By Brooke Holt
"And the Lord said to Moses, 'Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!"'" Exodus 32:7-8:
Prior to Moses' time on the mountain, the Lord gave the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel. The people heard all the words of the Lord and proclaimed together: "All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Exodus 24:3). The first commanded them to have no other gods before the Lord. The second commanded them not to make for themselves a carved image or anything created to represent the image of God to them. Now, just forty days after Moses ascended upon the mountain, the people forgot their unified assent and broke the second commandment of the Lord.
Note they did not seek to worship another god, but they wanted an image of God they could see and touch. Back in Egypt, the Israelites saw all kinds of graven images to the different gods. This exposes a key problem with idolatry; human beings have no way to fully represent the Lord. He is beyond our comprehension and creation. In Moses' absence, the Israelites began to doubt this unseen God. In that doubt, they crafted an idol to represent God, and God said they "corrupted themselves." Idolatry draws the human heart from devotion to the one true God and puts something lesser, but tangible, upon the throne.
What does idolatry look like today? Anything that pulls us away from whole-hearted devotion and worship of the Lord, anything that captivates our hearts above the Lord is an idol. We can make idols of our bank account, our career, our family, our home, our hobbies, our appearance, or our children. The list has many possibilities, and it differs from one person to the next. We always face the temptation to replace devotion to the one true God for devotion to lesser, created things, even good things.
Like Moses, Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness. After forty days of fasting, Satan came to Jesus and offered to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory if Jesus would just bow down and worship him (Matthew 4:9). Satan was saying Jesus could have all of this without the cross, without all the suffering that was before him. Jesus rebuked the devil and quoted Scripture: "For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve'" (Matthew 4:10).
We always face the temptation to exchange the glory of the Lord for a created thing. Often, it feels easier, faster, or just feels right in the moment. However, idolatry leads to corruption. Our hearts are created to worship, and God has called us to worship him and him alone. Any other form of worship "corrupts" us.
Where do you see the tendency to idolatry in your life? Often, the good gifts in our lives are the very things Satan tempts us to worship or to put our trust in instead of God. May we repent of worshipping anything or anyone outside of the Lord. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Christmas is the festival of rejoicing at Christ’s first coming—the beautiful, unlikely start of our salvation! As the season ends each year, we pack up the decorations. Advent, on the other hand, is a bigger celebration—one we can’t box up and store in the attic. It celebrates the grace of Christ’s first coming, and then it reaches with restless anticipation for the fuller grace of his second appearing and the completion of our salvation! For 28 days, celebrate Advent. In Prepare the Way, join with St. Paul, King David the Psalmist, Zechariah, Gabriel, Mary, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, along with the crowds as they rejoiced in the good news of Christmas, and then look beyond it for the holiday that never ends!
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