“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3). The Lord God is the one true object of worship. The word “worship” is a word that conveys the idea of adoration (adoring) and obedience to His will. In one translation of the Bible, in the margin, are these words: “an act of reverence.” To revere the Lord is to hear Him and to obey Him (cf. Luke 6:46). To the Israelites, in the Book of Exodus, the Lord demonstrated Himself thoroughly when He brought one nation (Israel) out from another nation (Egypt), taking them to the land of promise, the land promised to the heritage (descendents) of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. With this knowledge in hand, those of the Israelite nation were in good position to not only move forward under the Lord’s protection, but with that protective wall about them, they could easily swat the attempts of Satan to overcome them. This, however, did not stop Satan from making his attempts to get man to worship something other than God. Man’s great adversary is wildly successful at accomplishing this because he knows the weaknesses of man. When an individual or a nation succumbs to the temptations of Satan and then makes that pleasure their guiding light, this is called Idolatry.
Keep in mind the meaning of the word worship. Idolatry is worshipping some person or object other than God. It means to adore (give much attention to), to obey whatever precepts are given to maintain that adoration and act of reverence. This is false worship. In our current environment we, as a people, are not so cultured and civilized that we are not guilty of worship toward idols of our own making. We simply substitute God with something we like, adore and reverence – whatever that might be.
When God gave this command to the Israelites, He understood quite well what the Israelites were coming from. They came from a polytheistic nation. They included the Egyptian gods with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were very confused. When they built the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, they did what was familiar, they did only what seemed right to some. Nevertheless, because that which the Lord did for them, educating them away from this type of thinking, their actions were inexcusable. You would think that these words would have resonated with them. For some it did, for others it did not. Israel, in their long history, was plagued by idolatry for 8½ centuries. Painful examples and experiences were given by God to the people to get them to turn away from their evil but they still held on to that which they wanted to believe.
That which plagued Israel is always a threat to us. Israel was interested in doing things after their own desires. We also tend to do the same. It was the prophet Jeremiah who spoke to the people about their idolatry associated with both work and worship (Jeremiah 44). Without going along with society’s demands the people were unable to provide for their families, so they went with what was demanded of them by the community of people in which they lived. Because they did this, their worship of the Lord was all but gone. They were too busy and sleepy. God put much emphasis upon what He said to the nation—there was to be nothing before Him. It is the same today; there is to be nothing before Him. When there is, the Lord begins the process of turning away Himself (cf. Rom. 1:21-31). RT