“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; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20, verses 4-6
Face it: these verses are REALLY politically incorrect. Stop me if I’m out of line here, but I’m pretty sure God doesn’t do PC.
Knowing that, it’s ok to say that we are forbidden to make idols. An idol can be a statue, a document, a person, a picture, an animal, a tree, or anything else. Indeed, the second commandment, and the human personal vanity that can drive our idolatry, is the reason why the Amish don’t use photographs. It’s more than photographs, though. We aren’t to make anything the object of our singular worship, focus, or reverence. We are to accept God only and only just as He is.
Admit it: that’s a tall prescription. This commandment, perhaps more than any of the others, is one of the hardest to follow. It’s tough because it goes hand in hand with the first commandment, which we haven’t discussed yet. Hint, hint: it’s the one that says “no other God but me.” It’s hard to imagine this second commandment without understanding that the first one tells us that there’s no other God but God.
Yet this one, like that one, has other practical applications. “Keep your eye on the ball” is one of them, because the commandment tells us about focus. If we keep our eyes on God, we won’t be tempted to let other things take His place. Another application is in remembering about vengeance. Our vengeance is cheap and humanistic. The punishment God inflicts on us for willfully pursuing things other than His divine love is anything but cheap or tawdry. It is true justice.
Finally, there are consequences: consequences for our actions. Things happen because of what we choose, and sometimes we feel the effects for many years. Not long ago, I was reflecting that, one early summer day my father visited a small town in southern Indiana. There he met the principal of the town high school and was so impressed by him that he decided to move us there. Thirty-plus years (twenty-five of them in marriage to a girl I met there a few months later), my life is still very much affected by my father’s whim decision.
How much more, then, can we feel the effects of negative consequences.
There’s much to unwrap in the second commandment. I encourage you to read it again and pray on it.
Lord, forgive me for when I’ve worshipped idols.
Read Exodus chapter 17, water and victory.