The second command God gave is related to the first.
4 “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. 5 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, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. ~Exodus 20:4-6
Not only are God’s people not to have any other gods, we are not to worship or serve anything in addition to Him. Our love, affection, and devotion is to be directed exclusively at Him. Our worship is for him alone.
The text here tells us the reasons.
- God is jealous. God hates false worship – worship directed at anything or anyone other than Him is false because He alone is worthy of it. This is called spiritual adultery. When we worship and serve created things or people, we are guilty of literally cheating on God.
There is, however, a way to serve and worship God by serving other people and things. The difference is made in the heart. The heart – not the hands.
Just as I do not have to fold my hands and pray to my house or my car or my job or my fitness or my ministry to be guilty of worshiping and serving it – or the honor, respect, praise, and fulfillment I get from it – neither do I have to sell or quit them in order to obey God in regards to those things. What I must do is consider my heart; my attitude; my disposition; my expectation towards it.
How can I know I am serving God in these things and not serving the things themselves?
-Do I ask God first what He would like in these areas of my life?
-Is He allowed to say no?
-Is the time I spend with them instead of Him or because of Him?
-Is the money I spend on them instead of Him or because of Him?
-What is my attitude like when there is not peace or things do not go right in these areas? Do I trust God and have peace despite what happens with these other things/people?
-Is my ultimate joy derived from God or other things/people?
All of us have served idols. We must constantly check ourselves and our lives for these heart attitudes and affections. Often we must re-evaluate the things we are doing and how we are doing them.
The second reason we must do our honest best to cast down our idols and worship God alone is that the text tells us that:
2. God punishes idolaters. If we do not obey God in our worship, it will be evident in our children and grandchildren. Our sin in not loving God well and not loving God singularly will bring judgment upon our most precious blessings.
It is a pretty simple concept. It’s found in Genesis. You reap what you sow. If we don’t honor God, our children will not honor God. As we suffer for our sin in idolatry, they will suffer for it as well and that will be part of our suffering. Because idolatry makes our Father suffer with jealousy and makes us a snare to him, he warns that the same will happen to us with our own children if we don’t listen. If we cheat on God, our children will suffer in much the same way that they suffer if we cheat on our spouses. Adultery always breeds suffering children.
On the contrary, in his grace, God promises love and blessing to thousands who obey. God’s promises are much bigger than his punishments. He is worthy of our worship. Let us consider how we might honor him in all things by worshiping and serving him alone.