“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)
The above passage of scripture refers to idol worship, idolatry. The Children of Israel, after four hundred years in Egypt were soaked in idol worship. Worshipping a God they could not see was a novel idea to them, so not long after they left Egypt, they returned to the worship of idols. Moses had been away for forty days on Mount Sinai having been summoned by God, than they protested to Aaron: “Come make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” (Exodus 32:1b)
Using the gold and jewellery they had plundered from the Egyptians, they handed them over to Aaron to build a golden calf. As they were busy worshipping it, God saw this from heaven and called the attention of Moses. “Go down, for the people whom you brought up out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said ‘These are our gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ ” (Exodus 32:7-8)
In His anger, God could have wiped them off the face of the earth if Moses had not pleaded with Him. The danger was that the Children of Israel were unable to make the difference between worshipping God and worshipping pagan gods. Unfortunately, when we hide behind the slogan ‘This is what we inherited from our ancestors’ or ‘This is what our forefathers used to do,’ we are not any better than the Children of Israel who despite experiencing the power of God that delivered them from slavery in Egypt, were dragging idols behind them. They had come out of Egypt, but the ungodly practices learnt in Egypt were yet to come out of them.
Some Christians acknowledge the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, on the cross, for our sins but still indulge in the worship of idols, pagan gods or demons. God says we carve the pieces of wood with our own hands and then bow down to worship them. “Of what value is an idol since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he that makes it, trust in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak.” (Habakkuk 2:18) “They say to wood, ‘You are my father,’ and to stone, ‘You gave me birth.’ They have turned their backs to me and not their faces; yet when they are in trouble, they say come and save us”’ Where then are the gods you made for yourselves? Let them come if they can save you when you are in trouble! For you have as many gods as you have towns, O Judah!’ ” (Jeremiah 2:27-28)
When Christians die their souls return to their Maker. There is no need for any other sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross was complete and sufficient. Whereas the high priests every year offered sacrifices for themselves and for the people, our Lord Jesus did it once and for all. It has cleansed us of all unrighteousness and has washed all our sins away. To make any other sacrifice is to profess that the sacrifice at the cross did not pay completely for our sins. It is an abomination to honour God and at the same time offer sacrifices to the dead. “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous [Him] for the unrighteous [us] to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
The sacrifice God requires of us is a broken and a contrite heart said king David. “You do not delight in sacrifices, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (Isaiah 51:17) God does not delight in sacrifices anymore—the shed-blood of His Son was adequate. “The multitude of your sacrifices—what is that to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” (Isaiah 1:11)
We need to examine ourselves again and see what idols we have harboured in our hearts above the God Jehovah. Whatever we spend most of our time with; whatever we exchange with God; whatever takes centre stage in our lives and all other things that revolve around that, make up our idols.
Anything that takes the place of God in terms of the time we accord to it, is indeed an idol in our lives. They get in the way of our relationship with God to whom belongs the first place. Time spent in front of the television set, the price we put on our children, the way we cherish our earthly properties, the number of hours spent at our regular routine meeting places—and the list is long; all these compete for attention with God. Let us make God the final authority in our lives. His word should govern our lives, not our empty customs and practices. In our walk with God we need only to come as we are, in total obedience, loving the Lord our God ‘with all our heart, with all our souls and with all our strength.’ (Deuteronomy 6:5) He will do the rest.