Our culture here in the United States has become very good at finding substitutes for almost everything in life. Walk the aisles at HEB or Randalls and you’ll see all kinds of food substitutes: sugar and salt substitutes, butter “I Can’t Believe It’s NOT Butter!” cheese substitutes, cream substitutes, Niki used to like those Cream substitutes for coffee; French vanilla, caramel toffee, There are egg substitutes, bacon substitutes a crab substitute and more.
One time we were driving along I 35 and I instinctively hit the brakes when I spotted a police car on my left. It wasn’t until we passed him and I looked in my rear view mirror that I realized it wasn’t real officer, just a patrol car, a substitute for the genuine article.
All this is to say that in America substitutes, are big business. And I don’t think God is necessarily against this but as you can see in today’s text, He makes it very clear that when it comes to our relationship with Him, He will tolerate no substitutes.
This second law insists that the object of our worship must never be something of our own construction or something that is under our control. We must never make these things the focus of our day to day existence. Only God is to have that place in our lives.
Obviously we are more powerful and wise than anything we make on our own. We can control the works of our hands. We can make many amazing things these days, but none of them are deserving of our worship.
Another truth we should understand as we study this 2nd commandment is that the impulse to worship is universal. Anthropologists tell us that anywhere you go on this planet among any race of people from anywhere or any time period you will find people engaged in worship of some kind. This is a God-given inclination.
There is a God-consciousness in the heart of every human being. There is the desire of human beings to turn objects or people or even ideas into objects of worship. God says don’t do that.
And when people take this natural inclination to worship and instead of directing it in its proper direction toward God they worship other things or images, this is idolatry.
The reality is that idolatry in our culture today is very widespread. In our culture we worship the gods of materialism, sexual indulgence, and personal power. Their messages don’t just line the streets as they did in Athens in Paul’s day, here they fill the magazine racks & airwaves!
The images and their deceptive offers go across the nation by satellite, cable, Internet, and slick four-color printing. In our country we are surrounded by more false images than ever before in the history of mankind. They leer at us from billboards and magazine covers. They call to us in powerful visual impressions. And, as every good advertising or network executive knows, the objective of these ads is to absolutely “capture” as many people as possible. They want to capture our attention, our imagination, our money, our time and our commitment. We see images of power, sex and happiness.
Have you ever thought, “when I get ______then I’ll be happy!” That degree, marriage, job, car, body, position, $, vacation, etc. Then we get that and we are not happy at all. Then we look to the next thing.
There is nothing wrong with money or a new car or wanting to wear attractive clothes or wanting to succeed in business. It’s just that these things and a hundred others may become idols to us as they begin to control our thoughts and desires. We don’t worship objects as much as we worship images: images of success, images of wealth, images of status, images of sensuality.
But you know, I think the most-worshiped false god in our society is SELF. We idolize our individual FEELINGS….we make and base major decisions on how we FEEL rather than on what God says. We worship happiness and self-esteem at all costs. We care more about personal rights than God-given responsibilities. We worship how we look. We especially bow down to our careers. Whenever anything other than God becomes the absolute focus of our attentions and activities, that is idolatry.
One problem with idols is that they DISAPPOINT. Advertisers say, “Wear our label and you’ll be popular, buy our product and you’ll be successful, drink our beer and it doesn’t get any better than this, buy our toothpaste and you’ll have sex appeal.” They always promise more than they can deliver.
Have you ever ordered something or bought something that promised something and when you got it you were disappointed with what you got? Anytime we put any person, any thing, any product in the place of God, anytime we expect anyone to solve all our problems or guarantee all our happiness we’re going to be disappointed. Idols will always disappoint us. They take and never give back. They use us up, drain us dry, and then discard us.
Idols are false fronts like we see on movie sets. They look good on the outside but there is nothing behind them to back up their promises of freedom and joy. As the woman at the well discovered, you can drink all you want at the wells of the world but still be thirsty. The only way to satisfy our thirst for freedom is to be in relationship with God.
One way to put our idol to the test is to insert it into the 23rd Psalm. Someone confessed to me that their boat was their idol.
Here’s the 23rd Psalm for our boat: “My boat is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
My boat takes me lie down in quiet coves, and leads me beside quiet waters,
My boat restores my soul. It guides me in paths of righteousness for my boats name’s sake.”
This can only go so far... “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your propeller and your ski rope they comfort me?” No, that’s not true.
Will your boat answer your prayers? Will your boat raise you from the dead? Will your boat save your soul from hell? Will your boat welcome you into heaven?
Let’s put back the genuine article into the Psalm and into our lives, “The LORD is my shepherd!”
In the next post we will look at the 3rd Commandment