In this series of bulletin articles, we’ve been examining the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Lately we’ve been looking at the first commandment of the ten commandments: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We saw the duties of the first commandment and have now reflected on the sins forbidden by the commandment.
The first commandment also forbids worship of the created rather than the creator.
Thus the first commandment forbids the worship of heavenly bodies. The sun, moon and stars have all been worshipped by mankind. During the time of King Josiah, that Israelites were worshipping heavenly bodies: ‘He [Josiah] did away with the pagan priests appointed by the kings of Judah to burn incense on the high places of the towns of Judah and on those around Jerusalem– those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and moon, to the constellations and to all the starry hosts’ (2 Kings 23:5). And it is not as though this is an outdated practice. Modern day astrology is an attempt to listen to a spiritual voice from the stars.
Moreover, humans have worshipped animals and plants and rocks in violation of the first commandment. From Hinduism to South American animism, even to Western crystal healing, people give such created beings a spiritual element that is reserved for God.
Finally, mention should be made of how people have worshipped humans. An example is given in the New Testament when Paul and Silas were in the city of Lystra: ‘When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language,”The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them’ (Acts 14:11-15). A modern form of this false worship exists in the common practice of ancestor worship.
But it is not hard to see how worship of created things is highly offensive. Imagine someone invents a new engine motor which they place in a car and then let you drive it. Imagine that you praise the engine motor itself as the means by which car powerfully overcomes even the steepest of inclines at the highest of speeds. Imagine that you give such praise in the presence of the engine builder as though there was no creator and builder of the engine. You wouldn’t be surprised if he kicked you out of the car!
So why are people surprised that God kicks them out of his creation by death when they persist in worshiping his creation instead of him, before his very eyes?
Have you worshipped the created rather than the creator? Repent and ask for his mercy before it is too late.