I AM, the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before Me.
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 20:1-6 (NRSV)
The Ten Commandments are about healthy relationships and safe boundaries. The purpose of the Law is to maintain harmony and order and keep our lives productive and safe. It is God’s will for us to have a right relationship with Him and with those in the world around us. The first three Commandments have to do with our relationship and our boundaries with God. The final seven have to do with our relationships and boundaries with others- rules for harmonious society.
Genesis 1:1 introduces us to not only our journey in Scripture, but to the Source of everything: In the beginning, God. John 1:1-5 expands upon that beginning, letting us know that Jesus is the Eternal Life and Light and Hope.
In the First Commandment as in Genesis 1:1, and in the introduction to the Gospel of John, we are reminded Who God is. This revelation about the being and nature of God is important for us to bear in mind. He is not a material object. He is not someone or something we can dismiss or ignore. We may choose not to believe in God, but God is real and active as He has been and will be throughout all of time. He is the One from Whom all creation springs forth.
Because God is God, He commands certain respect and exclusivities from us.
Idolatry is not confined to golden calves or various venerated man-made icons. We can worship at the altar of money, or status, or attention, or pleasure. We can set up mortal people as idols, especially ourselves.
There are some that claim that the ultimate idolatry- the sin of the Garden if you will- is the condition of pride. Instead of surrendering the petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “thy will be done,” in our own weakness and arrogance we insist that, “my will be done.” It’s the rebellion of man that is old as time, and that we struggle with daily as long as we have breath and walk this earth. Pride is the sin of Eve believing the serpent when he tempts her with, “If you eat of it… you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:4-5) We all know how that one turned out.
For our own good, God set a boundary around worship. In the First Commandment, He says to us, “Worship Me only, because I made you, I am your Creator, and I have only good for you in My heart.” When we worship God and put Him first, our lives reflect His sovereignty. The Law shows us the way to run toward Jesus and the Gospel- so that His light and love in the Holy Spirit are free to flow in and through us.