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Where Can I Hide My Idol?

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In the first commandment, God says, "You shall have no other gods before me." We know that there is only one true God, so what this first commandment is prohibiting is the sin of idolatry, worshipping anyone or anything other than our one true God. But before we move on to the second commandment, Question 80 in our catechism invites us to ponder the last two words in the first commandment.

What are we specifically taught in the first commandment by the words before me?

It may seem like an insignificant question, but it's not because some might think that as long as God comes first, he's fine with some other god coming second in our lives. But that's not what the words mean. Here's the answer to the question.

The words before me in the first commandment teach us that God sees everything and is very offended by the sin of having any other god.

In other words, the words before me refer to God's presence. We are prohibited from having any other gods in God's presence.

God's Omnipresence

So the only place where God would tolerate another god besides himself is someplace where God is not found, someplace that God does not see. But of course, God sees everything and God knows everything.

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb 4:13).

Fooling God

The all-seeing God is an established fact of Scripture. But we are foolish enough to think that we can fool God, that we can hide an idol in someplace where he will not notice. We do this when we go through the motions of worship, when we think we can get God off our backs with some religious duty or performance. We think we can satisfy God, convincing him that he is the only God we worship, and then go on with our idolatry.

The omnipresent and omniscient (all-knowing) God cannot be fooled. He sees it all. He knows it all. When we try to hide our idolatry from God, we do not fool him. We only fool ourselves.

How Deep Sin Runs

These final two words in the first commandment should strike fear in our hearts about the many ways we think we can get away with our idolatry.

If we had forgotten the name of our God 
or spread out our hands to a foreign god, 
would not God discover this? 
For he knows the secrets of the heart.
(Psa 44:20-21)

Even though we may come to peace with our idolatry, God never does. He is, as the catechism says, “very offended by the sin of having any other God.” Why does God hate our idolatry so much? It is not because God is devoid of glory and needs to get it from us human creatures. It is because God is full of glory and wants his human creatures to know him as such. It is the greatest travesty in the world to try to look for glory in anyone or anything other than God himself.

God is “very offended” by the sin of idolatry not because God is devoid of love but precisely because he loves us so much. The First Commandment sets the stage for the other nine commandments. We only break any of the other nine commandments by first breaking this one. The Bible says we are made by God and for God. Everything else is out of place when anything else takes his place.

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