The second Commandment is just like the first in that it points us to focus on God alone and stop putting things in the way of the true God.
Exodus 20:4–6 (ESV)
4 “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. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
This command can manifest itself in many different ways within our lives. Not only was it pointing to the need for the Israelites to worship and bow down to God alone without anything coming between them images or created statues, but it was reminding the Israelites that they would be different than the Egyptians and other nations around them. Man in his grasping at trying to understand and interpret God has turned to the creation of images and statues to venerate/worship by kneeling before in honor and adoration. I have been reading through John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and the reading corresponded with the teaching of the 2nd Command that Wednesday. John Calvin states:
“Therefore in the law, after having claimed for himself alone the glory of deity, when he would teach what worship he approves or repudiates, God soon adds, ‘You shall not make for yourself a graven image, nor any likeness’ [Ex. 20:4]. By these words he restrains our waywardness from trying to represent him by any visible image, and briefly enumerates all those forms by which superstition long ago begun to turn his truth into falsehood” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion).
So often the question then is raised, What is an idol? The world has so many examples of idols that you do not have to go too far to find an idol. Idols can range from the vehicles we drive to the images and statues used in the worship services.
Idols can be fashioned from anything around us. Isaiah 44:9-20 (https://ref.ly/Is44.9-20) reminds us the folly of idols and the need to remain faithful to the true God and the way he has pointed us to truly worshiping him in spirit and in and truth. The person talked about in this passage is using the same log of wood for making a fire to warm himself and to cook food so he can eat. The last bit of wood left he fashions a god so he can bow down and worship a piece of wood that he himself fashioned a mouth that cannot speak or respond to the cries of the worshiper and ears that cannot hear the pleas and cries of its creator. The final few verses Isaiah 40:18-20 is a reminder of the folly and absurdity of the creation of idols either of things above or things below.
“They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’” (Isaiah 44:18-20, ESV)
Many in mankind have their eyes and hearts closed to the idea that the bowing down in veneration/worship of statues of heavenly or earthly figures is wrong and in response continue to offer up prayers and gifts to inanimate objects in hope that they can hear the words of the faithful and then respond in audible words to guide and lead them throughout life.
Another problem many do not realize when images of Jesus, Mary, or other key biblical figures are presented in the church is that they tend to compartmentalize and skew our view of the world around us in effect our interactions with others. When missionaries travel to other parts of the world where Roman Catholicism is present there are multiple depictions of how Christ looks. When going to Africa, there is an African depiction of Jesus, when going to Asia there is an Asian depiction of Jesus, and in many countries there is the depiction of a white Jesus with blue eyes, long hair and either a goatee or a full beard. When we visualize Jesus in these perspectives, then there could be the possibility of looking down on other people groups and nations because they don’t resemble the way their Jesus looks.
In ending this post, we must ask ourselves several questions when it comes to idolatry.
- What “idols” in my life are getting in the way of my focus on God?
- Am I focusing too much on sports, music, friends, family, etc that it is interfering with personal Bible study, church attendance, an proclaiming the Gospel to others?
God wants to be first in our life and wants true followers and not fans.