From the very first when God called His children out of Egypt, the most important commandment He gave was that they should follow no other gods but Him. This was so important that Yahweh enshrined this ordinance as the first two of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:3-4:
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
In Egypt, the Israelites had lived for 430 years in the presence of a pagan people who worshiped the gods of creation but not the Creator God. Other than through verbal history, the Hebrews had no true understanding of who I AM was. As a result, the desire to worship these other gods was deeply ingrained in them. This is one reason Yahweh had to constantly remind them not to turn from Him.
Several verses in today’s reading in a single chapter stress this very fact:
Exodus 23: 13
“Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips.”
“You shall not bow down to their gods nor serve them, nor do as they do, but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their pillars in pieces.”
“You shall make no covenant with them and their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”
We’ve spoken before as to who and what these pagan gods were and are, even today. They are the rebellious, fallen sons of God; highly placed spiritual beings in God’s kingdom who became disobedient to Yahweh. Rather than direct humanity toward God as He had instructed them to do, they made the choice to reject Him and become gods in their own right in order to accept worship and gain authority over their own worldly territories. Just like Satan, they are divine entities with much power and influence. Is it any wonder that Yahweh commanded His people not to follow them?
Just from these above verses we can see some of what they entice men to do:
- Cause their names to be on men’s lips
- Cause men to bow down to them
- Cause men to serve them
- Cause men to do as they do
- Cause men to sin against God
- Cause men to be entrapped in the snares they set
These gods cause men to turn from the Living God. This is an abomination to the Lord. When men follow these gods, Yahweh does everything possible in His great love to turn their hearts, because He knows the consequences to mankind for this false worship. God has made it very clear that He wants none to perish, but all to have eternal life with Him (2 Peter 3:9). Sadly, just as the spiritual sons of God had the free will choice to do as God said, so do all human beings. And many choose to follow any god but the One true God. This appears to be as deeply ingrained in us as it was for the Israelites.
The gods of yesteryear took the form of the day that was familiar to the people then. They took on the persona of the sun, moon, waters, frogs, snakes, you name it. These same gods today continue to use many of the same deceptions of the past, and more. As a result, we have Gaia and the worship of Mother Earth. The god of social justice is quite prominent. The god of so-called racial equity dominates. Of course, the same gods of the past of money, greed, power, and control, are ubiquitous. In the church, along with the social gospel, the god that advocates for ecumenism, i.e. unity among all religions, is highly popular. Legalism’s god is always a favorite. In recent decades the gods of false doctrines, such that there is a new breed of apostles and prophets, has deceived many. These examples are just a few of the many gods rampant throughout culture, society, and in religious circles. If nothing else, the gods of the world are prolific and have seemingly endless ways to turn men’s hearts toward evil.
Jesus came to set this right. He came to redeem sin, eliminate depravity, and reclaim the nations of the earth. The pagan gods are His target, and He will vanquish them.
In the meantime, the people of God – true Christ-followers – must refuse to be enticed by these impostors. We cannot be double-minded and think we can follow any of the world’s gods along with God Most High. We cannot combine our worship by creating a syncretistic blend of Christ and other gods. Interfaith dialogue and similar efforts within the church are a snare.
God is jealous of us because He is for us. Only He can and will deliver us. Lord, help us to follow only You.