The second commandment is a very powerful commandment.
It says, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: You shall not worship them, or serve them: for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquities of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generations of those who hate me; But showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love me, and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4–6 (NAS).
There are negative consequences to idol worship that not only affect you, but generations that come after you. To those who are faithful to God He blesses with loving kindness for thousands of generations.
The heart of this commandment is that God is a jealous God (Deuteronomy 5:9).
We usually think of jealousy in negative terms, but there is also a good jealousy. Jealousy is defined in the dictionary as being intolerant of a rival or unfaithfulness; hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy certain advantages. An example of bad jealousy would include King Saul toward David (I Samuel 18:5–9) and the elder brother, in the parable of the prodigal son, who did not want to share because of jealousy of his younger brother (Luke 15:11–32). It would be a good thing to guard jealously the nation’s freedom. It is also good to be jealous for your health and integrity. The Bible says, “Contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.” Jude 1:3. It is a good thing to be jealous for the truth and for marriage. Marriage is a covenant between two people, an emotional attachment and commitment to one another that should never be stolen. It is right to be jealous over that covenant of love.
Often in both the Old and New Testament, God relates to His church as a husband relates to his wife. God has the exclusive right to His church which He will not give up without a fight.
Contrary to popular opinion, God does have a holy anger. When Elijah confronted wicked Ahab and Jezebel who had taken young men and young women of the nation, causing them to be temple prostitutes in the name of worshipping God by means of Bel, Elijah said God is not happy, and He is turning off the rain. The rain turned off for three and a half years (I Kings 17:1)! This caused great suffering to the people because of the effects of the famine; however, I would like to suggest to you that the horrible effects of famine were more merciful than what the continued idolatry of Ahab and Jezebel had on the nation.
God destroyed a whole nation, Pharaoh and his army, and all the first born in Egypt in the midst of the siege at the exodus. Lives were sacrificed to deliver Israel.
Herod also, who took the head of John the Baptist and the life of the apostle James, was eaten by worms. See Mark 6:21–27; Acts 12:1, 2, 21–23.
Jesus, speaking to the church of Thyatira under the symbol of Jezebel, says that you have this wicked woman and I am telling you what I am going to do with her. I am going to throw her on a bed of suffering and I am going to destroy her children with pestilence. See Revelation 2:20–23. God has a jealous anger for His church!
My wife and I have a Chihuahua named Tori. Chihuahuas see themselves as German Shepherds. A few years ago we moved out into the country and right across from our property is a big field which is dangerous to get to because of the busy highway between. One day as we got out of the car, Tori spotted a big reaping machine, a big combine. Having never seen one before, Tori decided she would get that thing, but between her and the combine was the road. I watched as Tori, with all of her energy, headed out towards that combine, at the same time watching a big Mack truck coming down the road. My sense told me that I was not going to catch that dog. I love my wife and I knew that if the dog got hurt, she was really going to be hurt so I knew I had to act immediately, so with all the strength I had and everything in me I screamed at that dog. It was powerful enough that it terrorized the dog, causing it to stop. With two big emotions I picked it up and was so glad it was not crushed but also mad that it could have been killed. I screamed at my dog; it was a jealous response to save the dog’s life and I was so happy to be able to give it back to my wife because I loved her.
The first commandment points out whom to worship, the second tells how to worship God, the third explains the name and its sacredness and the fourth tells when to worship. The result of violating that second commandment caused great trouble for Israel and also for the Christian church. In the wilderness thousands of people died because of building the golden calf (Exodus 32) and the book of Deuteronomy records many more instances where the Jewish people were cursed because of idolatry. In Jesus’ day some people actually made an idol out of their temple.
Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:23, 24: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” There are great mysteries that surround God that are not understood and never will be, but God does have a throne of fire and when He has been seen, He seems to have the form of a man but the Bible says He is also spirit; He is everywhere. There is nowhere you can run from the presence of God. He must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
Worship is a big issue which is found in Genesis, Exodus and also in Revelation. The second commandment says that you shall not make to yourselves an idol. You shall not means no!
What is an idol? It is an image that is worshipped as a god. The ancient sanctuary had angels embroidered on the curtain and other illustrations but you will never find the Israelites bowing down to the angels. They were illustrations. God does not prohibit illustrations. He does prohibit taking some object and using it to venerate Him. An idol can be any object that becomes a person’s compassionate devotion. Some people make idols out of their children and some men make goddesses out of their wives. Some worship their automobiles and lots of others worship their homes or even themselves.
The Scripture continues in Exodus 20:4–6, “or any likeness of what is in heaven above, or the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth.” No fish gods, no flying bird gods, nothing in the earth beneath, or on the earth or in heaven. Some different translations say, “You shall not worship or serve them.” NASB. “You shall not bow down [submit or yield, bend the head or body in submission, to give an act of service, to obey] yourselves to them.” KJV. “You shall not bow down or worship [to honor or reverence a divine being] them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous [demanding complete devotion] God.” NIV.
Why is God jealous? Is it just arbitrary or does He have a reason? Deuteronomy 4:39 says, “Know therefore today and take it to your heart that the Lord He is God in heaven above and the earth below and there is no other.” The truth is, there is no other God. God is not going to share with anything or let you embrace some false god. Our very life is dependent upon being unified with the One who created us. The devil, wanting to be God, has caused the mess in this world. This will only be resolved at the final judgment.
Jesus had something to say about this when the devil came to him with the three temptations in the wilderness. At the last temptation, the devil said that all these things I will give you and bypass the cross, if you will fall down and worship me. Jesus said to him to go Satan, for it is written that you should worship the Lord your God and serve Him only (Matthew 4:9, 10).
Paul said, “But I say that the things that the Gentiles sacrificed, they sacrificed to demons, and I do not want you to become sharers with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord with the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord at the table of demons.” I Corinthians 10:20, 21. Then he says in verse 22, “Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?” So what he is saying is that all of this idol worship is really backed up by demonic forces. The Bible does talk about the things they can’t see, can’t hear and also the images which proves that there are unseen powers. God is not going to share His church with these demons. God does have a righteous indignation, but you do not want to arouse God’s jealous righteous indignation. God’s jealous love and jealous anger come out of His great love for us.
What if God said it doesn’t matter; go ahead and bow down to anything you want to and worship nothing. What would that say about Him? The fact that He is passionate about us tells us that He loves us. The greater the love, the greater the anger when it is violated. All this flows from God’s love, and His love for us is birth to his jealousy. His jealousy gives birth to His holy anger and His holy anger gives birth to His mercy because He is not willing for any to perish. God looks at His anger and says it is justified, but I cannot let them go, so I bring in mercy. He brings in His grace, all of which is the result of His love.
The apostle John revealed in the book Revelation what the Christian church would go through as a result of idolatry: “And the rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues did not repent of the works of their hands.” Revelation 9:20.
This idolatry all came from the Tower of Babel. Nimrod died and Semaramis marvelously gets impregnated by a beam of light from the sun. This is what she told everybody and her baby was a miraculous baby, Tamuz. She soon had everybody worshipping her and, of course, Nimrod was in the sun. We have this mother/son cult which was an attempt to counterfeit the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. This idol worship spread all over the world and Semaramis took the name, the Queen of Heaven. The Bible has something to say about this. Abraham was called out of that mess in order to preserve the truths about God and his method of worship.
We find that in Jeremiah 7:18, 19 it says, “The children gather wood, and the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger. Do they provoke me to anger? declares the Lord: but are they not harming themselves to their own shame?” Yes, it provokes the Lord, but here it says they are really doing themselves the disservice.
Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah, said that Israel was about to go down the tube. Babylon surrounds Jerusalem and Ezekiel is taken in vision on a tour of the temple where the God of heaven should be worshipped, but where Israel, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, were worshipping the sun. “Yet you will see greater abominations which they are committing. Then He brought me to the entrance of the gate of the Lord’s house which is towards the north and behold women were sitting there weeping for Tamuz.” Ezekiel 8:13–16.
Would the New Testament church succumb to idolatry? In the book of Revelation two women are represented. In Revelation 12 one woman is chased by a dragon. She represents God’s church. She is clothed with the sun, standing on the moon, a crown of 12 stars on her head. The church represented here keeps the commandments of God and has the faith of Jesus. These commandments are those which were given at Sinai and they are described here in the context of the heavenly sanctuary and the Ark of the Covenant.
The other woman presented in Revelation 17 is described as the harlot. She is called Babylon; she has great mysteries and a cup full of fornication which she has with the kings of the earth. She is called an adulterer because she was supposed to be the bride of Christ but has prostituted herself to the world. Just so in the Christian community there will be those who are faithfully keeping God’s commandments and having the faith of Jesus, as well as those who are unfaithful and who made their league with the world. Both of these will call themselves Christian.
In the United States of America we have seen a huge shift towards idolatry. Evangelicals and Protestants and some Sabbath keepers have shifted from God centered worship to human centered worship, and the very essence of Christianity is being sacrificed in order to gain numbers.
Some mainline Protestant churches are basically abandoning the Bible for humanistic teaching, philosophy and psychology, which has caused their numbers to go down because there was not anything there. If you take the Bible out of the church, you do not have anything to keep the people.
Some of these mega churches began to say, “We think we can get crowds if we do this right.” They set out to do it. In fact, one of the large churches was the Mecca of thousands of Protestant Evangelical ministers across the United States, including many Sabbath keeping ministers, who said they are going to teach us how to do evangelism. Recently this large church, to their credit, said that, “We are telling you we were wrong; it doesn’t work; we did get a crowd but our people are not growing spiritually.”
One writer said concerning this particular church that it has been one of the most influential churches in America for the last 30 years. Hanging outside the pastor’s door was this sign: What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider of value? What about this customer driven method? This changes Jesus’ directions to His disciples from teaching them to obey all that He had commanded them, to find out what they want. That is a major shift!
To human centered worship, I ask if this is like Aaron and the golden calf all over again? The impact has been astounding. Everywhere you go you see the Protestant, Evangelical churches and some Sabbath keeping churches absorbed in drama, disco music, clowns and puppets and anything else Madison Avenue and Hollywood have to offer become the cutting edge. Church growth has become the in, and whirly methods have become the means. However, the truth is that God demands to be worshipped on His own agenda and not ours. Church was not created for us to have a party; it was created for people to hear the Word of God so that their lives would be transformed.
There are many people who love Mary and there is no doubt that she was a godly woman and we are grateful that God chose her, but we have never ever seen such veneration of Mary as we have seen today. People are seeing images of Mary on garage doors and underpasses and people are going there by the thousands to kiss whatever looks like her. They are sincere and they mean well. This practice has been given great support from Pope John, who believed he owed his life to Mary for saving him from the bullet that was fired at him; however, the Bible does not teach that Mary is to be venerated or worshipped.
I love the apostles and I praise God for saints, but when it comes down to my theology I want to hear what Jesus has to say and not the councils of the church, or the opinion of the learned, but give me the Word of God. Luke 11:27, 28 tells when Jesus was teaching and a woman thought this was just marvelous: “And it came about, while He said those things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice, and she said to him, Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you were nursed.” Jesus did not hesitate but immediately responded and would not accept it. He said just because Mary bore me and just because I nursed at her breasts does not make her something special. On the contrary, Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe. None of us, including Mary, are blessed unless we do the will of God.
The Council of Trent shaped the modern Roman Church. To the Virgin Mary, they pray in these words, “Oh Mother of God, queen of heaven, command thy son to have mercy on us.” The right use of images, says the Council of Trent, is to honor them by bowing down before them even though the Bible says do not bow down before them (Exodus 20:4, 5). The Bible portrays Mary as being humble and obedient, even calling herself the handmaid of the Lord (Luke 1:38); however, the Pope officially gave Mary the title, Queen of Heaven, and established a feast day honoring her. The Bible says that Mary knew she needed a Savior: “My spirit has rejoiced in God my Saviour.” Luke 1:47. The papacy says no, she was immaculately conceived, meaning she was conceived sinless, without original sin, and that she is all holy, meaning she lived a sinless life. You see, goddesses do not need salvation!
Cardinal Gibbons said, quoting Isaiah 49:15, “Can a woman forget her infant so as not to have pity on the fruit of her womb; even so Mary will not forget us.” The actual text says in the Catholic New Jerusalem Bible, “Can a woman forget her suckling child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yes, these may forget but yet I [the Lord talking about Himself] will not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on the palms of my hand.” Verse 16.
Many religions scoff at the idea of idol worship, but the Hindu religion, which is a classic example of pagan religion, blatantly admits that they worship idols, believing it to be a good thing. They accept it with open arms as a simple way of expressing one’s devotion and love to God, but that is exactly what the second commandment forbids. God commands that you do not use an idol or an image to express your worship to Him. God responds personally to those who are devoted to Him.
A huge phenomenon occurred in 1995 when one night a man had an idea. He was impressed that he should go to his idol and give it some milk. When he did, the milk disappeared and pretty soon people everywhere were giving their idols milk, and milk was drying up all over India. People thought it was a hoax and some reporters out of New York said, “On Thursday, September 1, 1995, the news swept around the world of extraordinary miracles of milk drinking Hindu statues. Never before in history had a simultaneous miracle occurred on such a global scale. Television, radio, newspapers eagerly covered this unique phenomenon and even skeptical journalists held their milk filled spoons to the gods and watched humbly as the milk disappeared.”
You can bring any image you want in here made of plaster of Paris and plastic and take a hammer and knock them down and they will fall down. You can take a piece of wood and carve it up and everybody knows that these things cannot see or hear, but there is another supernatural force that you cannot see that surrounds these things. I was listening to Catholic Radio in Lansing, Michigan, discussing this incident and how wonderful Mary was. They talked about the statues of Mary crying tears and bleeding and were so excited about this. Every time I turn around there is a new miracle of weeping, crying, bleeding or something coming from a statue of Mary. Catholics call them miracles, and many people are coming to see.
The Hindu teaching is that the idols are not just a symbol, but the belief is that the idol represents something, a form with which the mind can be connected and concentrated upon. The ultimate reality is beyond the senses; it is what you cannot see.
The Roman Catholic teaching is: “That the honor which is given them (the images of saints and relics) is referred to the objects which they represent so that through the images which we kiss and which we uncover our heads and kneel, we adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likeness they are.” This is the same concept as the Hindus. We know this image is not Jesus; this is not a saint; we know that, but we are doing this in order to venerate Christ.
The second command says do not use images in the act of worship. We have a jealous God and He demands exclusive rights to your worship. You can say you will worship any way you want; go ahead, but that does not mean God will accept your worship. Worshipping God is about His agenda and not yours or mine. The Israelites thought they could worship the way they liked but God will not share His church with anyone or anything in heaven above or earth beneath.
What would happen if after your honeymoon your wife comes in with a picture of your wedding and says, That is so beautiful! You know, I have decided what I will do. I have three old boyfriends and we had great times together and those are memories I don’t want to give up. I have three pictures that are smaller and I will set them over here. I am sure you won’t mind. Will you mind?
This did not happen, but just suppose I walked into my house one day and there was my lovely wife with my picture and she was looking at my picture and kissing it saying, I love you so much! I walked in and I saw this and felt pretty good and said, Honey, your prince is home. She said, Oh yeah; I really love you and then she continues kissing my picture. I said, Honey, it is me, in the flesh, but she keeps kissing my picture and saying, Oh, I just love you so much! What would I do with that picture?
Our God is a jealous God and He is not going to put up with you just kissing His picture. He wants you to worship Him in spirit and in truth.
Pastor Jay Gallimore’s sermon was taken from the Ten Commandment Weekend, 2008 series aired on 3ABN.org. For more information contact www.3ABN.org.