The Scriptorium

Guard against Idolatry

God hates it. So must we. Deuteronomy 4.15-31

Hearing God’s Word: Deuteronomy 3, 4 (4)

Opening Prayer: Psalm 115.4-8
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle;
Feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Those who make them are like them;
So is everyone who trusts in them.

Psalm 115.4-8

(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Idols made by men's own hand – ever to Your Name be glory –
see nor hear nor understand – ever to Your Name be glory!
They neither feel nor walk, nor can they speak or talk;
all those who serve them fall, but unto Your Name be glory!

Today’s Text: Deuteronomy 4.15-31

1. How would you describe God’s attitude toward idolatry?

2. What did God threaten if the people did give in to idolatry?

God knows His people better than they know themselves. Better than we know ourselves. He knows that, in our soul, if we are not careful to guard against it, drifting from Him and His salvation will occur (Heb. 2.1-3), and we will anchor our hope and trust in something other than God. We will make some idol and serve it, because doing so seems to us easier and more convenient than trusting and obeying God.

Thus, just prior to proclaiming the Ten Commandments to this new generation, Moses gave this extended admonition to resist the temptation to give in to idolatry. God’s people must “take heed” to themselves; they must be always on guard against desiring, loving, worshiping, and serving anything other than God (v. 15). The world the people of Israel were entering was filled with horrific idols; Israel would be tempted to embrace them, perhaps if only to know the experience of other religions, or to make friends with their neighbors (vv. 16-19). But to do so would be to act corruptly (vv. 16, 25).

The people of Israel must remember that the Lord was their Savior and Deliverer (v. 21). And if He would act in judgment against Moses, of all people, then He would judge them for their sins as well (v. 22). They must “take heed” to themselves and resist the temptation of idolatry, lest they be set upon by the consuming fire of their jealous God (vv. 23, 24).

But, as I said – God knew His people well. He knew they would give in to this temptation. And He promised that, when they did, they would forfeit the land of promise and go into captivity in foreign lands, until they repented and sought the Lord with all their soul once again (vv. 25-29). And in “the latter days”, as they sought Him, the Lord promised to fulfill His covenant for them. Here Moses points beyond the days of Israel’s and Judah’s captivity to the coming of the Deliverer Who brings the people of God into the mercy and forgiveness of His covenant.

Treasure Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“In the beginning was the Word…” (Jn. 1.1). “In Him was life…” (Jn. 1.4). “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14.6). “For the Word of God is living and powerful…” (Heb. 4.12). Conversely, idols are mute, blind, deaf, unable to smell or taste or move, non-tactile, lame, without sounds, and really without ability, power, or life (Ps. 115.4-8). Kind of like the nourishing difference between a Twinkie and a full course meal. The people of Israel chose poorly. We must do better. We can do better. We can serve the one true God in everything we do. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (Jn. 14.26).


1. People today aren’t idolators like Israel became. But what are some examples of the idols people serve in our day?

2. Why is idolatry so offensive to God, and so ruinous to human wellbeing?

3. How can we recognize when we are serving anything other than God? What should we do then?

He argues that, from the period of their deliverance, they have been wholly devoted to God, since He has purchased them for His own peculiar possession. Hence it follows that they are under His jurisdiction and dominion; because it would be foul and wicked ingratitude in them to shake off the yoke of their redeemer.
John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Deuteronomy 4.20

Keep me from desiring anything more than You, Lord, so that I…

Closing Prayer: Psalm 115.1-3, 9-18
Praise God for His mercy and glory. Then, listen in silence, asking Him to show you any idols or prospective idols in your life. Confess and cast them out, and seek the blessing of God for the day ahead.

Psalm 115.1-3, 9-18
(Plainfield: Nothing but the Blood of Jesus)
Not to us, O God, not us, but unto Your Name give glory!
For Your love and faithfulness, ever to Your Name be glory!
Why should the nations cry, "Where is their God on high?"
You rule us, Lord, on high: Ever to Your Name be glory!

All who trust in Jesus yield – ever to His Name be glory! –
find in Him their help and shield – ever to Your Name be glory!
O Israel, trust the Lord!  He helps us evermore!
Fear Him obey His Word: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Blessings from our gracious Lord – ever to Your Name be glory –
will attend us evermore – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless all who fear You, Lord, all who obey Your Word,
all who Your Name adore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

Grant us, Savior, great increase – ever to Your Name be glory!
Bless us with eternal peace – ever to Your Name be glory!
Heaven and earth are Yours; let every soul adore
and bless You evermore: Ever to Your Name be glory!

T. M. and Susie Moore

Listen to our summary of last week’s study in Deuteronomy by clicking here. You can download all the studies in the series by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy: Ancient Christian Commentary Series III, Joseph T. Lienhard, S. J. ed. in collaboration with Ronnie J. Rombs, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001). All quotations from John Calvin from John Calvin, Commentaries on The Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Order of A Harmony, Rev. Charles William Bingham M. A., tr. and ed. (Edinburgh: The Calvin Translation Society, 1863. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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