Insights in the Second Commandment

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

While the first commandment deals with God being foremost at the center of our lives, the second addresses the manner by which He is to receive our attention and affection. As people, we like facts – tangible physical proof! We like things we can touch, see, feel, and hear. In an attempt to relate to God, it is easy for us to set up images (either in our minds or literally) that help to define who God is to us.

To make an image of the True God or other gods is forbidden in this commandment. God is Spirit and therefore no material representation could possibly resemble Him. The worship of God or other gods through likenesses in the sky (sun, moon, and stars); or the earth (animals); or water (fish and other sea life) is idolatry. It is clear in the Bible that the evidence of God is clearly seen in the things which He has made, but God’s creation was never intended for worship. God’s creation points to Himself.

Unlike the rest of creation, we were created in God’s image. We have a spirit. Our spirit has the ability to transcend physical barriers of understanding in order to relate to and fellowship with God. This spiritual ability is activated by faith. God is unique and must be worshiped as such. When we try to “box” God into our restricted understanding, we subsequently put limitations on who God is.

God is jealous of our devotion. He will not tolerate so-called “love or devotion” to Him through some image or likeness of him; nor will he share devotion with other gods. He requires a spiritual devotion and has created us with this ability through faith.

As alluded to previously, a person does not have to physically bow down to a carved idol to violate this commandment. Idolatry is a very common sin among pious, religious people! For various reasons we create an image of God in our own minds. Often His character and person is manipulated and shaped into an image that suites our own fancies. When this image of god eventually fails us, disillusionment with religion, church, and God is a common result. Such appear to be religious people, but do not have the spiritual life necessary for devotion to the true God. The Pharisees of the New Testament are a good example of religious leaders who had set up an image of God, but failed to grasp the spiritual devotion to God through faith. Jesus described them as “white washed tombstones, appearing beautiful on the outside, but are full of dead men’s bones” (Matthew 23:27).

A very practical definition of idolatry is: “expecting from people or things what only God can give”. Only God can satisfy our deepest needs. To expect satisfaction from any other source is idolatry.

“It does not belong to us, Lord. The glory belongs to you because of your love and loyalty. Why do the nations ask, “Where is their God?” Our God is in heaven. He does what he pleases. Their idols are made of silver and gold, the work of human hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak. They have eyes, but they cannot see. They have ears, but they cannot hear. They have noses, but they cannot smell. They have hands, but they cannot feel. They have feet, but they cannot walk. No sounds come from their throats. People who make idols will be like them, and so will those who trust them” (Psalm 115:1-8).

golden_calf1“The Golden Calf ?”
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