Welcome back to The Big 10, a series of blog-articles about the 10 Commandments. In this article, we are looking at the 2nd Commandment given to the people of Israel by God.
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” (Exodus 20:4)
Why was it important to include this command when the 1st Commandment, “no other gods before Me,” was so clear? Why the command forbidding idolatry?
The clearest example of a graven image occurred soon after the 10 Commandments were given. While Moses was still up on Mount Sinai, the Israelites became impatient and fearful while waiting for their leader. They demanded of Aaron, Moses’ brother, that he make them “gods”, which would go before them. They wanted a god so badly that they gave their gold for an object that they could worship and derive comfort from.
In other words, the people were uncertain whether Moses would return and they felt vulnerable out in the desert. They wanted leadership, someone to tell them where to go. They also wanted protection from a god who would watch over them.
While the desire for security is very understandable, their choice was very wrong. They abandoned the God who had recently liberated them from slavery in Egypt for a lump of gold.
Why is this command important? We don’t have this problem, right? We wouldn’t be tempted to substitute graven images for the eternal God, would we?
Most of us would not be tempted to worship a piece of carved wood or tooled stone. We wouldn’t bow down to a golden calf and claim it as our god. We might say, “that’s primitive” or “that’s ridiculous to worship such an object.”
When I lived in Germany, I was amused to watch an interesting form of worship every Saturday morning. My neighbor across the street would get on his knees and “bow down” to his Mercedes-Benz, as he devotedly worked to remove every smudge and bit of dirt from his beloved auto.
Frankly, it is easy to criticize how others worship images, whether they are of wood, stone, gold or come from a factory in Stuttgart. The problem with idolatry is not really the stone or gold image. The problem is ourselves and our focus.
Idolatry is sneaky. It tempts us to give our affection and attention to something that is not worthy. We are tempted to devote ourselves to something else instead of looking to and depending on God Himself.
An idol is anything that might take our focus away from our relationship with God, whether it be a beautiful house, a fancy car, a lean, sculptured body, an exciting vacation, a healthy bank account, or coveted approval from the neighbors.
Why does God want to protect His people from idolatry?
He wants to protect us from focusing on that unworthy object or goal, so we can instead focus on and enjoy a loving relationship with our amazing, all-loving God. By resisting the temptation to love and serve things, we can be free to enjoy the beauty of love and know our Creator.
I have often been tempted to focus too much on some object. Each time I lived to regret neglecting my relationship with God, while pursuing something else.
I hope you join me today in saying “no” to worshiping graven images, and in saying “yes” to loving and walking with our Heavenly Father.