Deuteronomy 4:15-20 Worship the One True God

Deuteronomy 4:15-20 Worship the One True God April 10, 2016

Deuteronomy 4:15-20 Worship the One True God

We live in a world that is obsessed with form. We lose weight to have the right body form. We take selfies because we like our face to be noticed. We wear makeup and cut our hair to make sure that people can see our correct form. On the other hand, God doesn’t go through this trouble. Why is that?

The one true God is formless.

““For your own good, be extremely careful—because you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you out of the fire at Horeb—” (Deuteronomy 4:15, HCSB)

That is why we are told not to worship anything or anyone God created. We are not to worship any figure – whether human or animal. We are not to worship objects of creation – the sun, moon, or even the Earth.1

I am expected to worship God.

At that time the Lord commanded me to teach you statutes and ordinances for you to follow in the land you are about to cross into and possess.” (Deuteronomy 4:14, HCSB)

So God taught us, so why is it good that we don’t see God’s form? God says it is for our own good that we don’t see Him? Why does He say it that way? Because God has a plan for us to worship Him by watching His Son. We are called to trust the true formless God. Why is He formless? He is formless so that He cannot be copied. If God were to show His true form to people in the Old Testament, they would make the mistake of copying the real for a fictional form.

Does God have a form? Does He have a shape? Is He a Person we can recognize? Not as the Father, but as the Son. Jesus is the perfection mirror reflection of God’s nature.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15, HCSB)

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3, HCSB)

As Dawson McAllister once said: “Jesus is God in a Bod.” Jesus is God in Human form. We are called to worship Jesus, just as we are called to worship God the Father. They share the desire and right to be worshiped. The only difference is that God the Father’s form is known to Jesus.2

““For your own good, be extremely careful—because you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you out of the fire at Horeb—” (Deuteronomy 4:15, HCSB)

The reason it is for our own good that we be extremely careful to not worship another form is because God intended us to follow and worship Jesus. Jesus is the image of the formless God. Yet people engage in false forms of worship. As humans with a sinful nature, we desire to see Who God is. When we can’t see God, then we make idols to worship. God taught us His ways. He taught us how to live.

The problem is that we don’t listen. We are not careful and we try to reach out by worshiping another image. Moses lists the forms that people try to copy.


There is a reason why the list here in Deuteronomy is in reverse order from the list of the creation account in Genesis. For the Israelites to abandon their Lord and to engage in idolatry would be to reverse His will for their lives. It would equal the undoing of God’s creation.3

Form of Worship Genesis Deuteronomy
Male and Female 1:26-27 4:16
Beast and animal 1:24-25 4:17
Bird 1:20-21 4:17
Creature 1:20-21 4:18
Fish 1:20-21 4:18
Heavens 1:15-16 4:19

Three times in this chapter Moses admonished Israel to guard against the temptation of idolatry.4

Jonathan Edwards has stated

If man does not give his highest respect to the God that made him, there will be something else that has the possession of it. Men will either worship the true God, or some idol. It is impossible it should be otherwise; something will have the heart of man. And that which a man gives his heart to may be called his god.”5

Here God lists a series of ways in which people choose false forms for worship.


1. Hero worship (Deuteronomy 4:16)

not to act corruptly and make an idol for yourselves in the shape of any figure: a male or female form,” (Deuteronomy 4:16, HCSB)

The greatest temptation of false worship is hero worship. We have the temptation to lift up a person above God. Whether it is a musician, actor, or even a teacher or family member, we have the temptation to go from listening to a mentor to worshiping them. The reason is because no matter how great a person may be, they are not God.

Man cannot be a complete representation of God since He is transcendent. Any attempt to represent God in an idol would be an attempt to undermine His transcendence. There is no way man can limit God!6

2. Animal worship (Deuteronomy 4:17-18)

or the form of any beast on the earth, any winged creature that flies in the sky, any creature that crawls on the ground, or any fish in the waters under the earth.” (Deuteronomy 4:17–18, HCSB)

You may say that we don’t worship animals. Yet I just recently heard of people who are making “Dolfies” – dog selfies. One advertisement was for a company called “Pooch Selfie.”7 Some guy took a tennis ball and a clip which attaches to a smartphone or tablet. The company was rejected by Shark Tank, a show that has investors who help new companies. Still, the company is making money with a ball and a clip.

We treat our animals like pets, even like family. That is not worship. But when we start to put God’s creation above the priorities God has set for us, then we are engaging in animal worship. In the days of Deuteronomy, worshiping animals played a significant role in providing power to people. This is the reason that Aaron led the Israelites to worship the golden calf. They thought that the Egyptian calf worship had more power than the God of Israel. Instead of waiting on God, they submitted to another form of worship.

3. Activity worship (Isaiah 5:11-12)

When does sports as entertainment become sports as idolatry? Consider this banner seen at Lambeau Field in 1996, the season the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl in New Orleans and their quarterback Brett Favre was named the most valuable player:

Our Favre who art in Lambeau, hallowed be thy arm. The Bowl will come, it will be won, in New Orleans as it is in Lambeau. Give us this Sunday our weekly win. And give us many touchdown passes. But do not let others pass against us. Lead us not into frustration, but deliver us to Bourbon Street. For thine is the MVP, the best of the NFL, and the glory of the cheeseheads, now and forever. Go get ’em!

Apparently some fans recognize their team support for what it really is: worship.8

When we engage in other activities to the point that it consumes us more than with God, we are engaged in activity worship. I am not saying we should not have hobbies or enjoy sports. But in today’s society, we engage in these activities more than we do in fellowship with others here in the church. The center of activity in our lives moves from the church and God’s family to any secular form of entertainment. That is activity worship.

4. Sensual worship (Romans 1:22-26)

Paul teaches in Romans 1:22–23 that men “became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.” The result of this type of action is a degraded intellect, misplaced affections, and degenerate morals (Romans 1:24–32). The Israelites could not afford to corrupt themselves through idolatry (Deuteronomy 4:16)—the consequences would be too severe.9

5. Nature worship (Deuteronomy 4:19)

When you look to the heavens and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the array of heaven—do not be led astray to bow down and worship them. The Lord your God has provided them for all people everywhere under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 4:19, HCSB)

Many different religions engage in some form of nature worship. For example, the Egyptians worshipped the stars as sense images of the gods, the sun as Ra, the moon as Joh, or Isis.10

Just as then, today people look to the sky for guidance. The read horoscopes, astrology, and signs of the zodiac. Let me give you a hint: Astronomy is good. Astrology is bad. Astronomy is the science of learning about the heavens. God knows that we will study the heavens and discover Him.

When I observe Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You set in place, what is man that You remember him, the son of man that You look after him? You made him little less than God and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him lord over the works of Your hands; You put everything under his feet:” (Psalm 8:3–6, HCSB)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.” (Psalm 19:1, HCSB)

In Psalm 19, God uses the heavens as a way in which people can seek Him. The psalm describes how creation can communicate the glory of God. Even though their voice is not heard, they still speak. Their message goes out to those who will be willing to hear . The psalmist accurately describes the rotation of the sun around the Earth.

Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a groom coming from the bridal chamber; it rejoices like an athlete running a course.” (Psalm 19:4–5, HCSB)

God is enthroned above the circle of the earth; its inhabitants are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like thin cloth and spreads them out like a tent to live in.” (Isaiah 40:22, HCSB)

The Bible here is precise in its explanation of the creation of the world and the universe in the words in which it can use to describe it. It may not the exact meaning of modern science, but it is just as accurate and precise.11

The Jews have a legend that when Abraham started on his journeys he saw the stars in the heavens and said, “I will worship the stars.” But ere long the stars set. Then Abraham saw the constellations—the Pleiades and the rest of them—and he said, “I will worship the constellations.” But the constellations also set. Then Abraham saw the moon sailing high in the heavens and he said, “I will worship the moon.” But the moon also vanished when her season was over.

Then Abraham saw the sun in all his majesty, coming out of his chamber like a bridegroom and rejoicing as a strong man to run a race. But when the day was spent, he saw the sun sink on the western horizon. Stars, constellations, moon, and sun—all were unworthy of his worship, for all had set and all had disappeared. Then Abraham said, “I will worship God, for he abides forever.”12

When you look to the heavens and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the array of heaven—do not be led astray to bow down and worship them. The Lord your God has provided them for all people everywhere under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 4:19, HCSB)

So as Christians, we should not be let astray. Why? Because it is a form of ingratitude.

But the Lord selected you and brought you out of Egypt’s iron furnace to be a people for His inheritance, as you are today.” (Deuteronomy 4:20, HCSB)

But you—God took you right out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to become the people of his inheritance—and that’s what you are this very day.” (Deuteronomy 4:20, The Message)

God saved us from destruction. God made us His people. To be led astray would be in the words of John Calvin: “it would be foul and wicked ingratitude”13

If ingratitude is the “why” I am led astray, then forgetfulness is the “how”.

But you”… God makes a clear contrast between the people in the world and God’s people when it comes to worship. As Jack Deere mentions, the fact that Israel was taken out of Egypt is mentioned about twenty times in Deuteronomy.14 It is as if God is trying to tell His people to not forget how important it is to worship God and follow Him.

I worship God because I am His. God saved me and He guides me. I don’t look to other people or things to help me in life. But sometimes I forget.

Did I leave the burner on?” “Did I lock the door?” “I feel like I’m forgetting something.”

Forgetfulness is a syndrome we all experience at one time or another. Many of our forgetful moments end up being minor inconveniences. But there is one thing we should never forget: God and His instructions.15

1 Jim Erwin, “Worship the True Formless God,” Deuteronomy 4:15-20, 1 September 2015, in Lectionary Reflections Year B (2014-2015), Logos Bible Software Notes, found at, accessed on 5 April 2016.

2 Jim Erwin, “Worship the True Formless God,” Deuteronomy 4:15-20, 1 September 2015, in Lectionary Reflections Year B (2014-2015), Logos Bible Software Notes, found at, accessed on 5 April 2016.

34 Victor P. Hamilton. Handbook on the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1982), p. 397.

4 James E. Smith, The Pentateuch, 2nd ed., Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1993), Dt 4:1–24.

5 Elliot Ritzema and Elizabeth Vince, eds., 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Puritans, Pastorum Series (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013).

6 John C. Maxwell and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Deuteronomy, vol. 5, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1987), 87.

7 “Pooch Selfie,” See for more information.

8 Craig Brian Larson, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers & Writers (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 261–262.

9 John C. Maxwell and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Deuteronomy, vol. 5, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1987), 87–88.

10 John Peter Lange, Philip Schaff, and Wilhelm Julius Schröeder, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Deuteronomy (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 72.

11 Jim Erwin, “Two Witnesses That Confirm the Existence of God,” Psalm 19:1-14, 5 March 2015, Lectionary Reflections Year B (2014-2015), Logos Bible Software Notes, found at, accessed on 8 April 2016.

12 Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 597.

13 John Calvin and Charles William Bingham, Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses Arranged in the Form of a Harmony, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 342.

14 Jack S. Deere, “Deuteronomy,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 270.

15 John D. Barry and Rebecca Kruyswijk, Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).

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