3 Do not have other gods besides me. 4 Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. 5 Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the fathers’ iniquity, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, 6 but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands.
We don’t think we have false gods. That seems so ancient. Maybe unsophisticated. But blindness to our idols does not make them any less real or less significant. God is very serious about false gods, as this passage in Exodus indicates. “You shall have no other gods before Me, and you shall not make an idol out of the things I created.”
We sometimes ascribe power and authority to the creation that can only properly be given to God. Creation appeals to us through its physical (and sometimes fiscal) presence. It’s tangible. Something we can touch. Something we can understand. Something we can control. And this false sense of our god-likeness is the Fall played out in this passage. We have a choice—either Yahweh is God, or we are. Our idols are of our own conjuring, often forming from our fears or our hopes outside of God’s plan for us. We lack faith to accept our circumstances, not realizing God has greater purposes and plans.
So what do our false gods—our idols—look like? Maybe a diploma from that school. As a parent of two college-aged kids, I know the perceived pressure of getting in the right school with the right scholarship and the right program. Maybe it’s a job or position, a bank account or a house. We can even make good, godly things into idols, like the Pharisees did with the Old Testament. They knew the Scriptures—but they did not know the Word.
The point in idolatry comes in placing anything—anything—in the position that belongs to God. He alone deserves our faith, our hope and our devotion. Anyone or anything else we put in that place is sin.
“Prone to wander…” is the heart-song of us all. So what do we do? We remind ourselves of the Truth. We study the Word, pray and repent every day. We sit under the authority of sound Biblical teaching. And we participate in community worship, drawing the church into unity to speak with one voice our worship of the King.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- What idols do you have? Often they are subtle, “Jesus and …” kinds of things.
- What focuses your heart on the Lord and away from the things of the world? How do you turn from the idols above and establish your provision, your hope and your worship in God alone?