The Second Commandment tells us how to, as well as how NOT to, worship God our heavenly Father.Roderick Meredith wrote,” The natural mind cries out for something to help in the worship of God. Physical human beings want some physical object—some ‘aid’ to worship to ‘remind’ them of the invisible God” (Meredith, R., The Ten Commandments p. 14).All one need do is take time to think of all the different known civilizations that have been on earth.One thing they all had in common was the need to make something to aid in the worship their god and most of the time their gods! I have my own reasons why I believe there were multiple gods but I will keep that to myself…at least for now.
Writing about all the world’s known past civilizations and their perspective religious practices is far beyond the scope of this writing. For the sake of brevity, I will refer to some of the people (civilizations) recorded in our Bible. The ancient Greeks and Romans had gods for nearly everything one can imagine. I do not mean to contemptibly single those two out, but they are likely the most familiar to the vast majority of people. With the Exodus of God’s chosen people one discovers the huge majority of His people continually turning back to the old, comfortable, socially accepted norms of worship. God was continually against any and every form of idol or image used for, or better said, in worship. I must admit that, as a student of our Bible, I am to this day amazed at how they couldn’t get it through their heads – and keep it in their heads - that there is only one God…and He is a jealous God! I digress. Okay…a personal conundrum here. How long would one beat a dead horse before figuring out the horse is dead and is not going to get up? Ancient history as well as current day life makes me so-o-o grateful that God is indeed long-suffering!
The Second Commandment in Reflection
“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: ” (Exodus 20:4). This part of the second commandment is so-o-o often “cherry-picked.” Of course, the habit of cherry-picking Scripture (mostly out of context) is a favorite of the Biblically ignorant – I digress.
It does not take a rocket-surgeon to figure out that God is NOT referring to art or sculpture when addressing carved images, etc. God blessed us with all the arts! God does NOT condemn every picture or image. Again, I say that God blessed us with all the arts! I do concede that if one reads the Bible - seriously reading and reflecting – it is obvious that many of our now “popular images, concepts and teachings presented as ‘Christianity’ are quite different from the truths found in Scripture” (Meredith, R., The Ten Commandments, p. 14). Is history repeating itself? You bet it is! Let’s read what comes after the colon from the first part of the Second Commandment.
(v.5) Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (v.6) And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (KJV). Now one discovers what is behind verse 4. People were making “stuff” and bowing down to worship it and/or make sacrifice to this stuff! These people knew better, because they DID witness the plagues the Lord sent Pharaoh and his people. They elected not to pay attention to the word of God. He, God, commands Israel to refrain from “[C]rafting an image of anything in heaven or earth for worship” (ESV, p. 176). Hm-m-m….that kind of sounds a little like today. History repeating itself? Continuing: God is a jealous God because He alone is the Creator and is – alone – worthy of all honor. God loves us (His Creation) and ALWAYS has our best interest in mind. To those that choose sin over righteousness He will punish-out of love. Continuing: “[V]isiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;” Again, God shows His love for His Creation! Our God is not limited to our seemingly finite dimensions. My point here is that we as parents set the example for our children. If we choose to ignore God and the commands He has given us, we shall surely demonstrate that behavior before our children. It does not take a rocket-surgeon to figure out that children will pick-up (learn) faster and more from what they see than from what they hear. So yes – you, your children and your grandchildren are impacted by your decision NOT to follow God’s commands. Continuing: (v.6) And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (KJV). This verse speaks for itself in that one is shewn [sic] mercy for loving and keeping God’s commands. It can’t get much clearer than that!
Is it okay in God’s eyes to have a cross? Yes, we just are not supposed to worship that cross. Is it okay in God’s eyes to have statues? Yes, we just are not supposed to bow, and worship these statues. Is it okay to have images or paintings even though they are most likely portraying something or someone incorrectly according to history? Yes, we are just not supposed to worship them. Again, God NEVER condemned art! He condemned worshipinganything other than Him.