A Jealous God

Life Worship Notes—January 30, 2104 

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments”  Exodus 20:4-6

The first of the Ten Commandments is to have no other Gods before our God. Last week I speculated that the wording of that commandment sounds as if there may be more Gods than one. In the second commandment, God admits to being a “jealous God,” and extols us not to make or worship idols. In Old Testament days, it was a common practice to make and worship various idols. Some were made of gold, others of stone, wood or other materials available at the time. The practice always brought the ire of God.

I wonder what God thinks about some of our current religious and spiritual practices. I often worship in the presence of items like crosses, candles, incense, pictures, and other things of spiritual significance to me. Are those idols under the second commandment? How about praying the rosary, or praying to the saints? In my church, there are no prayers or worship directed to beings other than God; but when we kneel at the altar and gaze up at the cross, are we worshipping the object of the cross or acknowledging the God who died there for us?

I suspect violations of the second commandment have more to do with the focus of our worship, instead of the objects used to help focus our worship. The true idols of today are those objects that compete with God for our faith, attention, and devotion. Television, money, work, the desire for advancement—many things can become the primary focus in our lives, thus attaining “idol” status. When we desire anything more than that which enhances our relationship with God, our faith and trust are misplaced. A promotion at work might temporarily boost our ego or our checkbook, but it will do nothing towards spreading God’s good news, or growing closer to the giver of all things in life. God is the source of our being, not our employer. The second commandment says God is a jealous God. While it is difficult for me to picture God succumbing to a human type of jealousy, it is easy for me to believe God wants what is in our best interest. Certainly, it is best for us to focus our worship on the one, true God, from where unfailing love for us flows.

Come home to church this Sunday. Leave your idols at home…

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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