“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3).
How concerned are you that you might be breaking one of the Ten Commandments? If you had to say which of the Ten Commandments you most often break, which one would it be? Many would say coveting or bearing false witness. How about the first and potentially the most foundational commandment?
Since the beginning of Genesis, God’s passion for His glory is clearly seen. He is sincerely concerned that people see Him as the only God. By following their desires and disobeying God’s command, Adam and Eve were in essence placing themselves on the level of God. You come to Exodus, and God’s people are lost in idolatry worshiping the gods of Egypt. We know this to be true for the Israelites later because Joshua tells the people to put away the gods their ancestors worshiped back in Egypt. God went to war against these gods. When you get to the very end of the Bible, you read the book of Revelation which shows that God ultimately triumphs over all the gods and all the evil of this world. He is victorious through the slain Lamb of God.
Jeremiah 10:3-16 and Isaiah 44:9-20 describe the way in which the idol-maker fashions the idols with axes that chop down trees. They decorate the idols with silver and gold, and they fasten them with hammer and nails. Though the idols are fashioned by human hands, ultimately the idols are created by the mind and heart of fallen humanity.
John Calvin said: “The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labours under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has thus conceived inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind, in this way, conceives the idol, and the hand gives it birth.”
We create and worship idols ourselves. We look at the world around us, see problems with the world, and refuse to trust in the Lord to be our hope, comfort, and solution in the problem. Idol worship then is therefore self-worship. We’re worshiping the things we have thought of, fashioned, and relied on. Paul said that before the Holy Spirit revealed to us this idol worship, we were enslaved to these idols. “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods” (Galatians 4:8). Paul also said that the idolaters, along with the sexually immoral, the adulterers, and those who practice homosexuality will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Are you practicing idolatry? Are you worshiping the false gods that our culture has invented? Are we worshiping idols we have created, which ultimately show that we’re worshiping ourselves? Like God put the gods of Egypt in their place, put to death your works of the flesh that render you unrighteous. Honor the Lord your God as holy.