God and the Condemnation of Idolatry

Posted: October 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

8 “‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.9 You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,10 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deut. 5:8–10; ESV)

Idolatry remains a problem in our world. Mankind is just as prone to fashioning and worshipping idols today as they were in ancient times. We may not fashion a physical golden calf like Israel did in Exodus 32, but we fashion idols in other ways.

J. D. Greear offers helpful comments on Deuteronomy 5:8–10 below.

“Our first reaction when reading this passage [Deut. 5:8–10] may be relief: Whew! I’m glad I’ve never made an idol with my hands or bowed down to a statue! But the idolatry condemned in this Commandment is more than merely crafting a statue to represent God. It’s about making God in our image rather than realizing we are made in His.

In other words, we break the Second Commandment whenever we define God in our hearts as we want Him to be rather than believing what He has revealed Himself to be. We create an image in our mind of the God we want, not the God who is.” (God’s WayThe Gospel Project, pg. 29).

So, idolatry isn’t simply fashioning a metal cow and bowing down to it as your god. Instead, it is making “anything that is in heaven above, or that is on earth beneath” (Deut. 5:8) and worshipping that as your god. The point Greear is making is there are times when we do this with God himself. We take the God of the Bible and describe him, think of him, and worship him as we would like him to be rather than how he really is. When we do this, we have fashioned something other than the God of the Bible and given that thing our worship. This is idolatry.

Why does God condemn idolatry? Greear makes three observations:

1) God condemns idolatry because He is jealous for our worship (Deut. 5:8–10).

2) God condemns idolatry because idols distort our view of Him (Ex. 32:1–4).

3) God condemns idolatry because idols corrupt our behavior (Ex. 32:5–8).

Idolatry is real. It is dangerous and damning. God hates it. John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory… Every one of us from our mothers womb is an expert in inventing idols.” 

Put idolatry to death and worship the God that is revealed in the Bible. There is no other.

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