Read Exodus 20
Focus on verse 23
When I hear the word “idol” the first image that comes to my mind is some kind of image made of gold or silver, set up in a little shrine where people come to make requests or give gifts to their “god”. In today’s reading God instructs Moses to inform the people that this kind of activity is strictly forbidden, even if they claim it helps them to communicate with Him.
You shall not make gods of silver to be with me, nor shall you make for yourselves gods of gold. (v. 23)
In the cultures of the people of the land of Canaan to which God was leading them, all did exactly this. They made images of whichever god it was they worshipped. This was also the culture of Egypt where they had lived for the last four hundred years. One might imagine that this idea of worshipping idols was not a new idea to the people of Israel. It was what everybody was doing. Despite this very direct command, we will soon read in the coming chapters of how quickly the people forget – or perhaps ignore – this command.
In our current western culture we rarely see people bowing before images of gods made of gold or silver, and we tend to view ourselves as a much more advanced civilization than our primitive ancestors. I am not convinced, however, that we no longer commit the sin of idolatry, even within the ranks of our Christian churches. Jesus taught his followers that if anything became more important to us than God, whatever that object might be became an idol to us. If this is true, many of us have been guilty of worshipping idols. When we choose to trust in our own financial security rather than God, or when we allow our family to become more important to us that our love for God, we commit idolatry.
It is not just little images of silver or gold. Anything that I allow to become more important to me then God is an idol, and causes me to break the first commandment. “You shall have no other gods before me.” (v. 3) It really is not that complicated. If we keep God first and live accordingly, it is highly unlikely that we will become derailed from path that He has called us to walk. The problem is that though it is not complicated, it seems it is also not easy. The enemy apparently spares no effort in his attempts to deceive us by enticing us to love the world and the things of the world in order to cause us to wander away from God. Idols seem to have been one of his specialities from the very beginning.