Summary: The second commandment keeps us from putting God "in a box"
Sherlock Holmes and his assistant Dr. Watson are camping. After enjoying a day of relaxation, they pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night, Holmes wakes Watson. "Watson, look up at the stars and tell me what you deduce."
Hoping to please his boss with his own brilliant reflections, Watson says, "I see millions of stars, and if even a few of those stars have planets, it is quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are planets like Earth out there, it is reasonable to assume that there might be life on other planets."
Holmes stares hard at Watson for a minute, then says, "Watson, you idiot, somebody stole our tent!"
Sometimes our most impressive reasoning doesn’t lead to the right conclusions.
This morning we’re looking at the second of the Ten Commandments:
Do not bow down to any idol or worship it, because I am the Lord your God and I tolerate no rivals.
This commandment is very closely related to the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods.”
In fact in some Christian traditions, the first and second commandments are rolled into one, and then the 10th commandment is split into two to make up for it.
But these two commandments are not the same.
As we saw last week, the first commandment requires that we worship only the one true God as He is revealed in the Scriptures.
And that sounds very much like, “Don’t worship idols.”
But this command doesn’t just say, “Don’t worship idols.”
It says, “Don’t make idols or images for your worship.
That includes both worshipping the image or a false god and making any kind of an image to represent the one true God.
But before I get what that means for us, I feel I need to address what’s most troubling about this commandment, which is the threat attached to it:
I bring punishment on those who hate me and on their descendants down to the third and fourth generation.
It seems that God is being utterly unfair, promising to punish one generation for the sins of another.
It also seems to contradict other Scriptures, where God commands that individuals should be punished for their own sins, as in Deut. 24:16:
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.
Here we see that justice demands no one should be punished for the sins of their parents or their children.
So why doesn’t God appear to play by the same rules?
I don’t have a quick and easy solution for this, but here are some observations and suggestions
The most obvious may be something we are only too well aware of: that children have a tendency to imitate the behavior of their parents
There are many ways in which children can suffer because of their parents’ behavior.
If parents don’t honor God and don’t live by His commandments, there’s a good chance their children won’t, either.
But I don’t believe that this verse is saying that if a parent doesn’t worship the one true God, that God will punish the child for it.