“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” (Exod 20:4-5).
In ancient times, images would be made to represent the entities or deities they presented. And unfortunately, this setting up of images was not unheard of in Israel’s own history.
- The Hebrews erected a golden calf to represent God for worship at the base of Mt. Sinai (Exod 32).
- Gideon set up a golden ephod to be worshipped by the nation (Judg 8).
- Micah’s mother erected a statue made out of her silverware for his son to worship (Judg 17:3).
This was an issue with these people. And God is forbidding this type of sin as it was going on all around them.
Now, the difference between the First Commandment and Second Commandment is the First commands us to worship God alone and the Second commands us to worship Him as or like He wants to be worshipped – He wants to be worshipped not through another or in place of another. He wants to be solely worshipped. It is never enough to worship the right God; we must worship the right God appropriately.
Today, we don’t typically see little statues at the front doors of homes or temples or businesses, like the O.T. saint may have seen. We are actually a lot sneakier and subtler with our idols. We can even make things that are good and noble into idols (e.g., family, education, working hard at our places of employment, etc.).
Idolatry is anything taking the rightful place of God in our hearts. It is replacing a godly affection with an earthly one. And all of us flirt with different forms of idolatry. We all have temples we go to in order for worship. Let me give you some examples:
- Some of us go the temple of athletics and worship the game or the athlete.
- Some of us go the temple of our vocation and worship our overtime pay or our time spent there at the expense of our families or the body of Christ.
- Some of us go the temple of our children or our spouses at the expense of time with God.
- Some of us go the temple of politics and worship a party platform or a campaign speech or which politician voted for which bill.
- Some of us go the temple of believing in ourselves and think things like “that sounds right” or “that just feels right” as opposed to measuring things against the Scripture.
- Some of us go the temple of entertainment and give our monies to Hollywood or Nashville at the expense of a person in need who could use our assistance or to help strength the local church.
- Some of us go the temple of physical appearance and worship what the mirror shows us and what the fashion industry promises us when we put on it’s clothes.
- Some of us go the temple of health and exercise and think fulfillment is found in having a 6-pack or starting every morning in jogging shorts at the gym.
- Some of us go the temple of addictions and think there are certain types of things that we just can’t conquer (e.g., drug abuse).
- Some of us go the temple of sex and think that physical pleasure is the highest form of excitement in this world.
We all have temples we go to for worship. We all have idols that we manufacture.
God says, “Do not make for yourself any idol … no exceptions.” Majesty and glory and holiness cannot be reduced to an earthly representation. God is beyond nature, and, therefore, cannot be represented as such.
Images have a way of substituting reality, don’t they? God does want to be substituted and shouldn’t be substituted for something artificial or superficial. When Paul describes Jesus this way,
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him” (Col 1:15-16),
does that sounds like something we can relegate to an “image” or “likeness” on earth? That is the command: “Do not replace me with something or someone else. Do not give your heart, soul, mind, and strength to another that is not Me.”
Why? God is a jealous God and He doesn’t, and nor should He, have to share His glory with any other.