By way of review the focus of the first command is the object of our worship. You might just write the word “object” down. It’s about the who. No gods but God. God demands exclusive worship of Yahweh. That’s His point.
The focus of the second command is not the object but the manner or the method of our worship. This is the how. He’s going to say that even if you worship the right God, you can worship the right God in the wrong way.
And we’re going to read the next passage out of Exodus 20. But the structure is very simple.
There are two commands and two reasons. Follow along and if I see your pen, you can underline a couple key words. First, the command. You shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or on the water underneath the earth.
Verse 5. You shall not worship them or serve them. Underline, if you will, “shall not make for yourself an idol.” That’s the first command. It says, don’t make any idols, by the way, the word for “idol” here, there’s fourteen different Hebrew words for idol.
This particular word means a statue, a figurine, a wooden, or a molten object. Then, the next word, not only is it an idol, but he expands it to any likeness. Any visual or pictorial representation. He says, don’t make pictures in your worship and try to reduce God down to a snapshot.
And so, the first command is, don’t make an idol, don’t make a likeness of anything that you’ve seen. Now you remember? They’re living in a world where the sun, the moon, the stars, and every animal under the sun has been worshipped.
God says, command number one. Don’t do it. Notice command number two. You shall not worship them or serve them. Not only are you not to make an idol or a likeness but you shall not worship them, literally, the word means to “bow down.” To physically bow down. To worship or serve these idols or likenesses that you could make.
This is radical. I mean, some of you are thinking, as one guy told me, you know what? This morning was one of the most convicting messages I’ve heard in a long time.
And I bet some of you, at this point, are thinking, you know, whew! Boy, I’m glad I came tonight because, you know, I checked the garage before I came. And, you know, got on my cell phone and as far as I know, no statues laying around the house. Not, idol worship has been something, you know. I’ve been in a twelve step program. I’ve overcome idol worship. No problem with that.
Well, you know what? It’s going to be interesting to see some of the modern day applications. But the first command, don’t make them. The second command is, don’t bow down or serve them.
Then notice the two reasons. He says, for I, the Lord, His covenant name, Yahweh, your God, am a jealous God. Underline that, will you? That’s the first reason. I’m a jealous God. Visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children on the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me.
Interesting. All throughout the Old Testament, when God’s people would turn away from Him and worship an idol or worship another God, He would call it spiritual adultery. And He says that when we turn away from the true God or when you develop a pattern where God, out of His zealous, loyal, caring, love.
He says that when we worship an idol we actually are demonstrating that we hate Him. Notice the second reason. But He goes on to say, but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
So, reason number one, He says, don’t make them and don’t serve them, is I’m a jealous God. And reason number two, is because there are some good things that will happen to your children and there’s some bad things that will happen to your children based on whether you bow down and worship idols or not.
Now, at this point in time, we read this out of our 21st century ears and it’s like, I mean, what are we going to do with this one? I mean does anyone really struggle with idol worship?
I mean, I was trying to make a little fun with that twelve step program and I could tell a few heads are going, what’s he talking about? A twelve step program for idols? I was kidding. Okay? I was just kidding. Joking, you know?
And, what I wanted to make the point was, is that, you know, I didn’t read this passage and say, Lord speak to my heart. Where am I struggling with, you know, creating little wooden objects and putting them on the mantle and lighting candles.
But you do understand that all around the world millions and millions and hundreds of millions of people are bowing down to statues. That in, not just jungles, but in whole nations their worship revolves around making statues, and images, and likenesses that they bow down to, and pray to, and touch and kiss, and not just in other world religions. But among Christendom.
And this is being violated every single day and what I want to share with you is why this is so important and what I want to get, by the end of our time, is God’s heart on this. Remember? It’s about boundaries. God is saying this because He has so much better for us.
Now, understanding the second command, as you’ll turn the page. You need a little historical background. This is written to a group of people that have spent the last four hundred years looking at every turn to about fifteen hundred different gods that all had a little statue that represent them.
This is written to a people that are now in the land of the Canaanites, where they had multiple graven images and statues and, I mean, they were vile. I mean, one of the gods of the Baal gods and the Chemosh gods, as they would take their children, and Israel later would participate.
And they would take their newborn children and it was a big statue and they would build a big fire. And to appease the god, they would take their little baby infants and they would throw it up into the fire and they would be consumed alive.
And this would be worship to a false god. God understands the vile, pagan worship and He’s telling them from day one, I will not tolerate any of it. In other words, there’s only ten commands and number one is, have no other gods besides Me.
And number two, I mean this must be pretty high on the priority list. Number two is, don’t make any idols. Don’t make anything that looks like any of the creation or the creatures and don’t bow down to them.
And so, out of the context, you need to understand, this is radical. This is like someone saying to you, what I want you to do is, I want you to drive to the store but you can’t drive a car.
In other words, well, wait a minute. The only way you can drive is a car or a truck. No, there’s a whole new different way of transportation. He’s speaking to a group of people that all they have ever known is idol worship of some form and He’s going to spend the next eleven months at the foot of this great mountain, Mount Sinai, and teach them how to now worship in spirit and in truth.
How to worship, not a false god, with images and, which almost always led to gross immorality. But a God who is invisible. A God who is eternal. A God who is holy. A God who is pure. And the second aspect of how to do this is going to be, no idols. No graven images. And don’t bow down to them.
As you turn the page, now, what I want to do is dig in a little bit on this and let’s look at this, what I call, the command restated. And what I mean by that is, I want to do a little analysis.
If I wanted to put verses 4 and the first half of 5 in my own words, the command would be, no man-made idols are to be used as a means of worshipping the living God, Yahweh.
Remember? It’s not about who you worship now, it’s how you worship the true God. The little statues, figurines… Completely, under no circumstances, are to be used.
Now, open your Bible. Let’s see how quick our group is at learning, to Exodus chapter 32. Moses has gone up on the mountain, as the historical setting. Moses has gone up. God has come. Right? We’ve had the thunder, we’ve had the smoke, we’ve had the lightening, we’ve had the rumblings, the people are afraid.
God has spoken the Ten Commandments, now Moses has gone up onto the mountain to receive them in written form and bring them back.
And as we pick up the story, Exodus 32 verse 1. When the people saw that Moses was long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us.”
It’s almost like they were, you know, hard of hearing or had, kind of, spiritual wax in their ears. Wait a second. Less than forty days ago, I mean, God spoke and you were terrified and now you’re coming to Aaron and saying, make gods for us.
As for this fellow Moses, who brought us up from Egypt, we don’t know what happened to him. In times of uncertainty, in times when we want to touch and feel God, in times when we fear the future and we want to take control of our world, the temptation is to build an idol of one kind or another.
And so, we pick up the story. Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons, and your daughters are wearing and bring them to me.”
Maybe he thought, round one, as if it really cost something to make an idol, they’ll back away. Because Aaron knows better. Well, that doesn’t work. So, all the people took off their earrings and they brought them to Aaron.
And he took what they handed them and he made them into a idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioned it with a tool, then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
Now, is this mind boggling? I mean, up on Mount Sinai, God is in the process of giving the commandments to Moses and these people now have made a molten image, they have called it their god, and they’ve given this image credit for bringing them out of Egypt.
And the historical background here, there was a bull god in Egypt and it was very potent, it was very powerful and so, Aaron probably, now, notice carefully, they are not worshipping the bull.
Notice what the text says. It says here, then they said, these are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt. When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” Same word, Yahweh. They’re going to worship Yahweh. They’re going to worship the one true God. But they decided, since they can’t see Him and they don’t know where Moses is, we’re going to use some visual aids or images to help us.
So, the next day, the people rose early and notice, now, they’re going to sacrifice burnt offerings and they presented fellowship offerings. And afterward, they sat down to eat and drink and they got up to indulge in revelry.
It’s a very interesting word. All the worship they’ve known is what they’ve watched happen in Egypt or what they’ve heard about in Canaan.
And what they did, when they couldn’t see, when they couldn’t control, when they couldn’t tame God, they made an image and after they made the image, then they sacrificed animals, they shed blood, they offered it to this thing they could see, and they had this sense of, we’re in control again and then the pagan revelry, that is just one of those words that talk about immorality, because every worship of idols always leads to immorality.
Jot down, if you will, 1 Corinthians 10:20. The Apostle Paul, when he talks about idols and things offered to idols, he says, literally, there was real power and there were demonic spirits behind it.
Put in your margin also Ephesians 5:5 and 6. Where he talks about, as us, as we walk in fellowship and truth with Christ, he says, no immoral or greedy or impure person. And then the little phrase, which are idolaters, will inherit the kingdom of God and Christ.
And so, what we see happening here, is people are following base worship and it starts with this molten image and God says, don’t do it. That’s the application for Israel.
I remember about twenty years ago, playing on a basketball team. And we played different Olympic teams all throughout South America. And we were one of those international teams and at half time, we shared Christ.
And, tremendous, that’s how God got my attention in terms of full-time ministry. And we went to La Paz, Bolivia. And there’s a statue in La Paz called the Christ of the Andes. And I don’t know how many, maybe six stories high. I mean, it’s huge. Life sized. I mean, just huge thing.
And I would watch, and of course, it’s up about twelve, fifteen thousand feet and we went to visit. I mean, this is big tourist deal. And I watched the poorest of poor people, some people walk for miles and then the last mile or two, on their hands and their knees, they would go to the Christ of the Andes.
And certain portions of that statue were rubbed completely raw as people crawled and they had blood on their knees and their elbows and they would kiss the statue, believing that in some way, kissing that statue, they made some deep connection with God, and their worship of God was built around that response.
Do you understand why God says, I don’t want this? I don’t want this. No matter how sincere people are and the images of the statues or the pictures He says, I don’t want this. It reduces Me.
I came across something that was almost mind boggling but a little bit more modern. It says:
Today, idolatry is alive and well. In fact, Jesus can be yours by calling, gives a toll free number.
Callers can purchase a Jesus doll who bends at the waist and is machine washable. He looks friendly and is nearly two feet tall. He wears a white tunic under a red robe, which sets off a red heart emblazoned on the front of his tunic.
His creator sees the doll as a special help to children because it’s hard to hug air. [Speaking of the invisible God.] But it also provides solace to the elderly and the infirmed and those under emotional duress.
Jesus is only the first in a line of dolls called “first-fruits.” He can be yours for $29.95 and will make a fine companion for the, soon to be introduced, God doll.
And you just thought it was some natives down in the heart of the Amazon that were using idols and worshipping idols.
Music is pretty big in this Maranatha tradition, is it not? I kind of get the idea from a lot of different backgrounds and seems like if you get up here and speak, you can play the piano. It must be a gift.
About by the fourth night, I’m going to get behind the piano. I mean, they had four guys do it, a guy out of the audience, a guy shares his testimony, I mean, it just must come with the place.
And so, probably everyone here would say, they can appreciate deeply Handel’s Messiah. Unbelievable piece of music. But what if someone had never ever heard Handel’s Messiah?
And what if we took, as talented as these musicians are at this conference, if I would say, you know, these people, you know, who’ve never heard Handel’s Messiah. They have got to at least get a taste of it.
And I got them up here behind all those six or seven microphones and then I pull out a very special instrument and I pulled out a little kazoo. Brrrr, brrr, brrrr.
Okay? And then I would give them all a kazoo. And then, there was people who’ve never heard the beauty of Handel’s Messiah, and I said, okay, ready gang? A one, a two, a one, two, three. Brrrr, brrrr, brrrr. Brrrr, brrr, brrr, brrr. [Continues to hum Handel’s Messiah]
What would be the problem with that? I don’t know about you? I think I’d rather have them never hear Handel’s Messiah through a kazoo, than hear it that way.
And see, that’s what God is saying. You see, when you try and take something that is majestic, and powerful, and invisible, and you reduce it down to something tangible, seeable, foldable, and controllable, you reduce God for who He is.
And that’s what’s behind the second commandment. It reduces Him. It makes Him smaller. And so, anymore. You could no more catch the glory and the beauty of Handel’s Messiah on kazoos than you can trying to get your arms around who God really is by making an image of this or a picture of that.
In the Santa Cruz area, one of the great things we always did, the tallest trees in the world are there. Anybody here, by the way, you can do this. Anybody ever seen the redwoods? Anybody been out to the redwoods? Boy, more people than I thought.
I still remember my first time. Some of them are two hundred and eighty, three hundred plus feet. Others are so big around and there has been burned where the inside of the tree has been burned, where you can get my whole family and five or six friends and you’re inside the tree.
And I’ll never forget the first time looking, I mean, straight up. The majesty of these trees. You talk about creation, demonstrating the invisible attributes of God. I mean, it is just, it’s breathtaking.
And every time, anyone from out of town came, there was one place we had to go. We went to the redwoods. And there was a long walk where you could see all these different redwoods.
And, can you imagine, someone who’s never seen the redwoods and especially those who’ve seen them. If I said, okay, here’s a box of toothpicks. And here’s some Elmer’s glue.
I want you to put together a model of the redwoods for those people that have never seen them. What’s the problem?
The problem is, you could describe it with words and you could describe it with the images in people’s minds that would help them so much more get a faint grasp of the redwoods then you ever could with toothpicks and putting them together.
That little model would so reduce the majesty and the power and the holiness, in that sense, of those redwoods that it would be a terrible thing to try and make a model. And this is what’s behind the second commandment.
Summary, then. God demands that we worship Him in spirit. No material object, no matter how sincere, no icon, no statue does God justice. It simply can’t represent Him for who He is. His transcendence and His glory.