“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. 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, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4–6
Q: What is the second commandment?
A: You shall not make idols.
What does this mean?
Because we worship and love God, we should not make our own, pretend gods.
Many centuries ago, God’s people, called the nation of Israel, were enslaved to an evil ruler named Pharaoh. After a long time, God used a man named Moses to lead His people out from under Pharaoh’s cruel reign. After they were rescued, God promised to give them a place where they could live as the true people of God, and He wanted them to have a set of “family rules” called the Ten Commandments that would be their instructions for how to live.
So God had a long meeting with Moses up on a mountain in order to give him these commandments. While he was gone the people got really anxious and wanted something to bow down and worship that they could see with their own eyes.
So they asked Aaron (Moses’ right hand man) to make for them a golden calf that they could bow down and worship. And, while we may laugh at their folly, we too give our lives to created things that we value–jobs, homes, reputations, possessions, beauty, and success. And, when we do, we too forget God.
Consider Psalm 96:1–6:
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His name; tell of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
- Why was this such a horrible thing to do?
- Why do you think they did this?
- What do you think God did in response to this?
Our Father, may You be so huge in our life that the thought of making something with our own hands and worshiping it would be utterly unthinkable. May Your cross and resurrection be the defining thought of our lives. May it orient our worship and give us faith for the present and the future. Help us in our impatience. At times we are like Your ancient people, the Israelites, who often lost their faith in You. Help us. Forgive us when we fail. We know You do because of Jesus. In His name we pray, Amen.