Summary: Have we substituted lesser things for the grandeur of God?

Series: The Big 10

(based on a series by James Merritt)


EXODUS 20:4-6


We continue on today in our series of messages on the 10 Commandments called “The Big 10.” As we begin, I want to ask you: What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say the word, “idol?” Perhaps it’s an image similar to these: (5 images of idols).

The second commandment deals with idols. What is an idol? How do we know when we’re worshiping an idol instead of the one true God? If we find we’ve been worshiping an idol or idols, how do we get back on track to worshiping Jehovah God? We’re going to answer those questions today as we look at authentic worship.

Ex. 20:4-6 – "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The second commandment has an unusual history. Roman Catholics and Lutherans don’t see it as a separate commandment but rather an extension of the first. In order to keep the number of commandments at 10, they divide the 10th commandment in half. Number nine becomes “you shall not covet your neighbor’s house” and number ten is “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.”

A large majority of church members in the 21st century might consider this the easiest commandment to keep because how many of us actually have an idol made of metal, wood or stone displayed in our homes and bow down to worship it before we leave for work?

The second commandment deals primarily not with the worship of idols but with worshiping any image created to represent the one true God. Commandment number one is about who we worship and number two about how we worship.

Our word “idol” comes from a Greek word that has as its root the meaning of “to see.” When you look at its usage in both the Old and New Testaments, the word idol has at its essence the meaning “the way I see things.” The problem with our human nature is that we rely on our sight.

Could it be that we’re guilty of breaking this commandment because we’ve substituted a lot of things for the grandeur of God? God cannot be accurately portrayed by any single image. God’s holiness and transcendence cannot be captured or represented in a single piece made by any human hand. God is saying, “No image you can construct, no matter how beautiful or majestic, can be true to my nature.”


Acts 17:29 – “Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill.” Augustine defined idolatry as worshiping anything that ought to be used and using anything that ought to be worshiped. Idolatry is an attempt to represent a supernatural God in a natural way. It’s representing a spiritual God in a material way. It’s a lot easier to worship a small god you can see than to worship a big God you can’t see.

When you worship God with an image or picture, it’s like having a picture of your family and loving the picture instead of your family. It’s like spending time with the picture instead of family. You’d be prioritizing the picture above your family.

In scripture, we read about how God mocked the idols that people bowed down to and worshiped.

Is. 44:14-17 – “He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. 15 It is man's fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm; I see the fire." 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, ‘Save me; you are my god.’”

Ps. 115:4-8 – But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. 5 They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; 6 they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; 7 they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. 8 Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.

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