Summary: This sermon explains why God forbids the worship of any other gods.
ILLUSTRATION Thomas Watson, the puritan preacher, said in the 17th century, “in the first commandment worshiping a false God is forbidden. In this, however, the second commandment, worshiping the true God in a false manner is forbidden.”
How should we worship God?
1.PROHIBITION – Don’t make and worship idols. (vv. 4-5a)
The prohibition said don’t “cut or shape” something, stone in particular an image, of whatever likeness and involving a variety of materials, for use in the worship of deity. (See Deuteronomy 4:14-19)
God is not forbidding spiritual visual arts – which are used for decoration like painting and figurines; and as teaching tools like three dimensional images and objects. What God forbids is the use of spiritual visual arts for devotional purposes.
ILLUSTRATION Asians and middle easterners are fond of manufacturing idols. We buy them not for decoration and instruction but for devotion.
We pray to them, we parade them, and we even make a vow and an offering.
2. REACTION – I am a jealous God… punishing those who hate me and loving those who obey my commandments. (vv. 5b-6)
The term "jealous" commonly means suspicious, distrustful, or wrongly envious of the success of others. When apply to God, it means “zealousness” watchfully guarding; eagerness; full of zeal; ardently devoted to a purpose; and enthusiastic.
It denotes that God is watchfully guarding and full of zeal to make sure that we are obeying his commandments to exclusively worship him and to avoid any idolatry.
Otherwise we will suffer the consequences: disobedience – punishment and obedience – love. With all the intensity and integrity of His being, God will defend and insist on His rightful place at the center of the universe, on the throne of His creatures’ hearts.
3. EXPLANATION -- Why did God prohibit the making and worshiping of idols?
a. IDOLATRY MISREPRESENTS OUR GOD. Idolatry means the service or worship of an idol. It can also mean the worship of the true God through an idol. (See John 4:24) God is unseen, a spirit and a power invisible to the eyes of men. Nothing created can serve to represent him, not even in the whole range of the created order, from top to bottom, and even in the heavens above and in the waters below the earth.
No image conceivable to them could serve to represent him. They must worship him as he is, not as they can envision him or would like him to be. In every single area of the universe, you can’t use anything to represent God. No material, spiritual, or strange figure can take the place of God in your life.
b. IDOLATRY LIMITS OUR GOD. (See Jeremiah 10:1-16) There are no statues, no images, and no drawings capable of declaring the greatness of the Almighty. God is infinite, eternal, immutable, sovereign, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, just, loving, truth, holy, etc.
Part of the limitation of idols is that of being localized. Idolatry limits God to certain location and city. The tendency is to travel to that particular place to be able to experience God. Apart from that sacred ground, God is absent.
c. IDOLATRY MAKES THE MEANS AS AN END.
It is very hard for simple people to remember and to think about, and to worship, an unseen god. As a result, we make an image which is meant in the first place to remind us of God when we look at it.
Our intention is that by looking at the image we can better focus our thoughts on the God for whom it stands. But bit-by-bit the image ceases to represent God and begins to take the place of God. (See Number 21:4-9 and 2 Kings 18:1-4)
A crucifix is meant to be a reminder of the love of the Cross; it is meant to help men and women, by looking at it, to fix and concentrate their minds and hearts on the one who bled and died there.
It is meant to be a reminder and a picture which make meditation easier and prayer more real. But the danger is – it happens often – that the crucifix itself comes to be regarded with superstitious reverence; it itself become a holy things.
The idol was meant originally to be a representation of the divine which would make memory easier and worship more real. But bit-by-bit superstition turned the symbol into the reality, the representation into the thing it represented, the idol into God.
The first command emphasizes the existence of one God while the second one clarifies the nature and character of God. Idolatry is a sin against the nature and character of God. It is degrading the power and love of God.