Scripture: “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 ESV
Observation: As mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Focus, these ten commandments reveal aspects of our Creator and us as his creatures. While the first pointed to his jealousy for us, the second explicitly states it and conveys two other attributes: justice and love (verses 5-6 above). He will not be negligent in imposing the consequences of our unrepentant sins (whether actively or passively). And he will not give a pass to future generations who follow in our footsteps. But he will delight in showing his steadfast love to the many who love him and accordingly seek to obey his commands.
Takeaway: What then does this commandment reveal about us? In our fallen world, sin not only draws us away from God through idol worship (the first commandment) but will brazenly entice us to create gods from our imaginations and willfully serve them. Hence, this second commandment builds on the first and demands that we not flirt with idolatry by crafting objects of worship.
So why do we feel the pull to “carve” idols? Understanding that God created us to continue his work of bringing forth shalom peace from our world’s origins of chaos, his mandate to subdue the earth grants us authority to oversee the flourishing of his creation. But Satan, who seeks to mar our god-bearing images, tempts us to edge God out and take control, to reduce the vast beauty of God’s glorious creation to finite, lifeless forms that we worship. So we bow down to serve our “carved” idols, believing that they will bring us security, prosperity, and pleasure. But in the end, they fail us. What we thought would make us secure exposes us to the evil that blinds us to the beauty of our Creator and pillages from us his joy.
Thankfully, the One who created “heaven above,” the “earth beneath,” and the “water under the earth,” who carved the first woman from man’s side, knows our idolatrous propensity to seek equality with him. Hence, what the law could not accomplish, Christ has. Indeed, the One who healed us by the stripes carved in his body (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24) has set us free to worship our loving, gracious Creator rather than the poor facsimiles that leave us wanting.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for creating us in your image. And thank you for sending us your Son, your exact likeness, who has revealed your glory to us. So would you please rescue us from carving, worshiping, and serving idols of your creation and instead redirect our affections to you and your Son in worship? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling