I can't know this without a doubt, but I'm pretty sure that when God wrote The Ten Commandments He didn't include any redundancy. The thing is, the way a lot of people talk about them...including a best-selling author or two...Yahweh apparently slipped up a bit.
Specifically, I'm referring to the first and second entries on God's Top Ten. Put succinctly, they are:
- No other gods.
- No idols.
A lot of folks – okay, I'll take the gloves off and just come out and say it – Kyle Idleman, in his book, gods at war, equates idolatry with putting other gods ahead of Yahweh...as if the first and second commandments are the same thing. I quote from godsatwar.com:
There are gods at war within each of us. They battle for the throne of our hearts, and much is at stake. This is why idolatry is the most discussed problem in the entire Bible. Behind every sin struggle that you and I have is a false god that is winning the war in our lives. Don't give in to the myth that gods are only statues that people of other cultures or long ago worshiped. Pleasure, romance, sex, money, and power are just a few of the gods that vie for our allegiance in today's society.
Now, take a look at the actual wording of the second commandment: "You shall not make for yourself an idol 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 20:4-5)
At first glance it might seem like "Have no other gods before me" and "make no idols" are different ways of saying the same thing, but think of these two commandments in this way: Commandment number one tells us to worship the one true God, and then commandment number two partly answers the question, "How am I to worship the one true God?"
It is one thing to worship the correct god. It is another thing to worship God correctly. The golden calf incident (see Exodus 32:1-6) was not breaking the first commandment...they were attempting to worship Yahweh, the God who delivered them from slavery in Egypt. The problem was, they wanted something physical to focus their worship on and settled for a statue of a calf, made from their melted-down earrings and bracelets.
Truth is...God desires a personal relationship with His children. When we let a sculpture, or a symbol, or a catchy phrase, or a book (even a Holy Book - gasp!) take the place of a real relationship with a real being, we miss the mark. We fall short of the goal. We break the second commandment.