“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6 NIV)
The second commandment, in shorthand, is “no idols.”
Though all of the Ten Commandments are remarkably current, this one seems like as good a candidate as any for being the most timeless. We humans are particularly prone to worshiping what we can see over what we cannot. There are a few problems with our tendency toward this, however.
For one, ascribing saving action to something we can see with our eyes is to remove faith from the equation. This was but one of the problems with the golden calf episode recorded several chapters later in Exodus 32. When we can see the god/s, we have reduced it/them in scale and scope to what we can understand without God revealing himself to us. Faith depends not on denying reality, but on affirming a reality that is only accessed by faith. “A place that has to be believed to be seen” is the way the band U2 once put it.
Second, worship properly goes “up,” not “down” or “sideways.” For worship to go “up,” creatures must worship the Creator, not something they have constructed with their own hands. (Nor someone from within their ranks.) People are welcome to take pride in their work and to admire other people. But worship goes beyond this in terms of devotion and praise. And it belongs to God alone.
An idol is anything that is substituted for God’s proper place as sovereign ruler of our lives. When something else takes a seat on the throne of our heart, it disorders our soul and damages our faith, eventually leading to destruction.
But we have disguised our idolatries and are adept at self-deception. We need the grace of Christ to stay faithful.
Prayer: God, thank you for saving me. Reveal any idols in my life and help me cast them out. Preserve me, that my worship may be for you alone. Amen.