You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:4-5)
When we read the second commandment in the year 2013, we may have a tendency to think this word was for a primitive people who made graven images of wood, stone, and gold. But if we think this is the limit of idolatry, we will miss our portion in it!
OK, so we may not bow down to a golden calf like the children of Israel did when they grew impatient waiting for Moses to return from his meeting on Mount Sinai. But let’s not kid ourselves! We bow down to countless other things that are just as dangerous, and often even more dangerous, because the danger is hard to see. See if any of the following “graven images” resonate with you at all:
- Applause of man
This list could go on for pages, couldn’t it? There are some things there that are “good” things; the problem arises when we take a good thing and make it an ultimate thing; then it becomes a bad thing—an idol.
Take church service as an example. That’s a very good thing. But when church service becomes an ultimate thing, displacing Jesus from the throne of your life, it has become a bad thing. This happens all the time! It is one of the things pastors like me have to guard against on a daily basis. We can so totally focus on serving God that we miss God altogether.
But this is not for you!
Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods! (Jeremiah 16:20)
When we turn anything smaller than Jesus into our “god,” the blessing we seek turns into a burden that can—and often does—bury us under its weight. These “gods” simply cannot deliver on their promises because they are not God! They promise help, but in times of trouble the help never arrives. What satisfaction they may yield today steals our joy tomorrow.
The idols we bow down to today always take more than they can ever give. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Why are we so bewitched with vanities? We pity the poor heathen who adore a god of stone, and yet worship a god of gold.”
I’ve shared this quote from C.S. Lewis with you before, but it bears repeating here. “We are half-hearted creatures,” Lewis wrote in The Weight of Glory, “fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Only the truths of the Gospel can fill the longings of our hearts . . . and keep them filled too! The Gospel makes a promise: to meet you in your place of need and to keep meeting you in your place of need . . . and it delivers on that promise every time.
Everyone is living for something. And whatever that something is, it is your master. It consumes you. It enslaves you. In this life we will always be confronted with two choices. We can bow down to the one true, living God or we can bow down to something smaller. One will always bring life; the other brings death.
So . . . do you have any graven images in your life today? Is there something you might have missed seeing? Sexual immorality is easy to see; service to God is much more subtle. Becoming a slave to financial success sounds a lot like worshipping a golden idol; making our children the ultimate thing in our lives seems like such a good thing . . .
May the Lord purge us from our idolatry and lead us further up and further into our vision of the cross and the love that held Jesus on it. That is the only love that will deliver what it promises—and it delivers every time!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!