idolatry, n. L. idololatria. Gr. idol, and to worship or serve.
1. The worship of idols, images, or any thing made by hands, or which is not God.
Idolatry is of two kinds; the worship of images, statues, pictures, etc. made by hands; and the worship of the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon and stars, or of demons, angels, men and animals.
2. Excessive attachment or veneration for any thing, or that which borders on adoration.
We might think of Old Testament Daniel cast into the lion’s den, or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown into the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, when they refused to bow down to the king or his golden image because it would be in violation of God’s first and second commandments; however, the worship of false gods and idols is still practiced by many today, and the second kind is practiced by most, including many professed Christians.
The first four of the Ten Commandments, written on the first tablet of stone, relate specifically to our relationship with God. The remaining six on the second tablet of stone relate specifically to our relationships with each other. Idolatry is the subject specifically of the second commandment, but is also an aspect of the first, since those practicing idolatry are worshipping other gods. It is also breaking the seventh commandment by committing spiritual adultery against God, which is why God calls idolaters harlots and says they go a whoring after other gods.
First Commandment (Exodus 20:3): Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Today’s gods include, but are not limited to:
1) Worshipping at the altar of materialism which feeds our need to build up our egos through the acquisition of more “stuff”, which necessitates bigger houses with more storage space to accommodate all the things we buy, much of which we haven’t even paid for yet.
2) Worshipping at the altar of our own pride and ego, which often takes the form of obsession with job, vocation, profession, avocation, and good works.
3) Idolizing mankind through naturalism and the power of science – clinging to the illusion that we are lords of our world, and building our self-esteem to godlike proportions while rejecting God’s Word and His description of how He created the heavens and the earth – accepting the nonsense of atheistic evolution and naturalism. We embrace the goddess of environmentalism and fool ourselves into believing somehow our efforts can preserve the earth indefinitely when God has declared that this current age will come to an end, and His word is always true.
4) Worshipping at the altar of self-aggrandizement or the fulfillment of self to the exclusion of others needs and desires, which often manifests itself in self-indulgence through alcohol, drugs, and food. The worship of self is the basis of all modern idolatry, and has at its core the three lusts found in 1 John 2:16: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” If we are to escape modern idolatry, we have to acknowledge it is rampant and reject it in all its forms – it is not of God, but of Satan, and in it we will never find fulfillment, only condemnation.
Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6): Thou shalt not make (make with the intent to give idolatrous worship) unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them (perform any worship of them, show any reverence to them by any gesture of the body – one being mentioned, bowing the body – prostration, bending the knee, kissing the hand, lifting up of hands or eyes to them, or by any outward action expressing a religious esteem of them, as if there was divinity in them): for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God (jealous of His own honour, “who will not see His glory given to another, nor His praise given to graven images”, See Isaiah 42:8, 48:11, or allow rivals to dispute His sole and absolute sovereignty), visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me (denotes those who persistently and defiantly oppose themselves to God); 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. (Very simple: God does not want us to make and bow down before – that is worship – images, statues, carvings, likenesses of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the sea. God equates this with hating Him, and placing ourselves in opposition to him is not something we should ever want to do.)
Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7): Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (God’s nature and attributes, the totality of His being, and especially His glory are reflected in His name (Psalm 8:1). Psalm 111:9 tells us His name is “holy and awesome,” and the Lord’s prayer begins by addressing God with the phrase “hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9), an indication that a reverence for God and His name should be foremost in our prayers. Too often we barge into God’s presence with presumptuous “to-do lists” for Him, without being mindful of His holiness, His awesomeness, and the vast chasm that separates our nature from His. That we are even allowed to come before His throne is due only to His gracious, merciful love for His own (Hebrews 4:16). We must never take that grace for granted. Because of the greatness of the name of God, any use of God’s name that brings dishonor on Him or on His character is taking His name in vain. The third of the Ten Commandments forbids taking or using the Lord’s name in an irreverent manner because that would indicate a lack of respect for God Himself. A person who misuses God’s name will not be held “guiltless” by the Lord (Exodus 20:7).
There is a larger sense in which people today take the Lord’s name in vain. Those who name the name of Christ, who pray in His name, and who take His name as part of their identity, but who deliberately and continually disobey His commands, are taking His name in vain. Jesus Christ has been given the name above all names, at which every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:9-10), and when we take the name “Christian” upon ourselves, we must do so with an understanding of all that signifies. If we profess to be Christians, but act, think, and speak in a worldly or profane manner, we take His name in vain. When we misrepresent Christ, either intentionally or through ignorance of the Christian faith as proclaimed in Scripture, we take the Lord’s name in vain. When we say we love Him, but do not do what He commands (Luke 6:46), we take His name in vain and are possibly identifying ourselves with those to whom Christ will say: “I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlesness!” in the day of judgment (Matthew 7:23). The name of the Lord is holy, as He is holy. The name of the Lord is a representation of His glory, His majesty, and His supreme deity. We are to esteem and honor His name as we revere and glorify God Himself. To do any less is to take His name in vain.)
Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-1): Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
(This commandment requires a whole separate post to itself.)