Summary: Freedom to truly live comes only through proper self-control is the message of the 10 Commandments. The purpose of God’s law is deliverance not domination. Obedience does not subjugate; it saves and delivers.
[GOD’S TEN WORDS SERIES] EXODUS 20: 4 - 6
GOD’S SECOND WORD: WORSHIP AND SERVE NO OTHER
In New York Harbor the STATUE OF LIBERTY stands with torch held high. She faces the Atlantic Ocean and the old countries beyond, with her back turned toward the country she honors. She holds high the hope of liberty, not just to the United States, but to the entire world.
In 1986 the Statue of Liberty was refurbished. When President Reagan relit the torch of Liberty on July 3, 1986, massed choirs sang the words of Emma Lazarus’ tribute to our nation and the statue standing before our nation’s open door:
....“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
In The Gospel and the American Dream, historian Bruce Shelley wrote, “In one hand Liberty holds the torch of freedom and in the other the tablet of law. The torch challenges the forces of darkness and tyranny. The tablet of law reminds us that liberty degenerating into license is but another form of slavery. True freedom for others is only possible in a community of civic virtue.”
Freedom to truly live comes only through proper self-control is the message of the Ten Commandments. God brought a despised group of people out of bondage. They would not experience true liberty however, by merely trading one form of bondage for another. Deliverance from Egypt’s tyranny could easily be replaced by servitude to self and personal passions.
God is no cosmic killjoy. His Ten Commandments were not given to limit and destroy the freedom of His people. The purpose of God’s law is deliverance not domination. Obedience does not subjugate; it saves and delivers! The Ten Commandments are God’s “STATUTES OF LIBERTY.”
I. THE SECOND WORD or the prohibition against creating your own God, (4).
II. THE WARNING- TO THE DISOBEDIENT, (5).
III. THE BLESSING UPON THE OBEDIENT, (6).
After God declares that He is the only true God, He commands that He alone should be worshiped and then defines what worship is. In verse 4 God prohibits making idol or idolizing anything He has created anywhere, or anything that man or demon can imagine or visualize. “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
Our worship must be governed by the power of faith. Not by the power of images or imaginations. The worship of God was to be spiritual, not material. So Israel was forbidden from worshiping idols and also from making images of God.
[Idol is pesel, “carved wood or stone,” from pâsal, “to carve.” “Cast idols” made from molten metal were forbidden too (34:17).] Since God is spiritual no material representation can possibly resemble Him. To make an idol of God like something in the sky (sun, moon, stars), or on the earth (animals), or in the waters below (fish, crocodiles, or other sea life) was forbidden
So the second commandment forbids representations of deity, whether of the one God or of false gods. The golden calf, which was to symbolize Yahweh or Jehovah, is condemned equally with the fair forms that haunted the Greek Olympus, or the half-bestial shapes of ancient mythology or the worship of the sun, moon or stars which Egypt also worshiped. The ten plagues of the Exodus were actually aimed at things the Egyptians held sacred.
There are at least two reasons for the prohibition, the impossibility of portraying the glory of the Infinite Spirit in any form, and the certainty that images sink the worshiper into a deeper attachment to the physical and mental senses. [An image degrades God and damages men. By it religion reverses its nature, and becomes another avenue to keep the soul among the things seen, and an ally of fleshly inclinations. We know how idolatry casted a spell over the Israelites from Egypt to Babylon, and how their first relapse into it took place almost as soon as God’s voice which ‘spake all these words’ had ceased.]
Part of this commandment is to prevent Israel from identifying the true God with any created thing. To identify God with any created thing is merely one step from thinking of God in terms of that image. It would be creating God in the image of His creation.
Another part of this commandment is to keep us from recreating God out of our own imagination or mind. So no image of God is to be created, not even a mental image in your mind of what God is like. An image is a limitation and God has not limits. If you predetermine what God is like, you have created Him in your image or created Him out of the limits of your mind. We can never adequate represent or really even adequately comprehend the All-Knowing, All Power, All Present God. He is limitless and thus such not be limited by our representations of Him.