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Throughout the Bible commandments and warnings against idolatry are the most repeated of all. There are more denunciations of idolatry than any other sin in the Bible.
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image... you shall not bow down to then nor serve them." Exodus 20:4-6
"Do not turn to idols, nor make for yourselves moulded gods; I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:4
"Thus says the Lord God: repent and turn yourselves from your idols; and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For everyone... which sets up his idols in his heart... I the Lord will answer him by Myself." Ezekiel 14:6-7
"The works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissention, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries and the like... those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19-21
The Apostle John beseeches us: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." 1 John 5:21
Of course, the second commandment prohibits the idolatry of polytheistic religions such as Hinduism. Idols of Kali before whom devotees used to offer human sacrifices, Shiva, Krishna, and Vishnu are all obviously idols forbidden by the second commandment.
The Apostle Paul taught:
"That the things which the gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord's Table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than He?" 1 Corinthians 10:20-22
"They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; with abominations they provoked Him to anger. They sacrificed to demons, not to God..." Deuteronomy 32:16-2
The Law of God demanded:
"But you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose Name is Jehovah, is a jealous God)" Exodus 34:13-14
Provoking the Wrath of God
The Prophet Jeremiah wrote:
"The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger. Do they provoke Me to anger? asks the Lord. Do they not provoke themselves, to the shame of their own faces? Therefore thus says the Lord God: Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place... and it will burn and not be quenched." Jeremiah 7:18-2
When many of the Israelites turned to the sin of idolatry, God sent the Assyrians to destroy the Northern Kingdom of Israel and lead His people into captivity. The Southern Kingdom of Judah was later conquered under Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. It took the furnace of affliction and slavery in Babylon to purge the dregs of idolatry from the hearts of God's people. First under the ministry of great prophets such as Ezekiel and Daniel, and then after the return from Exile under Ezra and Nehemiah, the people resolved to never again compromise with idolatry.
Christianity cannot worship before the idolatrous altar of pluralism, multiculturalism and the interfaith movement. Jesus Christ is "the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father" except through Him (John 14:6).
Hatred for God
The Second Commandment is the only commandment where God implies that those who break it hate Him. To worship a false god, any sort of image, or attempt to worship God through some kind of statue or image, was defined in the second commandment as hating God.
There seems to be some understanding of how this Second Commandment still applies to us today, in that the popular vocabulary identifies "sports idols", "Hollywood idols", "sex idols", and musicians who are described as "idols". There is also no doubt that people make idols of their favourite political party. The Soviet Union made a god of "The Party" and instituted idolatrous pilgrimages to Lenin's tomb
Friends of mine who minister on a university campus, related how one individual was incensed that the president of South Africa had been referred to by his bare surname. "THAT'S PRESIDENT THABO MBEKI TO YOU!" he shouted. Shortly after that this same individual cursed and blasphemed - opening himself up to the response: "That's the Lord Jesus Christ to you!"
Idolatry in our Minds
What comes into our minds when we think of God, is the most important thing about us. All too often people betray the idolatry within in their minds in how they speak of God. Bishop Desmond Tutu was quoted on the front page of daily newspapers in South Africa as declaring that "my God isn't homophobic", that "I could never worship a God who is against homosexuals." Tutu even declared that if homosexuals don't go to Heaven, then he didn't want to go there!
A Figment of Your Imagination
When people talk like this, they reveal that they have fashioned a god in the factory of their mind. Of course, their god would never be harsh and judgmental, he would never condemn anyone to hell, because his/her god does not exist. It is a figment of his/her imagination. What people have done when they speak like this is to invent a god to suit their own purposes. This is the essence of idolatry.
The One True God
The fact is that the God of the Bible is not only a God of love, but a God of light. God is not only gracious and merciful, but He is holy and just. God is not only the Saviour, but He is the Eternal Judge. The God of the Bible, the one true God who made Heaven and Earth, gave us His Ten Commandments. He sent plagues upon Egypt. He destroyed the pursuing Egyptian army in the Red Sea. He sent fire and sulphur upon the wicked inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.
You Have an Appointment with God
The Day will come when each one of us will have to stand before His Judgment Seat and give an account of our lives. "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the Judgment." Hebrews 9:27
What is Your Highest Priority?
What is most important to you? Anything more important to us than God is an idol. To many people the idol in their life is fame, fortune, success, their fancy car, or home, their computer, smartphone, prestige, or a certain relationship. Nothing must be more important in our lives than God.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the Truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the Creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made by corruptible man... who exchanged the Truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather that the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." Romans 1:18-2
Destroying Idols in Our Life
It is noteworthy throughout the Bible that whenever God's Word is proclaimed, the response of repentant people has been to destroy their idols. When the Apostle Paul proclaimed the Gospel in Ephesus, people brought their occultic materials and burned them.
"They were all seized with fear, and the Name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honour... in this way the Word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power." Acts 19:17-20
Boycott Hell - Repent!
We need to repent of idolatry in our hearts, minds and lives. Where there is a physical idol, we should break, burn or bury it.
"Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls. Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." James 1:21-22
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74
This article is adapted from part of a chapter of The Ten Commandments - God's Perfect Law of Liberty book, which is also available in Afrikaans: Die Tien Gebooie and as an E-book. The whole series of sermons is also available in an audio MP3 from: Christian Liberty Books, PO Box 358, Howard Place 7450, Cape Town, South Africa, tel: 021-689-7478, fax: 086-551-7490, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and website: www.christianlibertybooks.co.za.
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