Deuteronomy 17:3 and the Bedrock of Existence
Throughout the Scriptures, God warns us against idolatry. The fact that Scripture repeats these warnings again and again leaves us with no doubt that idolatry is the most grievous sin towards God imaginable.
What is idolatry? How do the Scriptures define this sin?
In Deuteronomy 17:3, the worship of idols is described as “that which I have not commanded”. The same concept appears in Exodus 32:8, Deuteronomy 4:23 and Deuteronomy 13:6.
The concept is simple. God commanded us to worship Him and Him alone. Any worship that God did not command us, is by definition, idolatry.
Most of the commandments of the Torah were relayed to the people of Israel through the medium of Moses (Deuteronomy 4:14). The commandment against idolatry is different. When it comes to this critical commandment, God did not rely on the agency of Moses to impart this law to His people. God Himself directly commanded Israel who it is they are to worship. God did not just say a few cryptic words in order to impart this pivotal lesson to His people. God preformed the miracles of the exodus and He spoke to Israel from the midst of the fire in order to command them who it is that they are to worship (Deuteronomy 4:9,15,35). This demonstration brought God’s commandment to the entirety of the nation, from the smallest to the greatest. No one had to study any books in order to understand this commandment and no one had to philosophize about the nature of God – God made the commandment clear to everyone.
God also commanded us to pass this clarity on to our children (Deuteronomy 4:9, Psalm 78:5). Through the teaching of our parents we learn what it is that God commanded us to worship.
All of creation is bound by God’s command (Psalm 148:5). As a covenant nation, we are especially bound by God’s command (Jeremiah 7:23).
No one ever made the claim that it was Jesus that our ancestors saw at Sinai. Worship of Jesus is a worship that God did not command – in other words; according to the Scripture’s definition, it is idolatry.
As God’s creations and as the nation with whom He chose to make a covenant – there is nothing more important to us than God’s command. There is nothing more real to us than God’s command (Isaiah 40:8). The reality of God’s command is what gave men women and children, hundreds of thousands of them, the power to choose torture and death over Jesus. Most of these people were not scholars or philosophers, but they were taught by God. The unshakeable reality of God’s command was more real to them than this transient life.
As God’s chosen people we will continue to remain loyal to God’s truth until all idolatry is eradicated from the earth and all flesh will see that it was God who spoke (Isaiah 40:5)
God’s command is unshakeable, it is life itself, and nothing will move us from His truth (Deuteronomy 4:4, Isaiah 26:2).
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal