Ten Commandments | Devotion 1: Worship
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 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 the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:3-6
God had just delivered what would come to be known as the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mt. Sinai. As instructed, “Moses went down to the people and told them” (Exodus 19:25). Right from the start, God reminded the people that He is “the LORD your God” and that He alone has brought them “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).
You would think that Moses would not even have to mention the first two commandments in light of the latest events. Think about it; God had just recently parted the Red Sea so the Israelites could pass from a life of bondage into freedom, while simultaneously crushing Pharaoh’s army that was in hot pursuit. Then amazingly, God revealed Himself at Mt. Sinai with “thunders and lightings and a thick cloud…and a very loud trumpet blast so that all the people in the camp trembled” (Exodus 19:16). Nevertheless, Moses would soon realize that although the people had been removed out of the Egyptian culture, the Egyptian culture had not been removed out of the people and there was a need for “The Law.”
Moses was leading a people that had just been freed from a culture where many gods were worshiped, and if one of those gods did not produce what you wanted, then you just made up another god. Centuries later, the Apostle Paul would address the theology of false gods and the worship of man-made idols in his letter to the Romans, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:22–23).
It is so easy for us today to look on this time in history and say to ourselves, “What fools!” “How could anyone ever believe in more than one god or bow down to man-made things?” However, in the New Testament, the time in which we live, the term idolatry is directly linked to covetousness. Colossians 3:5 says, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Moses and the Israelites may not have had to worry about having too much stuff while wandering the Palestinian desert. However, we do. By worshiping the false god of self, we fall prey to bowing down to materialism. If we are willing to be honest, our homes are filled with all types of possessions. We continue to build bigger and bigger houses that contain more space in order to store all the stuff we need to keep the “god of self” happy. We may not call it worship but think of all the time we spend on maintaining our possessions. One of the definitions for idolatry is when worship or divine honor is paid to any created object other than God. Even the word worship has its origin in the word “worth” or value. So, in essence, we could determine the object of our worship by evaluating on what we spend most of our time, talents, and money. Fortunately for us, embedded in the commandments of God, we can see the result of choosing idolatry (loving stuff) or loving Him.
Exodus 20:5-6 says, “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 the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Just as in the days of Moses, the generations of those that follow will either be cursed or blessed by what they are learning from how we live our lives.
No other gods.
No carved images.
It is a choice.