Moses tells the Israelites the dangers of Idol worship as they are going into a land where the people around them are neck deep in it. We have been set apart for God as we live in this world and the temptation to live like the world is high. Our Christian testimony will lose power when we look more like the world than like God whom we worship. We must ask ourselves daily who has our worship because what or who we worship is what we will become!
NOTES ON THE TEXT
15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth.19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.
The beginning of this passage has many warnings unto the Israelites because where the Lord is taking them is a place where they are to not only trust in the Lord but be aware of the dangers that await them. Trusting in the Lord does not mean that we are naive to the dangers that we can face in this world, but with wisdom, be aware yet trust in God as we face life.
What is interesting is that the first warning is not to any threat outside of them but that they are to watch themselves. At times, our greatest enemy may be ourselves and how we allow certain sins or bad influences in our lives because we do have the power to control our actions and what we expose ourselves to. The series of warnings that Moses gives the people is that they are not to make idols like the people that they are going to encounter. God spoke to them and gave them the commandments but they couldn’t see His form because He does not have a form and He knows that the temptation would be to carve images to make sense of what they are experiencing. The question then would be, “why is this bad?” The dangers of making images or idols that try and represent God for the Israelites is that the temptation and corruption comes when in the face of worshiping an image that they get sucked into idea that what they are worshipping right before them is God when in reality it is not. God is holy. What that means is that God is completely separate from all creation and though things may represent the results of His imagination, it cannot fully represent who He is because He occupies a whole nother level than creation.
At times, the Bible talks about people engaging in iniquity. Iniquity is the slight twisting of goodness so that it becomes bad and that is going to be the end result if the people of God begin to make images to try and explain God because it takes that slight twist from the truth that will cause enough corruption that will lead to a separation between God and His people. Therefore God warns them to not engage in the practice of their pagan neighbors who make idols and worship them because they are trying to make sense of the lives that they are living.
20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.
Unlike the Israelites pagan neighbors, God has separated them to become a people that worship the one and only true God. The description of the iron furnace to depict their time in Egypt symbolizes the separation that came from that process. God didn’t cause the slavery but He redeemed it by drawing the people away from it and making the Israelites His people. The iron furnace burns away any impurity from precious metals and thus causes a separation. God did the same thing through the iron furnace like experience of Egypt where His people were separated from their slavery to the Egyptians, which was an act of purification for His people from the sinful nations of the world. As they were set apart for God, they are to look more like God rather than the world and thus they are to not engage in the making and worshipping idols for that will introduce into this new holy relationship an object that will only destroy the good thing that the Lord has started.
23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
God is a jealous God. Now the words envy and jealousy are synonymous terms but they mean different things in the biblical context. To be envious is to want something that is not rightfully yours and that is sinful. To be jealous is to want something that is rightfully yours. Minor difference but dramatically different results. A husband and wife are in a covenant or commitment to one another and therefore agreed before God and people that they are going to be faithful to each other. The married couple will not cheat on the other by introducing another person into their love equation that will threaten their relationship. A husband and wife can be jealous over one another if another person comes and tries to steal them away and it would be more awkward or questionable if the spouse did not care if someone else was going to take their spouse away. True love would defend the relationship, block out any and all homewreckers, and stay committed to each other. When God created a covenant with His people He has created marriage type relationship with them that the people agreed to and thus just as much as God defends this relationship, we too must defend it by not allowing any idols or sins get in the way of the covenant.
5 “When you father children and children's children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, so as to provoke him to anger,26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the Lord will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the Lord will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the Lord your God and obey his voice. 31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them.
There are consequences to our sin. Moses lays out the consequences if they choose to look like the world and start idol worship. The consequences are the following:
Utterly perish in the promise land
Scattered among the nations (exile)
Serve gods of wood and stone.
In other words, the people will get the blessing but forfeit the blessing and end up serving false gods of foreign nations because God gave them the lifestyle they already chose. Despite the forfeiture of blessing and the destruction that comes from that, God is still gracious and tells His people of how God will even redeem that.
In the midst of being back in the iron furnace but in a different context, they will seek the LORD once again and God promises to them that if they sought Him out with all their heart/soul, that He will be found. The grace of God allows people to find Him but to seek Him with all your heart and soul is to not seek Him to make your situation more pleasurable but to seek Him for the purpose of obeying Him. The purpose of seeking God is not relief from our situations but seeking Him because He is the one that we made a relationship of commitment. It states that God remembers His covenant and is faithful and the reason why things do not work out in this relationship is because we are the ones that are not faithful.
Our hearts in their not fully redeemed state constantly seek to make idols. Let us watch ourselves diligently so that we don’t turn away from the Lord.
The Lord sets His people apart from the world so that they can be more like Him.
We must guard our relationship with the Lord as much as He guards it because we are in covenant.
God’s graciousness and faithfulness to our relationship is steady, let us be faithful to Him as He is faithful to us.