No Other Gods by James R. Coggins

First in a series

In the modern world, we laugh at primitive peoples who worship idols, who bow down to images of bulls and crocodiles and serpents, who revere the stars and the sun, who seek guidance through tea leaves and the entrails of animals. But this does not mean that we are not guilty of idolatry.

In the Ten Commandments, God (who identified Himself as Yahweh or “I am”) commanded the Israelites not to make images of any created thing (idols) because such images limit God the Creator to one small aspect of creation: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image 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” (Exodus 20:3-5 NIV).

In Jeremiah 10:1-16, the prophet pointed out how ridiculous idol worship is: A craftsman cuts down a tree, shapes it with a chisel, covers it with silver or gold, and then bows down to worship what he has made. The idol cannot walk or talk but is as inanimate as a scarecrow. It can in no way be compared to the reality of the living God, who created the heavens and the earth.

Ancient peoples did not worship idols so much as what the idols represented. In some cases, the idols represented a demon or evil spirit that had influenced the makers of the idols. In 1 Corinthians 10:19, the apostle Paul suggested that idols are nothing and they have no power, but he went on in the next verse to say that “the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons.” In other cases, idols represented an idea of what God was like, a false idea.

We need to step back and think what worship is. We worship what we think of as our highest value or good. We worship what gives us refuge and good things and hope and purpose. We worship what brings us into contact with someone greater than ourselves. We can engage in all kinds of false worship without making a physical idol. We can take refuge in alcohol or drugs or video games. We can value pleasure or sex or money or fast cars or success or our own image of ourselves above all else. We can seek guidance through astrology or luck or coincidences. We can fulfill our urge to connect with greatness by becoming fans of sports stars or rock singers or actors. Idolatry is a constant temptation for all human beings.

About jrcoggins

James R. Coggins is a professional writer and editor based in British Columbia, Canada. He wrote his first novel in high school, but, fortunately for his later reputation as a writer, it was never published. He briefly served as a Christian magazine editor (for just over 20 years). He has written everything from scholarly and encyclopedia articles to jokes in Reader’s Digest (the jokes paid better). His six and a half published books include four John Smyth murder mysteries and one other, stand-alone novel. In his spare time, he operates Mill Lake Books, a small publishing imprint. His website is
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