Imagine that you are a young man in the nation of Israel during the time when God’s people were rescued from slavery in Egypt.
You grew up hearing your parents pray every night for rescue. You ran errands for Egyptian families with no payment and rarely any gratitude. You barely saw your father because he was always working on the Pharaoh’s next building project.
Then one day a guy named Moses was speaking to a crowd outside your house. He said that God told him to tell the leader of Egypt to let Israel leave. You heard about this land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. You longed to leave Egypt and slavery, but this seemed so random and utterly unlikely.
But when God started sending plagues as Moses promised, you believed. Wow, we may actually be free soon! you thought.
You helped your father put blood on the doors in preparation for the final plague. You struggled to get to sleep that night with anticipation of what was to come. Late in the night you woke up to wailing and crying throughout Egypt. Those without the blood of lambs on their doorposts lost their firstborn sons. It was so surreal but you didn’t have time to process because families were fleeing. There was great urgency and excitement: “We are free. Let’s go!” The Egyptians were actually begging you to leave. They were terrified of displeasing your God anymore. You asked them for their possessions, as Moses instructed, and they actually gave them to you. You left Egypt with their gold and their silver. The gift of freedom was greater, but the gifts of gold and silver reminded you that God had orchestrated all of this. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was your God, too, and He liberated you.
After rushing out of Egypt you came to the Red Sea. And as some feared, Pharaoh and the Egyptians were pursuing. You saw Moses lift up his hands and amazingly, the sea actually parted. It was terrifying and loud and awesome, but it was also clear that God was making a way for you to cross to safety. When you crossed and turned around, the waters fell on the Egyptians. Everyone cheered. Rescued again! You were in awe of the God who brought this about.
A few months later, Moses came down from a mountain where He had met with the Lord. You were eager to hear from the One who liberated you, who loved and protected you. Moses gave God’s first commandment:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me.” (Exodus 20:2-3)
He then gave the second command:
“Do not make an idol for yourself, whether in the shape of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:4-5a)
Of course! You nodded as you committed in your heart to give God and only God your worship. Only He deserves it. Only He has rescued me, you said to yourself.
Read Exodus 32:1-8 to see what happened.
After being rescued by God, the people found something other than God to worship. They took the gold the Lord gave them, the gifts from the Egyptians, and made a golden calf to honor, to give credit for their rescue from slavery.
In what ways do we often commit the same sin?
Whenever we look to something else other than God to give us our identity, our worth, or our ultimate satisfaction, we are committing the same sin of idolatry. Idolatry is placing something—anything—other than God on the thrones of our hearts. When we abandon the One who has rescued us and blessed us for something less than Him, we are bowing down to an idol, to something created and not the Creator. Everything that is not Him pales in comparison to the God who can say, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me.”
What are the idols of our time? Which one do you struggle with the most? Why?
Want to dig deeper into the story of God’s powerful redemption of His people? Check out Unfolded, an 8-session Bible study for men. Not connected to a small group? An online study begins January 19th! Click here for more info on this resource and the online study.