My kids love playing games. They also love making up games. They get excited when they come up with a new game (and I pretend to be excited). It's not that I don't support the development of their imaginations, I just know that logic has not completely kicked in yet and there is potential to be total and utter chaos as we play their game. The little stinkers just make the rules up as they go -- and it always works to their advantage, of course. After the usual descent into chaos, we usually end up playing a game with well-established instructions, and peace resumes.
God knew what we needed when he invited Moses up on the mountain and gave him what we have come to know as the Ten Commandments. For over 400 years, the Israelites were living in slavery under the rule and culture of the Egyptians. This idea of One God and no idols wasn't quite what they were used to.
The first command was this: no other gods. The second one was similar: don't worship anything created by human hands. This isn't just a command about carved deities; this is about what has the affection and loyalty of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It's really an issue of trust. On what are we pinning our hope? Who is the object of our affection and honor? What are we submitting our lives too?
God knew we would love the work of our hands, and God knew we would want to be the masters of our own destiny. It's all part of that first lie whispered to Adam and Eve (pst...you can be like God...).
The second commandment was immediately tested when Moses came down the mountain. While Moses was on Sinai, the Israelites thought they should take matters into their own hands. You can read the whole story in Exodus 32. In short, the Israelites wanted gods and Aaron capitulated...and then told Moses a golden calf "accidently" popped out of the fire (no really, he said that). Moses got so angry he threw the stone tablets to the ground, and they shattered. He later had to hike back up the mountain and ask God for a do-over.
The 2nd commandment is about the loyalty, hope, and affection of the human heart. The Creator of the universe wants to competition with created things. Forgive us, Father, for thinking anything in heaven or on the earth could compete with you...
So let's bring this a little closer to home. Since I don't see many shrines to Baal, Ashoreth, or Molech in our homes, I wonder what some of those 21st century American idols might be? I'll leave that to your imagination. I am sure the Holy Spirit challenges us to apply this command to the affections of our hearts. I know there are way too many things that demand too much of my attention. I know I get tempted to turn good things into ultimate things.
But this commandment reminds us that God alone is sufficient for our lives. And he gives me what no idol can give. He loves me. My work can't do that. Celebrities can't do that. Sports can't do that. A perfect body can't do that. My political allegiance can't do that.