Summary: God hates idolatry. It competes for His attention and He is a jealous God. We belong to Him. Are we living like it?
As I prepared this series, I realized how little we actually preach or teach on the Ten Commandments as if they are neither important nor relevant. They are both. It was very enlightening to me to preach through them. I learned a lot! I trust this series will encourage you to also preach through the Ten Commandments!
Introduction – Douglas Stuart, in his excellent commentary on Exodus enumerates some of the attractions of idolatry. He lists nine in his commentary, but only mention three are mentioned here.
1. Manipulation – The ancients believed that once a statue of a god was made and certain incantations and magical rituals were performed, from that time forward, wherever that statue was, the god was there as well. The idol was a magical representation of their god. Thus, they could summon their god to be in their presence simply by having the idol in their presence. This assured them that their god heard and received their prayers and sacrifices. The idol, they believed, allowed them to manipulate their god’s presence.
2. Materialism – Idolatry was purely materialistic. The ancients believed that their gods could do everything but feed themselves. So, this was accomplished by offering sacrifices to them. In turn, the gods would be obliged to act on their behalf. This was an easy arrangement. You feed the god by making sacrifices to the statue, and the god would have no choice but to bless you materially. At its root this is no different than the prosperity gospel of our day and age which says that you can manipulate God by doing something for Him which will force Him to do something in return for you. This allowed them to manipulate their god’s actions.
3. Easy – Worshiping an idol was the easiest form of religion possible. All you had to do was offer regular sacrifices. There was no moral code or ethical covenant to uphold. In most cases you could live as you wanted so long as you made regular sacrifices. Live like you want but just offer a sacrifice every now and then. Sounds like some religions today. Beware of any religion which merely demands material sacrifices but does not call the worshiper to holy living. Beware of a religion which allows you to perform certain rituals but does not demand an ongoing relationship.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image”
The Prohibition from God 4
We move from the Who we worship to the How we worship. God wants FULL ownership in your life. He doesn’t want parcels, He wants the whole enchilada of your life!
His Command - don’t make
He forbids you making anything to compete with Him. Some make sports their god and king. Some make their job or hobby their idol. Have you made anything a competitor with God?
His Counsel – for yourself
Don’t even think about it! He counsels you to think of Him first! To make ourselves idols reveals the dark depravity in our soul. We do not seek Him because we want a god who likes what we like. Have you made something an idol for yourself?
His Candor – an idol
A carved image is something we shape with our hands, will or mind. It is man’s dream and desires to fulfill his wants. But God wants you to follow and worship Him alone!
Adrian Rogers stated, “And idol is anything you love more, fear more, value more or serve more than you do Almighty God.”
St. Augustine pointed out that "Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshiped."
Illustration – Sports may fill spiritual vacuum
In an essay titled "The Future of Sport" presented at the 2004 conference of the World Future Society, author and futurist Robin Gunston examines how organized sports will look in years to come. He writes:
“The loss of core values in society due to the waning influence of the church creates a spiritual vacuum into which sports may move. 'Religiosport' could develop as major sports replace conventional religion. Religiosport will have its shrines (stadiums), costumes (uniforms), services (games and events), rituals (chants and songs), high priests (star athletes), and piety (fan loyalty).”
Is that true in your life? It was in mine once!
We note the prohibition from God. Let’s examine…
“Any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God”
The Passion of God 4b-5a
God’s passion is for you to know and serve Him alone. He does not want to compete for anything in you life.