wonderful, and He is the Almighty. No one and nothing compares to Him. When we worship other gods or make idols for ourselves, we are rejecting God’s perfection for something quite inferior.
God goes on to remind us that He will punish anyone who hates Him. These feel like difficult words, and many will argue they are not the words of a loving God. Such accusations are false however, and show a lack of understanding of who God is. He gave us life and breath and everything else, so how dare we even dream of “hating” Him?
Those who say what they will ask God when they meet Him in heaven, and I don’t mean out of curiosity but rather out of accusation. A well known atheist in the UK claimed he would question God about this or that. No he will not! When we see God in His full glory, we won’t dare question Him! It is hubris to think so.
There is but one God, and we should worship Him alone. We dare not make for ourselves anything that we use to replace Him. “You shall have no other god before Me!”