Idolatry is linked to man since the entry of sin into humanity. Everywhere we find idolaters. Idolatry today exists in many forms; it manifests itself in various ways; they are practiced under different types. But what is idolatry in the eyes of God, the only true God? In other words, what is God’s view of idolatry?
In this article, we will address this issue in two ways. First, we will study God’s point of view on the question of idolatry through these commandments (Exodus 20: 3-6). Second, we will examine the attitude of the prophets of God on the question of idolatry. Then finally, we will draw a general conclusion. It is with great attention that the author THOMSON DABLEMOND invites you to read this article.
I – Idolatry in the Eyes of God – According to the Passage of Exodus 20: 3-6
” You will not have other gods in front of me. Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of the things that are in heaven above, that are in the earth beneath, and that is in the waters, which are lower than the earth. You will not bow down to them and you will not serve them; for I, Jehovah your God, am a jealous God … ” – Exodus 20: 3-6.
This biblical passage is taken from the 10 commandments (the Law promulgated by the Eternal Lord himself). This eternal law was prescribed and written on tablets of stone made by God Himself and then given by the Lord (see Exodus 20: 1, Exodus 24: 12, Exodus 32: 16, Exodus 34: 28). In the 10 Commandments, this biblical passage from Exodus 20: 3-6 takes into account the first commandment and the second commandment. In this case, we will explain them separately in order to better grasp the biblical passage in question as a whole.
1. – According to the first commandment: Exodus 20: 3
” You shall have no other gods before me. ” – Exodus 20: 3.
This is the first commandment of God. Through this command, God recommends that we have one God, who is the Creator of Heaven and Earth. It is a warning not to worship another god (who is actually not a god) apart from the one to whom we are to worship.
Our dedication, our commitment, our excessive love must be carried only, wholly and exclusively to God the Creator.
Let’s understand that everything we consider or put in the first place in our life, before GOD, becomes our god. The priority we give to a thing, to a being, to an object in place and place of that of GOD, becomes a god to us.
How to understand idolatry in the eyes of God? That says simply:
– All that holds the first place or the first priority in our lives and in our heart apart from God then becomes a god to us. That makes us idolaters.
– All that or all that we have for a spiritual guide in life instead of God himself becomes a god for us. That makes us idolaters.
– All that or all that plays the role of a deity, a god (This perhaps, for example, a protective god, a master for us, an obsession for us) instead of God Creator, become a god for us.
Through this first commandment, therefore, the Eternal Lord shows us what idolatry represents in his eyes. By practicing idolatry, we dethrone God in our lives and in our heart. We turn away from God.
When we have another god before the face of the Lord God, it means that we worship another god apart from the One and Only God who is the creator of Heaven and Earth.
Adoration in the Bible is an expression of love. To adore, just as to love is an attitude of the heart. It is a disposition and a decision to give God first place, to put Him on the throne of our lives and to give Him the place that belongs to Him as Sovereign, making Him the master of our lives.
Indeed, giving God the place as the Sovereign means that we are not going to try to subject him to our preconceived ideas about life, and how we would have wanted him to do things. On the contrary, we will make God our only guide, counselor, master, lord and ruler in our life, in our heart, in all things, in all times and in all circumstances.
2. – According to the second commandment: Exodus 20: 4-6
” Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of the things that are in heaven above, that are in the lower parts of the earth, and that is in the waters beneath the earth. You will not bow down to them, and you will not serve them; for I, Jehovah your God, am a jealous God, who punishes the iniquity of the fathers over the children, even to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, and who show mercy unto a thousand generations to those who love me and keep my commandments. ” Exodus 20: 4-6.
This second command is closely related to the first commandment. Thus, while the first commandment (see Exodus 20: 3) is a call to put the Creator God in the foreground in our life, in our heart, making him the one and only center and master of our life. As for the second commandment, it comes to forbid us to seek to represent God by images, objects, statues or by any image. This second commandment (Exodus 20: 4-6) warns us against idolatry through idols, statues, and so on.
Certainly, we ask ourselves: Why does the second commandment forbid us to make idols to represent God?
Indeed, one of the reasons is because whatever size we give to the shape of our image, whatever the quantity of gold, diamonds and other things we cover, we do not make God even smaller. Surely we apply to God our human conception of things. And that’s the heart of the problem. A false image of God in our mind is the fundamental sin that the second commandment tries to avoid.
Let us see the words of King Solomon, even after having built a great and marvelous temple to God, he addressed God in his prayer in these terms: ” the heavens and the earth cannot contain you how much less this house that I built? ” – 2 Chronicles 6:18.
This biblical passage of 2 Chronicles shows how we can never represent God by an image or object. The more we represent an image of God, the more we are about to bring God back. This is the meaning of idolatry in the eyes of God concerning the idols and objects by which we represent God.
In ancient times, the result of idolatry was polytheism, the belief in many gods. People invented many gods because they could not imagine that one alone was enough, that only one god could take care of everything.
Even the idea of the intercession of the dead is a flagrant violation of the second commandment because it is based on a limited pagan concept of a God that is hard to convince to help us.
Even going further, fear and anxiety flow from lack of faith, and violate the second commandment because they reveal that we are shrinking God in our Spirit.
In addition, that the second commandment warns us against rendering God small by wanting to represent him, he forbids us not to prostrate or serve idols, statues, etc. In a word, we must even refrain from worshiping them.
In reality, as Paul could have it in mind by writing in Romans 1: 23, 28-31, he claims that idols, the exaltation of creatures above the Creator, remove barriers and open a boulevard to human depravity. This is the curse that falls on those who hate the Lord God. A life that stems from human depravity actually is nothing but suffering, misfortune, and misery. Paul describes the consequence that reaches the third and fourth generation. And this is the fatal result that God wants us to avoid through the warning of the second commandment. You understand then that idolatry in the eyes of God, it is harmful to the well-being of the man.
By prostrating ourselves before idols or statues, we hate God. And that’s why God is ” jealous “. God deserves our love and not our hatred. God deserves our gratitude and not our ingratitude.
Because at the first commandment he asks us to love him with all our strength, our thoughts, and all our being, result in making him our only, only master and sovereign God in our lives and in our hearts.
By contrast, by seeking to represent Him by idols, statues, and then worshiping and serving them, then we would hate God, instead of loving Him. This is the crisis of ” jealousy ” of God. Speaking of idolatry in the eyes of God, we understand that idolatry makes God jealous because we deprive him of our love and gratitude at the expense of the false gods. Is not it reasonable on the part of our Creator?
Human jealousy is the manifestation of egoism, but the command clearly states that God is jealous for his people. Jealousy often is the appropriate answer to certain situations.
A good father is jealous of his children; that is to say, he will fight to never give them to another family. A good husband is jealous of his wife; he will never share his most intimate love with anyone else. That’s what God feels for his people. He belongs to him alone.
In contrast, God’s mercy and ” loving kindness ” over those thousands of generations who keep His commandments (Exodus 20: 6). This concerns, of course, the promise of eternal life. Thus, we come to understand that idolatry prevents us from having the eternal life that the Lord promises us in Jesus Christ.
With a simple and perfect understanding, the second commandment actively completes the first. Those who have resolved to place God at the center of their lives will not let anything else take the place that belongs only to the Creator. And there will be no confusion about true worship because they will turn away from everything that reduces God’s place in their lives, and in their minds.
II – Idolatry to the Eyes of God: An Adulter, a Prostitution
Through the message that God delivered to these prophets concerning idolatry, respectively to the prophet Jeremiah and to the prophet Hosea, the Lord considers idolatry as an act of “adultery” and “prostitution”. This is what idolatry represents and signifies in the sight of God. Let’s look at God’s view of idolatry through the prophets Jeremiah and Hosea.
1 – In the Book of Jeremiah
When we read, for example, Jeremiah 2:20, it is written, ” But as a woman is unfaithful to her lover, so you have been unfaithful to me, O house of Israel,” says the Lord.
This biblical passage can show here quarrels between lovers. It implies the violent emotions of a despised lover. Let’s try to decipher how the book of Jeremiah deals with the question of idolatry in the eyes of God.
– Words that break the heart
It is a quarrel between lovers that Jeremiah presents in chapters 2 and 3, and the emotions are violent and desperate. Many times God accused Judah. He had chosen her from all nations, tenderly offering her protection and attention. But she did not stop sleeping with other men. He warned her from time to time, but she ignored him. She saw how he divorced with his sister Israel. Does she not know that he would do the same with her?
The words of God express deep pain. He is forced to accuse, even if these words break his heart. First, it is tender, full of memories: ” I remember … your affection when you were betrothed, when you followed me in the desert ” (Jeremiah 2: 2). But then ” you broke your bonds and you said: I do not want to be in bondage anymore? But on every high hill and under every green tree, you bowed like a whore “(Jeremiah 2:20).
Disgusted, God compares Judah to a donkey in heat. ” Panting in the ardor of her passion … all those who seek her need not tire themselves …” (Jeremiah 2: 24). But this comparison hurts him more. Here, it is the love of God that is despised, not that of Judah.
– Married to a prostitute
The prophet Hosea was the first to represent God married to a prostitute. The faithful husband here is God. The unfaithful wife in Israel. Adultery here is the sin of idolatry that Israel commits. Do you understand this comparison, this figure used to explain what idolatry represents in the eyes of God?
Jeremiah goes further. His comparison painfully expresses both the passionate love of God for his people and the dreadful pain he feels in the face of their betrayal. The images of Jeremiah are violent and dark, but, beneath them shines something wonderful: God’s tender and personal love for his people. Adultery, about which Jeremiah writes, deals with the worship of idols.
Most people today do not understand why the Israelites felt the urge to kneel in front of metal or wood statues, or why such actions made God furious. However, when Jeremiah describes such adulterous behavior, God’s hatred for idolatry becomes understandable.
God wanted his people to have one true love in his life: God himself. The lover God refuses to take second place; he refuses to share his wife.
2 – In the Book of Hosea
” … It looks like its rings and necklaces, goes after its lovers, and forgets me, says the Lord. ” (Hosea 2: 15). ” My people consult their wood, and it is their staff that speaks to them; For the spirit of prostitution misleads them, and they prostitute themselves far from their God. ” (Hosea 4: 12).
Through these two biblical passages, idolatry is presented as prostitution in the eyes of the Eternal God.
Virtually every chapter of Hosea speaks of prostitution, or ” adultery ” of the people of God. These harsh words hide a deep affection: God wants to be more than a ” master ” for his people, he wants to be a husband giving himself completely in an intimate love. Hosea has lived this message that he proclaimed to the northern part of the divided nation of God – Israel or ” Ephraim ” according to the book of Hosea.
– God is a lover
While everyone was preoccupied with political and militant matters, Hosea was just pounding his message about idolatry, whether it related to adultery or prostitution. For him, it was the cause of Israel’s problems. And even today, it is with great confidence that I also affirm that it is the cause of the problems of our current world, this chaotic world that seems to go from bad to worse.
Israel tended to embrace religions – to believe that everyone’s religion certainly contained a little truth, to think that the more religions there are, the better off we go. Many prophets have attacked idolatry.
Hosea shows that God’s interest in idolatry is not simply a religious affair, but a personal one because God, the lover, does not want to share his wife with anyone. The wrath of God and his jealousy, so often expressed in the Old Testament, reflect his great love.
Sin does not only violate the Law of God, but it also breaks his heart. God sanctions to regain the heart of the wife, but, it turns his back on him. He does not get discouraged. He is ready to suffer, hoping that one day, she will change. Hosea shows that God does not want to punish, but to love.
Conclusion on Idolatry in the Eyes of God
So far you agree with me that idolatry not only makes God jealous, animates his anger, hurts his discontent, breaks his heart and especially dishonors him. This is what idolatry represents in the eyes of God.
“ When we transgress or ignore the first commandment, then we fall into idolatry.” (Thomson Dablemond).
The damage, the consequences of idolatry on humanity are visible. For money or equipment, men are ready not only to trample their dignity, to give any abominations but also to put their lives at risk. Did you know? The idolaters are ready to sacrifice the salvation of their souls. When we deceive God, the true and only God who is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, there is no salvation for us. As it is said, ” And I am the LORD your God … you know no God but me, and there is no savior but me. ” (Hosea 13: 4). Indeed, the Apostle John rightly says this: ” He is the true God, and eternal life. Little children, keep idols. ” (1 John 5: 21).
If, men had an idea of the infinity, of immensity, the greatness of God. […] God is greater and unfathomable than we think. This is what the second commandment wants to teach us: One of the worst mistakes of man is to want to give a human conception to God.
Analyze yourself idolatry in the eyes of God. Reflect on God’s look about idolatry. Do you not understand that it is for your good, your happiness, your peace, your joy that God forbids you to be idolaters? The more we understand what idolatry is in the eyes of God, the thing we have to do is to give everything to God and give him the place that is due to him in our life, our heart, our spirit in everything, every time, in any place and under any circumstances. The grace of God will lead us to repent and return to the path of the Lord by walking according to the advice of the Apostle Paul: ” Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14).