The Second Commandment – Ignored, Outdated, or Misunderstood?

Of the Ten Commandments given to the nation of Israel in 1426 B.C., the second is one that, in the American culture, is quite often dismissed for irrelevancy or outdatedness. There are world religions that practice idol worship openly, and yes, those religions are represented in the United States. But let’s move beyond that. I believe we fail to realize how closely idol worship hits home; it is imminent. Read the words of the Second Commandment carefully:

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” – Exodus 20:4-5a.

 If you will remember, after Moses had been up on Mt. Sinai with God for 40 days and nights, the Israelites at the bottom of the mountain grew weary of waiting for him. They, under the leadership of Aaron, made a golden calf, sacrificing to it and bowing down before it. They said, “Israel, this is your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt,” (Deuteronomy 32:4). They knew that it was God who delivered them from Egypt. They knew that it was by His power alone they had survived in the wilderness. But they grew tired of waiting for Moses to bring them word from Him. So instead of waiting, they decided to make an idol… an image to represent the God who had delivered them. God was infuriated, of course. Why? Because there is nothing we can fashion out of created material that could possibly be an honorable representation of the God from eternity.

American Idol Worship #1

Items that are representative of God, whatever they may be, are idols by definition – even if it is only an “aid” in worshipping the God of the Bible. Things that are made, or even found, which are used as a representation of the God of heaven, are idols. I can personally think of about 3-4 “Christian” religions off the top of my head, which advocate this kind of idol worship. Statues, candles, beads, cloths, or trinkets that are fashioned as tangible representations of God Almighty and are sought after, bowed down to, or spiritually exalted for the purpose of a more tangible, intimate fellowship with Him are items that directly correspond to the literal definition of an “idol” in this passage.

Nothing fashioned from creation can do justice to the appearance or eternal attributes of God Almighty. From antiquity, He has been appalled by those who cannot wait for Him to reveal Himself, and instead, construct tangible items that might seem to give a more imminent feel to His presence. God cannot be represented by things. His glory, majesty, and holiness cannot be encapsulated within a graven image. He does not want His people to begin thinking of Him so degradingly. He does not want us to sell Him short. He wants us to realize His greatness and uniqueness by honoring Him as He is.

We await the return of the Lord Jesus with great anticipation. He is in the very presence of God Almighty, and one day, will come again to receive unto Himself those who are His own (John 14:3). But while we at the foot of this mountain await His glorious return, let us not sell Him short by bowing before or leaning on things fashioned from temporal material. Let us not settle for less than His very own holiness, majesty, and glory by honoring images or relics as representations of Him. We await the return of our Lord holding fast to our faith… not our sight.

American Idol Worship #2

You didn’t really think I could get through this post without a direct reference to the “reality” contest that has taken our nation by storm over the past 11 years, did you? American Idol… My wife and I watched it the first few seasons, and then I think we just got tired of it for some reason or another. Amazing, though, is how a television show with the exact word, “idol,” could be so popular and loved in a nation founded on biblical Christianity. The purpose of the show is to create the image of a person to whom many will look up with a sense of wonder and longing: “How great it would be to have that kind of fame!” “If only I could receive that much acclaim and appreciation!” And for some of us realists out there, “I wish I had even half the talent that young man has.”

Many of us don’t actually use our hand to form tangible images of God to which we can bow in worship and homage. But we do exalt certain things, experiences, or people to a god-like level when we become covetous of them. Read this short excerpt from Colossians 3:

“Therefore, put to death whatever in you is worldly: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.” – Colossians 3:5.

Yes, you read that right. Go ahead and look it up for yourself. “Greed” or “Covetousness” IS idolatry. As Christians, we should stop right here and confess. Knowing that the Word of God is truth, and that we are caught red-handed in sin. There is no excuse. Covetousness is idolatry. Idolatry is sin.

But why? Why is covetousness equated with fashioning tangible representations of God from created material? How is that even close to similar? Because the underlying principle is the same…

When we covet, we are intensely longing for something that we believe will make us happier, or more secure. [True-Confession time? – for me… motorcycles, boats, and education. I know that’s an odd combination, but it’s just the truth.] Think about it Christian friend. When will you be completely satisfied? When will all of your longings be met in abundance? That will only come about when you are in heaven with God. Anything else is less than enough. There is never complete satisfaction in anything this world has to offer. Read through Ecclesiastes sometime, if you don’t believe me. Temporary, sensory satisfaction pales in comparison to the things God has in store for those who love Him. God does not want you to sell short the glory of His future for you. He does not want you to settle for less than what He has in store for you. Covetousness, whatever its object may be, is exalting a “worldly” thing, person, or experience to a god-like level. It is idolatry.

Immediately before the above mentioned excerpt from Colossians, we find these words from Paul:

“Set your minds on what is above, not what is on the earth.” – Colossians 3:2. 

How does the second commandment apply to your life?

 

Grace and Peace,

Tony