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The definition of an idol, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “a representation or symbol of an object of worship; broadly: a false god.” Therefore, anything that takes the place of the one and only true and living God, is an idol. The scriptures make the first allusion to idolatry when “Rachel [Jacob’s wife] stole her father’s household gods” (Genesis 31:19).

An idol can be a variety of “secular” things—even things which appear “harmless.” For example, under the so-called “power of nature,” there are those who worship rivers, lakes, mountains, trees, the sun, moon and stars. Others worship money, possessions, personal effects, and other secular objects. Some religions violate God’s laws by engaging in the worship of statues and images carved out of wood, stone, or metal. These idols are lifeless. They cannot act, talk, or hear, and are in no way a substitute for the true, living and Most High God. God alone is absolutely worthy of our allegiance and worship.

God made it clear to the children of Israel they were not to have any gods before Him. This is stated as the very first of the “Ten Commandments” that begins, “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 in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:2-5). God is making it known to His people that there is no other God beside Him and their loyalty must be to Him alone.

In our 21st century society there are myriads of things in people’s lives which takes the place of our sovereign God because of the attention, emphasis and priority given to these idols. God also chided Israel when He told them, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD your God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4,5). God was absolutely justified in reminding the Israelites of this commandment because of their tendency to sin.

In spite of God’s covenant relations with Israel, Israel became “idol worshippers” during their forty years of wanderings. When Moses was delayed in returning from the presence of the Lord on Mount Sinai, the Israelites demanded Aaron make them a “golden calf,” which they “worshipped and sacrificed to it” and said, "These are your gods O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:8). How outrageous! This was in spite of God’s warning, “‘Whoever sacrifices to any god other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction” (Exodus 22:20). God condemned Israel for their disobedience and told them they had “corrupted themselves” because of their apostasy. God will not tolerate idolatry in any way, shape, or form because idolatry is sin and a flagrant violation of His laws. Also, Isaiah warns, "All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit" (Isaiah 44:9).

Jesus was asked by one of the Pharisees “which is the greatest commandment in the law?” Jesus responded by quoting the first commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37,38). This “first and great commandment” is not to be taken lightly since it establishes the fact that God is to be preferred before all things and also that He alone reigns supremely in the hearts and minds of people.

There are some who try to serve the God of heaven and the “god of this world,” at the same time. God is not in competition with Satan. God is holy and righteous and declares of Himself, “I am the LORD; that is My name; My glory I give to no other, nor My praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8). God is self-existent and infinitely greater and higher than any of His created beings. The scriptures teach that only one true God exists. The apostle Paul writes, “for us there is one God, the Father from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Man's main objective and priority ought to be to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” And also to be fully aware that “no one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24,33). During Satan’s temptation of Jesus, Jesus told him, “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). Let us be obedient to the call, “Keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).