Exodus 20:4-6 is about more than golden calves. It’s about not allowing anyone or anything to take God’s place.
“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” (NLT)
I don’t know anyone who worships a graven image, but I know many, including myself, who allow things and people to get in the way of worship. Food, money, sex, drugs, alcohol, work, beauty, relationships, the quest for fame or fun, and so much more draw attention away from God or take His place.
I used to worry about the sins of the parents being laid upon the children for four generations. I saw it as further proof that God was out to get me. He was not only going to get me; He was going to get my great, great, grandchildren too! I’ve since learned to see God in the light of Christ’s precious love. That enables me to see scripture in a new light, as well. God is a loving Father who knows idol lies will hurt me deeply and keep me from His love.
Idols take the best from those at their feet. Like all shiny objects, they tempt and promise much, but they never deliver on those promises. Idol worship is a one-sided relationship that sucks life from the body, love from the heart, and peace from the soul. Idol lies appear to be truth because the master of deceit is behind them. I can’t discern the truth without the help of the Holy Spirit. That means listening and obeying God’s commandments and understanding they are forged in love and designed for my good.
Good parents and teachers know the importance of boundaries when it comes to safety and learning. It isn’t easy to be a loving parent who cares enough to make sure their children understand the importance of loving obedience. I’ve seen far too many fall into the trap of wanting to be liked. I’ve fallen into it myself.
God doesn’t want to be popular; He simply wants me to know how very much He loves me. That means trusting and obeying even when I don’t understand. Idols weave lies into a beautiful nets that cover and capture all at one time or another. Many stay trapped in those nets because they believe there is no hope of getting out. God doesn’t forget His children when they are caught up in the traps of idols. It breaks His heart to watch His beloved struggle in the net of idol lies, but He knows they won’t truly be free until they are ready to hear the truth.
Idol lies drown out the still, small voice of God because He will not compete with idols. He knows how tempting it is to fall into the trap of an idol. It is why He sent His only Son to break the hold of those traps. His love and truth shed light on idol lies, exposing them for what they are. I can listen to His love, or I can listen to a lot of bull. The choice is, and always will be, mine.