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Week 2: Idolatry

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I. Introduction (The Command)

Exodus 20:1–6 CSB
Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides me. Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. Do not bow in worship to them, and do not serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me, but showing faithful love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commands.

A. The Language of the Command

The first two commandments are about idolatry. The first prohibits having other gods, the second prohibits making idols/images of those gods or any other created thing.
The word idolatry (εἴδωλον + λατρεύω) means idol/image worship (service/enslavement; devotion to).

B. The Question we must Ask

Why is this so important to God?
The prohibition against idolatry is so important to God because nothing else distorts our divine image, our dignity in the eyes of God more than devoting ourselves to empty, lifeless things. (Let’s unpack this)

II. Unpacking the Command

A. “I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery”

This is a “preamble,” it is the basis upon which God gives his commands and expects obedience. The fact that Yahweh discloses himself as “your God” indicates that he is a personal God. He is not a cosmic force that one can be manipulated by the right procedures so that it will work in one’s favor. He is not a tyrant who compels respect. He is a God who has heard the cry of his people and acted. He is the God who wants to be known and make known his perfect purpose for his people.
Grace always proceeds discipline and obedience.

B. “Do not have other gods in my presence.”

The command that God gives here is all-encompassing. It “requires Israel to mobilize all of its life, in every sphere, around one single loyalty” (NIB 1.841).
This command does not exclude the possibility of there being other gods. It is not a statement of pure monotheism. The point is that there are other gods that will compete for our loyalty and attention, but we are to refuse that privilege to them and worship, love, and serve God alone.

C. “Do not make … do not worship … do not serve”

This command is complementary if not epexegetical to the first — to have no other gods before Yahweh consists of making no graven image of Him, not worshipping any created thing, and not serving created things.
To make no graven image can mean two things: (1) do not make other gods to compete with Yahweh; (2) do not make a graven image of Yahweh, thus localizing and domesticating Him. I am inclined to the latter because as we talked about last week, the “image of God” on this earth is humanity. To localize it anywhere else is to confuse the nature of God in the most profound way possible.

D. “I am a jealous God”

Jealous? Isn’t that a bad trait? Not exactly.
Let’s not confuse jealousy (קנא; here) for covetousness (חמר; Exod 20:17) — jealously is the feeling of righteous indignation one feels when that which is truly and properly theirs is taken or threatened by something or someone else. Covetousness is the desire for that which is not truly and properly yours. See the difference?
God is so serious about idolatry because he is a jealous God — he is righteously indignant when anyone or anything else takes or threatens his people Israel.
A husband can be jealous for his wife; a wife for her husband.

III. Applying the Command

A. Other gods exist

To grasp what this means for our lives, we must recognize that other gods exist in our world.
A “god” is anyone or anything to which or to whom we attribute transcendent value/worth because we deem some quality of it able to make us more than ourselves, to “save” us from our lowly condition.
By this definition, what are some “gods” that exist in our world today? Sports, money, video games, relationships, sex, drugs, alcohol, pornography, dieting, exercise, clothing/beauty/appearance, social media, self

B. The gods of this world and the divine image

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