The First Commandment-Lesson 3
"And the Lord spoke all these words: 'I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me:' " (Exodus 20:1-5)
Does anyone remember the Old Abbott and Costello skit they did? Abbott would say ,"Who's on first?", Costello would say, "I don't know." And then Abbott would say "I don't know is on second." and then.....well you no the rest of skit. It doesn’t matter too much who is in what position in our lives until we settle the matter of who is on first. In other words, we need to know who is in first place in our lives. This issue must be settled! If anyone, or anything, occupies first place in our lives ahead of God, than our lives are out of control and out of balance. God wants to tell us who must be on first if our lives are to be everything they can be for His glory. Actually even that skit does not give a good illustration of what God is trying to say. The question is not who is on first, or who is first in our lives. The question is who is controlling the game! Who has control of your whole life!
God’s requirement is very simple. He demands to be in first place in every area of our lives. He knows that all men have something they put before God Himself, and He demands that it be Himself.
"Adore not any strange god. The Lord his name is Jealous, he is a jealous God" (Exodus 34:14) God alone is worthy of our love and devotion. He will allow no intruder coming in and taking the place of what is rightfully God's position.
Origen- "When men try to seduce us to apostasy, it is useful to reflect upon what God wishes to teach us when he says, 'I am the Lord your God, jealous.' In my view, just as the bridegroom who wishes to make his bride love chastely so as to give herself entirely to him and beware of any relationship whatever with any man other than her husband, pretends, though he be wise, to be jealous-he uses this pretense as a kind of antidote for his bride-so the Lawgiver, especially when he reveals himself as the 'firstborn of every creature.' says to his bride, that he is a jealous God. In this way he keeps his followers from any pretended gods."
Some would ask, "Well, isn’t there only one God?" Yes, there is only one true God, but there are many false Gods! It has been said, "Our God is the thing, or the person, which we think most precious, for whom we would make the greatest sacrifice, and who moves our heart with the warmest love. He is the person, or thing, that if lost would leave us desolate." Even the heretic Martin Luther knew that there can be false Gods in our lives. "Whatever we make the most of is our God." – Martin Luther.
But don't take the heretics words as true. Listen to the Early Fathers:
Gregory of Nyssa- "He who says 'you should never worship a strange god' forbids us to worship another god, and the strange god is so called into contradiction to our own God. And who is the strange god? Surely he who is alien from the nature of the true God
Man, by nature, is a religious creature. He will find someone, or something, to give his worship to.
Often, things and people occupy first place in our lives. Notice some things we elevate to the status of God hood in our lives. If you do these things "You just might be a Idolater."
1. The God Of Pleasure
"For many walk, of whom I have told you often (and now tell you weeping), that they are enemies of the cross of Christ. Whose end is destruction; whose God is their belly; and whose glory is in their shame; who mind earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19)
Pleasure is like a drug. It often requires more to get the same effect. It Can include: sensual things, the abuse of sex, sports, entertainment, etc. "Rather choosing to be afflicted with the people of God, than to have the pleasure of sin for a time" (Hebrews 11:25)
If Pleasure is your God...You might be and idolater.
2. The God of Possessions
"No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)
The gift of grab dominates many lives. If you place money and things first... You might be an idolaters!
3. The God Of Personal Worth
Who changed the truth of God into a lie; and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. (Romans 1:25)
When a person feels that the world revolves around them, and that they must always come out on top, that person...just might be an idolater.
4. The God Of Plans And Projects
Anything that occupies the mind and life ahead of God is an idol! If you do this....you might be an idolater.
The list is practically endless. Man can make a God out of anything. Yet, we must allow ourselves no God but the Almighty!
If we conducted a poll and asked each person to name the person or thing that dominated their life, what would the answer be? Whatever it is, that thing or person is your God!
MAN’S RESPONSE To The First Commandment
Man can continue to place everything in the world before God. This is rebellion and will end in hell. Or, man can comply with God’s demands. To do so will result in a blessed life and a glorious eternity.
What, or who, do you see on the throne of your heart? Anything or anyone other than Jesus is an idol!
The only solution to idols is to bring them to God through the sacrament of confession and leave them before Him. He excels in destroying them and replacing them with His wonderful love, His presence and glory, and his grace and mercy. Remember, He will tolerate no one and no thing but Himself on the throne of your heart.
THE RESULTS OF DISOBEDIENCE
When we elevate anything, or anyone to the place of Godhood, we will find out too late that neither it, nor they, will be able to protect us from the awesome wrath of God.
"But thou, O Lord, shalt laugh at them: thou shalt bring all the nations to nothing." (Psalms 58:9/59:8)
A good illustration is when the Philistine god Dagon was in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant.
"And the Philistines took the ark of God, and carried it from Ebenezer unto Ashdod. And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it into the temple of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when the Ashdod arose early the next day, behold Dagon lay upon his face on the ground before the ark of the Lord: and they took Dagon, and set him again in his place. And the next day again, when they rose in the morning, they found Dagon lying upon his face on the earth before the ark of the Lord: and the head of Dagon, and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold: And only the stump of Dagon remained in its place. For this cause neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that go into the temple tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day." (1 Samuel 5:1-5)
Judgment will always stalk the idolater.
Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me: (Exodus 20:5)
God is not saying that he will punish the children for the parent’s sins.
"The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, nor the children for the fathers, but every one shall die for his own sin." (Deuteronomy 24:16, see also Ezekiel 18:19-32)
He is saying that sin leaves it’s mark on our children! Children tend to resemble the environment they are exposed to. Things like patterns of abuse, the way we walk, the way we talk, alcoholism etc. Often, it takes generations to break the cycle established by the parent.
"Shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments." (Exodus 20:6)
"Now the law entered in, that sin might abound. And where sin abounded, grace did more abound." (Romans 5:20)
We are all guilty to some degree of manufacturing little gods for ourselves. We may not have a statue or an image to which we bow down, but we do have habits, traditions, activities, people and possessions that we place ahead of God. This is idolatry and this is sin. No one, or no thing deserves your worship more than God Himself. Is He receiving it as he should? Is God Almighty your One and True God?
Why does the Catholic Church permit the use of statues for religious purposes in defiance of God's prohibition against the carving of statues in Exodus 20:4-5?
The Catholic Church does not defy any of God's commandments. Your question reveals an ignorance of the biblical facts surrounding statues. In Exodus 20:4 God condemned the carving of statues for the sake of worshipping them as idols--a blasphemy the Catholic Church also condemns. In Exodus 25:18-20, on the other hand, God commands Moses to carve statues for a religious purpose: two cherubim which would sit atop the Ark of the Covenant.
Notice that these angelic images were to serve such an exalted purpose (not because the statues themselves were in any way intrinsically exalted but because of the use to which they would be put) that God was very exacting in the instructions he gave Moses as to the materials to be used and the posture in which they were to be carved. Similar divine commands to carve statues and embroider images of various religious objects are found in Exodus 21:6-9, Numbers 21:6-9, 1 Kings 6:23-28, and 1 Kings 7:23- 39. In each case, the statue or embroidered image was intended by God for a religious use.
Although the worship of anything, not just statues, in place of the True God is idolatry, there are times when statues are not just tolerable but recommended. Just as those Old Testament statues were ordered fashioned by God to reminded the Israelites of heavenly realities, Catholic statues of Jesus and the angels and the saints serve the same purpose. (https://www.catholic.com/qa/how-can-the-church-allow-statues-when-exodus-20-forbids-it)