The 2nd Commandment: Worship God the Right Way
I would like to address two questions regarding the Second Commandment:
- What is the Second Commandment?
- How do we break the Second Commandment?
What is the Second Commandment?
Exodus 20:4-6 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.
The Second Commandment is not just saying, "Do not worship idols." It is saying, "Do not worship God through an idol."
Where the First Commandment tells us to worship the right God, the Second Commandment tells us to worship the right God the right way.
There are two good examples in the Bible of how people broke the 2nd Commandment.
1. The Golden Calf - In Exodus 32, when the people of God saw that Moses was taking so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him (v. 23, NAS)."
The people made the golden calf because it symbolized the strength and power of God. They ended up dancing around the calf (see Exodus 32:19), bowed down to it, and sacrificed to it (Exodus 32:8).
Because of their disobedience, 3,000 of them were killed (Exodus 32:28), and the people were struck with a plague (Exodus 32:35).
God does not tolerate idols, and He does not tolerate worshipping Him through an idol.
2. King Jehu - When Jehu became King of Israel (2 Kings 9-10), he demolished the sacred stone of the god Baal and tore down the temple of Baal. He essentially eliminated Baal worship throughout the nation of Israel, even killing off the Prophets of Baal (see 2 Kings 10:25-29). Jehu obeyed the First Commandment by not having any other gods.
So far so good. However, 2 Kings 10:28-29 tells us Jehu broke the 2nd Commandment:
2 Kings 10:28-29 28 Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel. 29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin - that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan.
The golden calves were made in Bethel and Dan to worship God, but this was inappropriate and ultimately broke the 2nd Commandment. When we worship God through something, we are limiting our understanding of God and are making an idol that does not represent the totality of God. Jehu should have eliminated the golden calves.
How Do We Break the Second Commandment?
Although most Christians would say, "I don't bow down to idols that represent God," we may allow our personal views of physical images get in the way of true worship.
Recently, we took our cross off the stage because it was Christmas time, and we had other decorations for the season to put on the stage. I had a visitor tell me they were offended that we didn't have a cross on stage. They are no longer attending our Church. The cross is a great symbol of Christianity, and it symbolizes God's sacrificial love in Jesus Christ. I love what the cross symbolizes, but was it wrong for us to take the cross down for the Christmas season? No.
The problem is that we let our preferences like crosses or paintings or pictures turn into a must, so if we don't have these physical images in place, we think we are not truly worshipping the Lord. There are some who even worship the Lord through the crucifix. This is a way we break the Second Commandment. We worship the Lord through images that we want and we create.
The danger of images is that we often create Jesus to be what we want Him to be and not who He actually is. We see Him as we want to see Him. When we see God as the way we want to see Him, we have a narrow, limited view of Him.
Another way we may break the 2nd Commandment is when we have a "God-to-me" mindset. Pastor Randy Pope in his sermon "When a Picture Says Less Than Words" explained how some people think "God-to-me" is like the Godfather. I'm not talking about Godparents who become guardians of children when their parents die. I'm talking about the Godfather of the Mafia, aka Marlon Brandow.
For those that view God as the Godfather, they see Him as a God who is out to get us. He is going to bring judgment and is angry with you. If your view of God is that of a Godfather, you will miss out on His love and mercy and compassion.
There are others who say, "God-to-me" is like a Grandfather. You know what a good grandfather is like? He says yes to his grandchildren before they even finish asking the question. He spoils them rotten and sends them home. He gives them ice cream and candy whenever they want. If your view of God is like a Grandfather, you will limit your understanding of Him and forget His attributes of holiness, justice, and righteousness.
Instead of having a "God-to-me is..." mindset, we need to have a "God-in-the-Bible is..." mindset. How we view God matters, and our view of God can pass down to generations to come (see Deuteronomy 5:9-10).