1 John 5:21 (ESV)
“Little children, keep yourselves from idols”
After going on a rescue mission to save Israel from the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh, what was the first commandment that God had given to His people? Did He tell them to throw a party for Him? (In a way, it was really a day to celebrate.) Or perhaps asked them to make Him a monument? (He was their hero after all.)
In Exodus 20:3, He asks the people of Israel the first and most important thing from them. He doesn’t need a party nor a monument. What the Lord wants from His people is for them to be reminded that there is no other god besides Him. The God that brought them out of Egypt. Why did He tell them this? Because He knew that His people had the tendency to be idolaters (Which happens later on in the book of Exodus and in other parts of Scripture).
Indeed, the Lord sees our sinful nature even before we were born (Psalm 51:5). He knew that people have the tendency to worship created things rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). He acknowledged that we are, by nature and choice, evil in our hearts (Mark 7:21). As the theologian John Calvin rightly describes it, “The human heart is a factory of idols”.
As one preacher said it, “when we as people, make a good thing a god thing, it is a bad thing”. Idolatry is when you rob God all the glory and honor which is rightfully for Him. When created things rule and reign (money, career, spouse, children) at the throne of our hearts rather than Jesus Christ himself, we become pagan worshipers. And just like the pagan gods described in the Scriptures, we cannot find joy, hope or salvation in them. They are just weak and powerless compared to the one true God.
We are no different from the people of Israel back in Exodus. We may be living in a different day and age, but the human heart stays the same. But unlike before, there is now a way to have a changed heart, and that is through the work of Jesus Christ at the cross. In Him, there is a reversal. The dead comes to life, the banished becomes restored, the heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). In Jesus, we can have a pure heart that can see God (Matthew 5:8).
Lord, as David prayed in Psalm 51, I pray for forgiveness and mercy. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Destroy the idols stored in my heart of stone and let me find joy in You alone. Amen.