God made it clear to Israel that He was the One who delivered them; He would not allow any false gods before His sight (Exodus 20:1-3; Deuteronomy 5:6-7). However, Israel gave into the temptation to worship gods of the Egyptians, the Canaanites, the Babylonians, etc., bringing in foreign religious practices alongside their worship of the Lord. Any person or thing we place before the face of God as an object of worship is an affront to Him to whom all our homage is due.
Jesus responded to this temptation by referring to Deuteronomy 6:13, saying, “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Matthew 4:10). On two occasions in the book of Revelation (19:10; 22:8-9) John was reprimanded for falling down to worship an angel, “And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God” Revelation 22:8-9). Colossians 2:18 forbids the worship of angels. God has no peer; no other can be placed beside Him (Isaiah 45:5).
Not only angels and people, but things can also be objects of worship. Paul wrote, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). Greed for material possessions is idolatry. Jesus warned about one’s attitude toward money in Matthew 6:19-24, concluding in verse 24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
God is personal. He is jealous (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15). The English word jealous often has negative connotations, but this description of God does not involve the pettiness attached to the word in our language. It is rather a zeal for what is right, what properly belongs to Him. By this zeal He punishes evil (Nahum 1:2). God said through His prophet, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). God is the fountain of living water that gives life and refreshment. Embracing other gods is like rejecting the refreshing spring to carve out our own cistern. Water from a cistern is stagnant. A broken cistern cannot hold water. False gods cannot match the Lord; e.g., money is a broken cistern, it will not give you happiness. Only the true God can lead us to lasting contentment.
Our worship must not be influenced by the world, but must be directed by God. We would do well today to consider the words God told Israel long ago regarding worldly influences on worship, Deuteronomy 12:29-32: When the LORD thy God shall cut off the nations from before thee, whither thou goest to possess them, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their land; Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.