Humankind was created with a living soul. From the dawn of creation, there has been an innate desire to worship something. While Yahweh wanted to be the object of that devotion and is the only one that can satisfy the deepest spiritual needs of humanity, people have invented false gods and devoted themselves to serving tangible and intangible idols and philosophies. This is idolatry, which is the worship or adoration of idols, false gods, or of anything that takes the place of God Himself. Anything physical or spiritual other than God that controls affections, time, energy, money, and devotion is idolatry.
There have been idols and gods of many different types and called by many different names through the thousands of years of civilization. The Old Testament refers often to the false gods and idols of the pagans. Dagon, with a human head and body of a fish, was the god of the Philistines (1 Samuel 5:1-5). Merodach or Bel, of Jeremiah 50:2, was the Babylonian “lord of the gods of heaven and earth.” Baal, the sun god, was the supreme god of the Canaanites.
1 Kings 18 relates the encounter of Elijah and the prophets of Baal praying for fire to fall from the sky. In 1 Kings 11:33, we read of Ashtoreth, the Zidonians’ goddess of fertility; and of Chemosh, the god of the Moabites; and of Milcom, the Ammonites’ god of divination. The fire god, Molech, to whom children were sacrificed, is written about in Leviticus 18:21. These are just a few of the invented gods, mystical beings often described with animal and human characteristics, that originated from man’s imagination.
The scripture relates the waffling purpose of the children of Israel throughout the generations as they served God and then turned to the idols of the land. At Mt. Sinai, the Israelites demanded that Aaron make them a golden calf after the pattern of the Egyptians who had made molten images to worship (Exodus 32:1-4). Moses came down from the mountain with the command of God, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image….Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:3-5). This command of God is fundamental and is incumbent upon all people that “thou shalt worship no other God” (Exodus 34:14). Jesus reiterated this command in the New Testament: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8).
All forms of idolatry and worship are sin except that devotion that is given to the God of Heaven. Leviticus 26:1 forbids the creation of idols and graven images and the bowing down unto them. Deuteronomy 4:15-19 warns the people not to corrupt themselves with idols. They are instructed not to make an idol after the manner of animals or humans. They are warned not to worship the sun, moon, or stars.
There is only one true God, and all honor, praise, glory, and devotion belong exclusively to Him. Jesus prefaced the greatest command to love with this basic truth: “Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:29). “Beside me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6). All other gods must be banished, for devotion to the idols of man robs God of the devotion that is due unto His name.
In the midst of idols and images of gods on Mars Hill, the apostle Paul gives a beautiful message about the true God who made the heaven and earth
(Acts 17:22-31). God dwells not in temples made with hands nor is He worshipped with their hands. It is He that gives life and breath, and it is He that will judge the world on an appointed day. This God is not made from gold, silver, or stone and is not a depiction of artwork nor a creation of man. This God is the creator of the universe. He has a son, Jesus, who was crucified and was raised from the dead in three days. It is THIS God alone that can bring soul peace and satisfy the internal longing of the soul. Truly, God is worthy of our praise, for all things were created for His pleasure (Revelation 4:10-11).
All images of worship, all idols of devotion, and all objects of adoration must be eradicated completely from our lives. God is a jealous God (Exodus 34:14), and He will not accept mixing the worshiping of idols with devotion to Him. There are many images and false gods to which people pray still today. They may be called by different names than those of ancient days, but they are still false gods and idols. Many countries, tribes, and nationalities continue to be steeped in the worship of idols. This is idolatrous and sinful.
We are to have no other gods before us physically or in our hearts. While some people may have rejected the idol itself, even many professing Christians are wrapped in the trappings of pagan worship and false gods of the past. Let us sanctify our lives and our worship that they may be singularly devoted and pleasing to the one true God. ■