Summary: Idolatry can challenge our faith in many ways. To understand this command and all of the Ten Commandments, we must view them from a New Testament perspective.
Thou shalt have no other gods before Me / Thou shalt not make for thyself an idol.
In this portion of study we will examine both of these commands together because they are so closely related. Keep in mind that all of the commandments concerning worship and obedience are based on the greatest commandment identified by Jesus in Matthew 22:35-40
35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him, " ’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: ’You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
The Ten Commandments were first given in Exodus 20 but the foundation of these commandments was given in chapter 19. Before giving the law, the command to love God was the foundation the law was laid upon. The command to love God was given six times between Exodus 6 and the teaching of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. If you examine the Ten Commandments you can clearly see that they are all fulfilled through the two greatest commandments – love God with all your being and love people as yourself. The command to abstain from idolatry is based on loving God and putting Him before all. Anything that comes in your life before God is idolatry. It is hard to put God first because it takes faith. Consider Psalm 36:7-8
7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. 8 They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.
It is not possible to be abundantly satisfied in God and experience His fullness until after you have put your trust under the shadow of His wings. The promises of God are all fulfilled through obedience. Without obedience, don’t bother claiming the promises of God for they are not given to those in rebellion against Him.
Idolatry of Pride.
Pride is one of the greatest threats against the heart of man. Pride takes credit for what God has done, refuses to acknowledge what God has done, lifts our hearts against the Lord and exalts ourselves in our own eyes. Pride makes you into your own idol. Pride worships self and exalts self against God. Consider Psalm 12:3-4
3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, And the tongue that speaks proud things, 4 Who have said, "With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?"
How many times have we heard preachers claim that their own words are the power in their own lives? Some of the most popular religious leaders today claim that they are their own gods and through the power of their own spoken word they believe they can be like God. Pride is idolatry and taking the work of God and crediting it to your own tongue or your own actions is sin against the Lord. Every success you have is because God has opened the door for you, empowered you, or given you the abilities that benefit you. God created you while you were in the womb and fashioned the days for you before you had a breath on this earth (Psalm 139), so there is nothing you can do without the hand of the Lord. In fact, if you submit to God, He uses you for His good and gives you blessings and if you rebel, He still uses you to accomplish His will. Throughout the Bible God has used wicked men to accomplish His work. God uses people to judge His people or accomplish good. Wicked men crucified Jesus. This was the plan of God and while the wicked thought they were fighting against God, they were in fact fulfilling His word. God uses sinners to chastise the righteous, close doors to hinder us from going the wrong direction or making the wrong decision and God uses wicked people to test us and shape our character through trials and hardships. Consider Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:
7 "Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
Not only are the wicked used by God through offenses, but God also judges those who cause the offense. When the Pharisees conspired to crucify Jesus, it was the plan of God but it was still rebellion and sin and they were judged severely for it and will be judged in the life to come. The proud heart is an abomination to the Lord as stated in Proverbs 16: