Idolatry: No Gods

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 15, 2021 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

“Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” -Exodus 20:3

It’s pretty easy to see how idolatry violates the first two commandments. Idolatry is the worship of other gods besides the One True God, and the first commandment is to put no other gods before the True God. Note, this is not saying the other gods don’t exist. It’s saying we are not to put anything in front of God for our center of affection, our praise, our attention, or in seeking our needs. Through this series, I’m going to look at what idolatry looked like in ancient times and how it looks today.

Who were the gods of the Ancient Near East? There were many of them. Baal, Astheroth, Dagan, Molech, Chemosh, Rimmon, Mammon, just to name the big ones. The Greeks had all their mythological gods, followed by their Roman counterparts. I’m not going to go into detail about each of these here except when addressing specific ones in regard to the worship and rituals related to them. But each of these gods have several things in common.

They are finite. They were limited to a physical location, and their “realm” was limited. This rang a bell with me when I read 1 Kings 20 and how the Syrians thought the gods of Israel were just gods of the hills, not the valleys. That sparked my post about the gods of the Ancient Near East a few years ago. The ANE gods were finite in location and reach, had physical needs, had to be carried around, and only served a limited area.

Many of the ANE gods were merely deified representations of the things they saw in nature. They had gods for the hills, the valleys, the rivers, the rain, fertility, crops, finances, you name it. Hinduism has some 300 million gods; I wonder how they keep track of them. Whatever you need, they had a god for it. The people wanted to make sure they appeased them all, because the last thing you wanted was to make one of the gods angry. I mentioned last week that Israel thought because they were God’s people that they would be exempt from His wrath, so they sought to appease the other gods in case they lost their crops, couldn’t have kids, or whatnot. They were very wrong about that.

There is a final thing in common all these gods had together. They were powerless to do anything. They gave no message of hope, no truth, did not miracles, never intervened, never gave anything they sought. But the people were clever. That which the True God gave, they attributed to the false gods. That’s why God cut off rain for Ahab, because he trusted in Baal to provide the rain and attributed it to that false god. Yet God silenced Baal by proving he could do nothing.

What was so wrong about this? We’ll get to the rituals later, which are how the other commandments are broken. But Israel put their trust in a physical object, a finite concept, a false idea, or even a person/group of persons to do what only God could do. They followed the rituals of the other gods to the letter, but hardly gave the Law, which they agreed to follow, a second thought. In reality, they didn’t give GOD a second thought. God did all sorts of things for Israel, and over and over again, they forgot Him and ignored His ways. In Deuteronomy 28, the people shouted blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience. It wasn’t hard. Choose life or choose death. Yet, sin was so strong in the people that they chose death time and time again. They kept putting the other gods, gods whom they knew nothing about except through their neighbors, before the True God, whom they did know. It wasn’t mere waywardness. It wasn’t a mere one-time failure. It was a repeated rejection of God from being God.

The people believed the gods were powerful, but they also knew they weren’t sovereign. I love how Voddie Baucham describes this. When you have a powerful god but not a sovereign god, you have the ability to manipulate that god to conform to your will. But the True God is both all-powerful and sovereign. And a sovereign God doesn’t let you have “your opinions” on the matter. He’s got His, and His opinions rule. That’s what Israel didn’t like. They couldn’t live however they wanted to live under the True God. That’s why they so frequently wanted to be like the other nations.

Is it any different today? How many times have we put another god before the True God? Most pastors/youth pastors will talk about sports idols, TV, video games, the gurus of our day, etc. While that is true and those are issues, but there are two primary “gods” that our American culture has adopted: 1) a god of our own making in our minds and 2) “science.”

In first case, there are so many teachings out there describing some god, but it’s not the Biblical God. The Prosperity Gospel teachings treat God as some kind of cosmic genie or divine butler. The Progressive Christianity teachings have a range of ideas about God from being a mystical energy, a supreme being that is the same god over all religions, and in all cases, it’s about love, generosity, and provision but never about righteousness, holiness, or purity. Paul Washer in one sermon addressed how he was approached by a pastor to speak about the Attributes of God. Washer warned him that it was a controversial subject and said when he started teaching on the righteousness of God, the holiness of God, and the purity of God, that pastor’s best members and best tithers will stand up and declare: “That’s not my god!” And this happens across the board. There are so many “other Jesuses” out there. Check out my three-post series on that (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

In the second case, we have “science.” This includes Darwinian Evolution and any Evolutionized position which includes a history of “millions of years.” In this situation, the Word of God can be questioned about its interpretation, but not the science. I confronted an Old Earth Creationist who claimed the geology supports millions of years, but he also declared that Adam was a real being who lived 6000 years ago and through Adam death came to all men. So, I asked him how he handled fossil evidence of humans dating 300,000 years ago. He questioned everything in the book from whether the fossils were human, to the understanding of the timeline of Genesis, everything… except the dating of those fossil remains. Again, what is idolatry? Putting ANYTHING before God. When someone believes “modern science” over the Word of God, they have put “science” in a position it was never meant to have. And it’s idolatry.

The atheists like to say they have replaced God with science. I completely agree, except for one thing. They didn’t replace the True God with science. They replaced the ANE gods with science. Remember how I said these gods represented what they saw in nature? Today’s “naturalists” simply replaced those gods with a “law of science” but still put it in the “God” position. It’s a form of pantheism and it is idolatrous. So I ask Christians who listen to these “scientific models” derived from atheistic/naturalistic philosophies, “Why are you listening to them about how God made everything? What’s wrong with His record?”

Idolatry is just as rampant today as it was 3000 years ago. For every problem, God has a solution. And for every solution God offers, man has a counterfeit solution to match it. Idolatry is putting anything before God, anything as priority over God. And there are many of us who have turned to God, but we still have our old gods tucked away. May God work on our hearts to expose it and deal with it. Next week, we’ll look at the physical objects of the idols themselves.

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.