Verse of the Day Devotion: Exodus 20:4
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” – Exodus 20:4
In the first commandment, God declared He was the true God, and everything else was not. He commanded that He alone should be worshipped and here He makes clear what is unlawful worship. In the next two verses He states, “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Exodus 20:5-6.
In these three verses God shows that He is the one to be worshipped and non-other. We are not to make for ourselves idols. We are not to make anything from any material into any image for the purpose of worship. Under the leadership of Moses himself, figures of cherubim, brazen serpents, oxen, and many other things in the earth beneath, were made and never condemned. What was condemned was making anything for the purpose of worshipping it. And you see from our focus verse there is no exception for any image. He states that we are not to make any likeness of things in the heavens, or on the earth, or in the seas. This includes everything. The things in heaven include but not limited to stars, planets, the sun and moon. This can also include angels since they are in the heavens. In regard to the things of the earth again include but not limited to oxen, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, calves, etc. Many animals were made idols/false gods in Egypt. And of the water fish and crocodiles which were also gods of Egypt, along with anything else in the waters.
They were told not to bow down to anything that they make and thus make it an idol. They were not to serve them in a capacity or perform any religious activities to them. For if they did, they were dishonoring the true God. And He tells them He is a jealous God. This shows in a most expressive manner the love of God to this people. He felt for them as the most affectionate husband could do for his spouse; and was jealous for their fidelity, because he willed their invariable happiness. And if they did create an idol, their sons and remote descendants inherit the consequences of their fathers’ sin in disease, poverty, captivity, with all the influences of bad example and evil communications. We see this idea from the writer of Lamentations where he said, “Our fathers sinned, and are no more; It is we who have borne their iniquities.”
Now to those who love God and keep His commandments not because works provided anything, but because of their love for Him, He shows mercy and kindness. He performs acts of grace and helps them by showing mercy to them. And those who love Him will worship Him alone, and not creating anything else to worship instead of Him. Remember the words of Jesus where He says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”.
And we are called to do the same. We are not to make anything that we will worship aside from the true God. There are many religions today who create images of things to worship aside from God. And we must be careful that we do not fall into this practice. What can anything we create do to deliver us from our troubles, provide for our needs, or love us beyond what our God does? We are called to worship the true God only, the one who created all things, including ourselves. Can these idols do this? If we choose to create an idol to worship, what we are saying to God is we do not love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. (See Mark 22:30). And if we do not, then do we really love Him?
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.