Idols promise to enhance the worship experience. The craftsman imagines that if you enshrine the person of God in some visible form then every element of worship will reach new heights. However, you do not need one more thing for worship. Everything we need for worship and all that we need for relationship with God has already been given.
The best thing you can do today to enhance your worship is to prepare your heart in repentance and focus your attention on the Lord. Gilded external stimuli is unnecessary to accomplish this, you have the Holy Spirit. There is no need to wait on a craftsman or rely on a minister, God is creating in you a new heart honed for worship this very moment.
It’s not only punitive, it’s reality. Growing up in west Africa there were a
number of things that were essential to living a healthy life, like malaria medicine, or filtered water. To remove either one of these, especially filtered water, you would avail yourself to all sorts of disastrous results. Removing God and erecting an idol in your life is very similar. You cannot expect your life or family to function in a productive, healthy way when you take God out of center.
That’s exactly God’s warning in the second commandment-your family will go awry for generations if you worship idols.
“but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
This week I am accompanying my son as he attends college orientation. One of the things pressing on my heart is the prayer and hope he finds believers who will provide fellowship, accountability, and community. These days on college campuses it seems that finding believers is more and more difficult. Much like the workplace, and neighborhoods . But there is a great hope and promise in verse 6 They ARE here. They are there. They are in offices, schools, and neighborhoods. AND, God has promised His faithfulness and loving kindness to those who love Him and keep His commandments. I am grateful for God’s reminder this week. I am also thankful that my son has already verbalized this same need and desire to find a community of believers on campus, but more importantly in a local church.
The first and second commandments are very similar…one almost an extension of the other. Together, they define the starting point of all worldviews. Either you believe in God or you do not. Your worldview is then established off of these premises. These commandments demand ultimate allegiance to God whose existence defines all reality. Theologian James Orr said, over a century ago, “This explains the radical antagonism between the two worldviews, one believing in God and one not. Two different starting points for all thought, two different realities—on the one hand silence, on the other hand speech; on the one hand, nihilism, on the other hand, theism, and those in the end are the only two great alternatives.”
These commands also demand exclusivity in worship. In our politically correct society, exclusivity is not a popular thought. Tolerance is the word of the day. Jesus also claims to be exclusive. Acts 4:12 says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” God is not saying I am the best among many…He is saying no other gods, I am the only one!
There are some things, like the second commandment, that are not self-evident, and therefore warrant an explanatory passage—hence Moses’s presentation to Israel of God’s reason for the injuction against graven images. Idolatry is not a neutral phenomenon. Its effect is a closing of the mind and of the will to the unseen side of reality, the spiritual realm. It will never be the case that where idols exist they will not overtake the thinking and the affections of the human person. In a matter of three or four generations, one’s descendants aren’t just uninterested in God, but outright hostile to all things divine. These verses encapsulate the history of Egypt in a few words. In the land of idols, Pharaoh set himself up as an enemy of the Almighty. A destitute people resulted.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
This command has a very contextual to its original audience, and a broader application for the rest of us. The Lord was speaking directly to a people who had come from a land filled with images, statutes, monuments all with some imbued power the Egyptians believed they possessed. The people of Israel were being cautioned away from that type of worship. God will not be contained in a object.
Our warning is simple, and yet we still are in the idol business today. It may not look as overt as a golden calf, but how we idolize fame, fortune, possessions. They very quickly take the place that should be reserved for God. Don’t miss the promise of God’s lovingkindness promised to us that obey. Keep focused.
Who do you love?
What do you get excited about?
What does your heart desire?
Who do you turn to in times of trouble?
Where do you run when you need something?
What occupies your mind?
Where do you spend your energy?
How do you spend your money?
What fills your schedule?
As we answer these sorts of questions we get the most accurate answer of who our God is.
Re:Verse passage – Exodus 20:3 (day six) “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
The 10 Commandments were intended to do for more than condemn us. This new covenant with the people of Israel was God’s next step in restoring His blessing. The first commandment then, with the others to follow, show us the way or what’s required. “You shall have no other gods before me” is not only a worth demand from God, but a state of being. When we devote ourselves to the Lord alone, when we love Him with all of our heart, when we know Him and follow Him above all else, then we know his blessing. The same blessing He promised Adam and Eve, Abraham, Jacob, and now the people of Israel, ultimately fulfilled in Jesus.
Re:Verse passage – Exodus 20:3 (day five) “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
God begins His commandments with a clear demonstration of His vast wisdom and knowledge of the human race in at least a couple of ways. The first commandment serves as a foundation for the other nine. Before learning and understanding all that God demands in a covenant relationship, we must first know who He is, and who we are in this relationship to Him. Once this is settled, we can begin to discover the priorities and structure God expects in our lives. Second, this first commandment also addresses the Egyptian influence that has shaped the hearts and practices of the Israelites- polytheism. They have been immersed in the Egyptian culture- one of the most polytheistic civilizations known to man. They were affected from their time in captivity. Note the activity of idol worship when God was delivering the commandments. So the first commandment addresses their greatest weakness and greatest need. The fact that the human race is quickly distracted from pure devotion to God, and will unwisely build our faith and relationship with God on less than a complete and eternally sturdy foundation. We are easily swayed.