By Brother Michel Lankford
To commit idolatry is to put our trust in; to devote ourselves to; to perform acts of service to; to be more loyal to; or to give worship and homage to any deity OTHER than to (יהוה YHWH) Almighty God. Idolatry could also be any carving, statue, or icon or engraving that one uses in worship in an attempt to represent (יהוה YHWH) Almighty God. Even using anything created by human hands to represent YHWH can be considered idolatry, if that imagery is used in worship (see e.g. Exodus 32:1-10).
As It Is Written:
“Then God spoke all these words, saying, “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. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:1–6 NASB95)
“Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”Exodus 20:1-2
Those two verses are absolutely critical because they reveal something massively important about God’s true character. God does require that we love, believe and trust, obey and glorify Him. The thing is, that He does not require us to enter into such a relationship completely blindly. He is asking all of this from people to whom He has already powerfully revealed Himself, and to those whom He had already rescued from slavery and bondage. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, when God gave or restated a command, He would often remind His people of what He had already done for them.
We serve the One True God who created heaven and earth and everything in them (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:1-6; Isaiah 45:5-6; Revelation 4:11).
We believe and serve the One True God who ever since mankind sinned, He promised to send a Redeemer that would crush the serpent through the seed of the woman; (meaning a virgin birth Genesis 3:15). We believe and serve the God of Isaac Abraham and Jacob, who revealed Himself to Moses and identified Himself as I AM THAT I AM (YHWH). Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures YHWH, the real God demonstrated Himself faithful to the people of Israel, and by extension He will be faithful to the rest of us as well. In the fullness of time, God came through with His promises. The Israelites did inherit and possess the land of the Canaanites. Likewise, when they rebelled against God, He punished them just as He told them He would. When they repented, He would also restore them as He promised He would. In the fullness of time, God did in fact fulfill His promise and send the Messiah Jesus Christ (Matthew 1; John 20:31).
Why would God do this? God promised that because He loves all people (John 3:16-17), and He wanted humanity restored. That is why we are called to obey and trust God, because He has already repeatedly demonstrated that He is God, and that He is faithful to His promises.
There is only One True God, (Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 44:6,8). Since there is only one God, do not worship anything else. Do not put anything else in the place of God in your life. The second Commandment is an extension of the first, and is there to help us fulfill the first one successfully. Do not use anything in God’s creation in such a way that you make things for yourself to worship. Again, God Almighty is saying that because He is the only One True God, so do not use anything in His creation to make an idol that will draw you away from worshiping the One and only Almighty God.
Collectively, violating any part of these first two commands in any manner is what God calls the sin of idolatry. It includes creating and worshiping things as God but which are not God. It includes allowing our own passions and desires to grow to the point where they consume us and become more important to us than God really is. That is called coveting, and it is also idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
If we took the time to list everything that human kind has ever used or could ever use to create an idol for himself, we could literally be here for days. I’m not even going to try it. Essentially though, whatever a person loves most, whatever a person trusts and depends upon most, and whatever a person obeys or follows most, that is a person’s god.
Today when we worship things in God’s place it’s a lot more intangible. Today’s most popular idols are self and possessions. As a culture we have become very adept at valuing our own selves; our wants and desires, our appetites and comforts, our own personal thoughts and opinions and preferences and our agendas can consume us to the point where they take priority ahead of God in our lives. Close behind that in postmodern priority is possessions (our stuff). If we are not extremely careful any one of us can place our possessions ahead of God in our lives. The thing is that our possessions are extremely limited. All they can do is temporarily make things more convenient and comfortable for us in this very sin filled broken world. However, our possessions cannot fulfill our most vital needs. They cannot love us. They cannot forgive us. They cannot save us from sin and restore us to God. So, our possessions do not deserve the place of God in our lives.
Why does God hate idolatry so much?
Scripture openly tells us to flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Elsewhere, Scripture tells us to kill it out of our beings (Colossians 3:5). The reason is that the consequences of idolatry are absolutely fatally disastrous for the human being. People who live a life of practicing idolatry will be eternally condemned (Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8). So, all forms of idolatry must be removed out of our lives, or it will destroy us. What Scripture does not so readily spell out for us is why. Why does God hate idolatry so much that He judges it so harshly?
Since Scripture can be somewhat ambiguous on that point as to why God hates idolatry, many self-serving individuals, atheists even marginal Christians have used it in such a way as to actually judge God as if He were wrong, or they will use it as a flimsy excuse to attack God’s character and give themselves an excuse for not following God.
The most famous of these is perhaps Oprah Winfrey. She has openly declared that she was a Christian but when she learned that God was a ‘jealous God,’ she claimed that she could no longer follow the God of the Bible; who could be jealous, but who commanded us not to give into jealousy. In effect she judged God, and then using her own judgment gave herself a rationale not to follow God anymore. First, it is an extremely dangerous practice to judge God. Second, it is extremely dangerous, prideful, and arrogant to believe that your judgments and estimation about God are so accurate, that you can actually find God guilty of sin and that your own judgments against God gives you the justification, not only to stop following God, but also to actually encourage others to abandon God as well. It’s Dangerous, (Matthew 13:41-42).
Scripture doesn’t spell out precisely why God forbids idolatry, but there are Scriptures that give us some concrete clues if we will take the time to prayerfully put the pieces together. Before we can explore this question in earnest, we must remember some very important concepts.
1. Almighty God is the living definition and embodiment of pure love. He IS love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8; 1 John 4:8). Also, God is absolutely 100% righteous (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 19:1-9 among other verses). As a result of this, Almighty God cannot and will Not desire anything, say anything, or do anything that is outside the confines of pure love and righteousness. People may foolishly wish to reject this truth, but it is the truth of the matter. Therefore, when God issues a Command, Instruction, or an injunction. True love and righteousness are His only motivations and modes of operating.
2. We were uniquely created by God. Everything else in God’s creation he created by speaking the words of His mouth (Genesis 1). That’s powerful. What is more powerful is how human beings were created. Scripture points out that the Almighty God and Creator actually physically formed human life, and then breathed life into Adam’s nostrils (Genesis 2:7). In God’s original plan, we were created in the very image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Like it or not, that makes us unique in all of creation, and along with such uniqueness comes a greater responsibility before the Creator.
3. God created us with a purpose and mission in mind (Ephesians 2:10). The first was to dwell in loving friendship with Him. Scripture gives indication at the time of humankind’s fall into sin, that before they sinned, Adam recognized the voice of God and walked with Him in the cool of the day in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:8). Even on the day of our fall into sin, God was looking for His beloved creation (Genesis 3:9). God’s second general purpose for humanity was that we would dwell in loving relationship with one another, and thirdly that we would exercise loving and righteous dominion and stewardship over the rest of His creation, so that His Love and Righteousness would first be embodied in us, and would spread throughout the world.
4. Scripture expressly says that we can be angry without falling into sin (Psalm 4:4; Ephesians 4:36). Now it is not easy to be angry without falling into sin, but it’s possible. If righteous anger is possible for fallen human beings, is it so hard to believe that righteous jealousy is impossible for the Almighty God? In fact, righteous jealousy is even possible for human beings. I will give you an example.
Let’s say that you were a parent. You had a child who was God’s gift from heaven to you. He or she is a gift to you from God; the love of your life, the joy of your heart and the apple of your eye. Your desires for the little one are that they would grow and develop the character that would help them make the best decisions so that they could be blessed and prosper in every respect. As your precious little one grows, let’s say that you notice that they’re choosing friends and companions that indulge in dangerous habits such as drugs, alcohol, stealing, or gang banging and the like. Wouldn’t your heart be grieved? Would you not crave with all your heart that they would choose to listen to you and your plans and desires instead of obeying their misguided friends? If you love that child, of course you would! You would rather that your children would listen to you and be attracted to things that will truly bless and prosper them instead of things that would harm them, would you not? That is a picture of righteous jealousy.
God understands a reality that we as human beings often forget and it is this. We will develop into and take on the character of whatever we worship follow or obey.
If we learn to worship the true and Almighty God in spirit and truth as God desires (John 4:24), Then we will begin to take on and exhibit the character and nature of God the Heavenly Father, as we were originally created to do (Genesis 1:26-27). Conversely, if we fall into and persist in idolatry, we will take on the character and nature of whatever counterfeit god (which is always a demon in disguise) that we have chosen to follow.
As It Is Written:
“No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He, are we?”(1 Corinthians 10:20–22 NASB95)
Always remember, we will take on and develop the nature and character attributes of whatever we choose to follow obey or worship (Romans 6:16-17). This is why God’s word repeatedly refers to idolatry as defiling a person or a country. That’s because it damages the internal fiber and character of the human being (Psalm 106:39; Jeremiah 3:9; Ezekiel 23:38; Hosea 6:10).
So, you see God does not demand or require our worship for His own sake, but for ours. Let me be abundantly clear. (יהוה YHWH) Almighty, IS God. He is not elevated into His place because of our worship. God does not become more God simply because a greater number of people worship Him. He already is God. If every single person on the face of creation successfully worshiped YHWH in spirit and truth right now, we would all be immeasurably better off by leaps and bounds, because of the blessings this would bring us, but God’s position would not improve, for He would still be as much God, just as He was before all creation worshiped Him.
Conversely, God forbid, if all humanity willfully refused to worship God, (again God forbid 8 billion times), God’s majesty and truth would not be diminished. God would nonetheless judge the living and the dead on the last day. In the end He would still be demonstrated to the whole world to be God, He will not lose or forfeit a single inch of His Majesty or right to rule and judge, but we would all lose immeasurably for having failed to honor Him as God while we lived.
Idolatry damages us. Idolatry defiles us. Idolatry corrupts our heart and character. It prevents us from becoming what God originally created us to become. Idolatry seriously damages human potential in ways not yet understood by man. All of this grieves God because He loves and cares for us so much and wants the very best for us, but God is not diminished one iota.
When God forbids idolatry, He does so for our sake, out of love and concern for our potential and well-being, not His own. Praise Abba-YAH, that we live in a country where we have the freedom to pursue conscience. Accordingly, we must regularly make the choice as to what we will follow, what we will obey and what we worship. As you’re making that choice, ask yourself this question. Whose character do I want?
“When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?’ “You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. (Deuteronomy 12:29-32 NASB)Deuteronomy 12:29-32
As It Is Written:
”(John 4:23–24 NASB95)
““But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.(John 4:23-24 NASB95)
Will you choose to become one of the worshipers that the Father is seeking?