Exodus 20:5 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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 nor serve them.”
first glance, the second commandment is very straightforward - there is
to be no trace of idolatry, period. Americans may call it religious
diversity, multiculturalism, and pluralism - but God calls it
wickedness. Whether it’s one of the hundreds of Hindu gods, a Buddha
statue, or a crucifix - humanity has no business bowing down or praying
to a statue.
Genesis 1:27 tells us that we were created in the image of God: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” How silly it is when a man, created in God’s own image, makes a carved or engraved image and worships it!
God makes fun of this kind of behavior in the words of Isaiah 44. Listen to His ridicule in verses 14-18 (NLT):
“He cuts down cedars;
he selects the cypress and the oak;
he plants the pine in the forest
to be nourished by the rain.
Then he uses part of the wood to make a fire.
With it he warms himself and bakes his bread.
Then—yes, it’s true—he takes the rest of it
and makes himself a god to worship!
He makes an idol
and bows down in front of it!
He burns part of the tree to roast his meat
and to keep himself warm.
He says, ‘Ah, that fire feels good.’
Then he takes what’s left
and makes his god: a carved idol!
He falls down in front of it,
worshiping and praying to it.
‘Rescue me!’ he says.
‘You are my god!’
Such stupidity and ignorance!
Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.
Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.”
No matter what the culture, no matter what the religion - God hates idolatry!
most believers would agree wholeheartedly with this! They would never
allow an idol into their home! Many of them even go to the extreme of
avoiding Chinese restaurants so they would never have to see a statue of
Buddha! But not so fast - the spiritual side of the second commandment
is just as straightforward.
You see, the second commandment isn’t only referring to pagan idolatry. It was intended to apply to the worship of Yahweh as well! Listen to what God said in Deuteronomy 4:15-16: “Take
careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when YAHWEH spoke to
you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and
make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure...”
Do you see it? God didn’t appear in a physical shape on Mt. Sinai because He knew that if He did, Israel would begin to make images of Him to worship!
God made sure that the Israelites would never be able to reduce Him to a
man-made object. To prevent this, God revealed Himself in glory that
appeared like fire and smoke. This is an important point to remember -
God’s glory can never be duplicated by human effort!
how does this apply to us? It shows us how much God hates it when we
worship Him in our own way! Just like the Israelites were prohibited
from worshiping Yahweh through idolatry (a command that they ignored in Exodus 32), we cannot use our own programs, systems and traditions to worship God.
do I mean by that? We can’t hold onto our denominational by-laws, our
church programs and schedules, and our crowd-pleasing tactics and
completely ignore what God’s Word says. When we religiously follow our
own ways of approaching God in worship while ignoring what God says -
that becomes a form of idolatry! We take our “image” of what church
should be (feeding the poor, lively music, inspirational messages) and
make it into “God”! When has that ever worked?
is just offended at this as He is at a polytheist sacrificing to Zeus!
Listen to what He has to say about our man-made rituals and programs:
Mark 7:8-9 “For
laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men...He
said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you
may keep your tradition.’”
So you have two options.
- you can hold on to the idolatry of denominationalism and church
tradition. If you’re going to stay here, know this: you’re standing in
direct opposition to God!
Two - You can let go of empty tradition and meaningless worship and embrace the true glory of the Creator!
can’t do both. When you hold the traditions of men to be sacred, you
are laying aside the commandments of God. True worship must be biblical -
not merely inspirational!
John 4:23-24 “But
the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship
the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to
worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in
spirit and truth (worship based on the Word, not tradition).