Summary: We may not carve them out of wood, but we carve them in our minds and they are alive and doing well!

God’s Top Ten

Ex. 20:4-7

September 2002

Joe Bedy Central Christian Church

Centuries ago God made man in His image and bless our hearts we have been trying to return the favor ever since and make God into our image. At least we want to make God be the way we want Him to be. Many in the world today have done this and they have a form of godliness, but in the end it will lead to their death.

We have all heard it before, my god is a loving god, full of mercy and grace (true) and he knows I am a sinner, he created me with a sex drive (true) so He understands when I have sex with every woman I can (false). These things are normal and natural about us (true). So God is too loving to cast me into Hell (false).

And so we begin to create our image of God. But, what is wrong with making for ourselves a god that is practical and useful?

The problem with it is that GOD has forbidden it.

Exo 20:4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Exo 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,

Exo 20:6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

When I was a child after my first Holy Communion I wore a necklace that head 2 pictures of St. Christopher on it tied together with what looked like two thin shoe strings, this was to keep me safe.

However it was absolutely worthless in the lake where I lost it because it floated off my shoulders and ended up in the lily pads and cattails where the water moccasins lived.

I left it there not willing to test its power against a 3’ female water moccasin that might have a nest of infants nearby.

Later however, when I was 16 and began to drive, I knew I needed some protection from a god and I reverted to these things when I placed magnetic Mary and a plastic Jesus on the dashboard of my 57 Chevrolet.

I believe I still have Jesus in a shoebox in my closet; it is just difficult for me to place this plastic image of Jesus in a trashcan and send him to the landfill.

And yet we are told not have an idol in the form of anything that is in heaven above.

I hate to tell you this, but that St Christopher necklace would not have protected me from a water moccasin attack and those plastic statues could not have saved me from a fatal car accident. There is no power whatsoever in a rosary, not even in the crosses we wear. God is not present in things.

The omnipresence of the invisible God is not to be marked by any symbol of Himself, but by His words written on stones.

And yet when we wander like the Israelites wandered in the desert and we all have wandered at one point or another we long for leadership and direction, for something to trust or someone to follow. And so like them we beg ‘give us a god.”

We all want a god we can show off, we want a face, a shape, a god we can put visibly in front of us to protect us, if it’s a fight we want to carry our god into the battle with us. We think God is in the ark or in the statue and well if God is there we have the power!

That is just the way we are.

Moses said, “who shall I say sent me?” Tell them “I am.”

“I am”, what kind of name is that? Can you give me a name and a face? “No,” I am who I said “I am.” OK

So what God is saying to us is go ahead search the earth, the heavens, search the seas on the earth or the water under the earth. What you will find is there is nothing under heaven, under the earth, in heaven or anyplace else in all creation sufficient to portray YHWH. Oh, really!

Well give me your earrings, your nose rings, today your belly button rings, your tongue piercings and all you other piercings and I will make for you an image of what our God looks like.

Israel stood at the foot of the mountain, what they saw was fire, thunder and lighting it was a theophany with God, they were having an encounter with God, they probably never forgot that day. Ex 19:16.

There was no form of God- NO image of God-Only God’s voice-Only the Word of God.

It is in the Bible that we learn to know God. The Bible is the treasure that allows us to be with, to know and to see God. There is no protection in idols, no power in things or . I never prayed a rosary, it just never made sense to me, I never even said all of the “Lord’s prayer” and “Hail Mary’s” I was supposed to say before I went to my little league ballgame on Saturday after confession.

But what I have done is laid face down on the floor before God and in that perfect quiet moment asked Him to forgive me, to cleanse me and to use me. No lightning, No thunder, No fire, but a sense from the truth of His word through the powerful testimony of His Spirit to my spirit, that I was loved, that I was forgiven and that I could be used by Him.

No repetition of a rote prayer could accomplish what speaking and listening to our Father does. Plastic Mary’s and Jesus’ with magnetic bases cannot put me in the presence of God. The only thing that could help me see and understand an invisible God is His voice, which thunders through the pages of His word and whispers to us in the closeness of our relationship.

What do you worship? Is it the church building? Is it the stained glass windows? Is it the cross on the wall? The liturgy? Is it the music or the worship style? The carpet? Is it the fact that there is no food in the narthex?

Those things become graven images to us!

Idols are static. They are stationary objects that will burn when Christ returns. They are devoid of meaning, feeling and life. How can we turn our lives over to that which is false and empty? How can human beings give devotion, attention and meaning to mere objects that have no power or feeling?

Millions of people worship Buddha, thousands in Japan travel to go to him, he has a mouth, ears and eyes, even a staircase so they can climb inside their God.

Yet he doesn’t hear them, see them or talk to them!

Why is it so easy for us to turn our lives over to that which is false and empty? Gods like: Buddha, Baal , Dagon, Artemis and Zeus.

I love Isaiah’s comments in chapter 44: Open your Bibles to:

Isa 44:8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses! Is there any god besides me? There is no other rock; I know not one.

Isa 44:9 All who make idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit; their witnesses neither see nor know. And so they will be put to shame.

Isa 44:10 Who would fashion a god or cast an image that can do no good?

Isa 44:11 Look, all its devotees shall be put to shame; the artisans too are merely human. Let them all assemble, let them stand up; they shall be terrified, they shall all be put to shame.

Isa 44:12 The ironsmith fashions it and works it over the coals, shaping it with hammers, and forging it with his strong arm; he becomes hungry and his strength fails, he drinks no water and is faint.

Isa 44:13 The carpenter stretches a line, marks it out with a stylus, fashions it with planes, and marks it with a compass; he makes it in human form, with human beauty, to be set up in a shrine.

Isa 44:14 He cuts down cedars or chooses a holm tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it.

Isa 44:15 Then it can be used as fuel. Part of it he takes and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Then he makes a god and worships it, makes it a carved image and bows down before it.

Isa 44:16 Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he roasts meat, eats it and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, "Ah, I am warm, I can feel the fire!"

Isa 44:17 The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to it and worships it; he prays to it and says, "Save me, for you are my god!"

Isa 44:18 They do not know, nor do they comprehend; for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand.

Isa 44:19 No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals, I roasted meat and have eaten. Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?"

Pay attention to verse 20.

Isa 44:20 He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?"

Isa 44:21 Remember these things, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are my servant; I formed you, you are my servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.

Isa 44:22 I have swept away your transgressions like a cloud, and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

Ok so you are saying well we don’t worship Greek, Roman or Egyptian false gods anymore!

Let’s see if I can get us to rethink that a little?

We may not worship ancient Gods by name, but we do give priority to the things they represent.

Mercury was the god of commerce. He ruled in the market places and the business centers of the ancient world. Today Wall Street is a citadel and brokerage houses are their chapels. Yes sir everyday worshippers go and sit in the chapel and watch an electronic ticker tape. The brokers take their offerings like priests and promise to turn it into profits.

Do you remember Black Monday, Oct. 19 1987 the Dow sank 508 points. In Miami that week a speculator who had lost large sums of money went to MLPFS chapel took out a hand gun and shot his broker and the office manager, before he killed himself. This was said by the murderer’s friend, “ His entire life was devoted to the stock market, and it collapsed around him.” His god let him down our God will never let us down.

Boy I am going to go to meddling now!

How about Hercules?

The god of strength, the ruler of the Olympic games. His followers are as numerous as ever. He has his 3 festivals that go year round. Basketball in the spring, baseball in the summer and of course ____________ (football) in the fall culminating with his greatest day of worship and devotion-Super bowl Sunday!

Where those seeking to be NUMERAL UNO in our lives will spend up to $1,000,000 for one minute of advertising.

Two minutes of advertising on that special high holy day could more than satisfy the debt we have here.

I ask you is there something wrong with that? Do you think God thinks there is something wrong with that.

The entire pantheon of gods are alive and doing well. From the god of sensuous love to the god of power and war.

How about the reams of things that are sold to teens who worship and make idols out of groups like “I stink.”

Oh maybe we don’t carve an image from wood, but we certainly carve one in our minds and when we do we can become stuck with it.

Once we try to bring God down to us as we try to make Him less offensive and more palatable to our culture and lifestyle we twist our relationship with God, then our relationship with God and with others begins to break down. Our social order, ethical and moral order becomes increasingly chaotic and it results in much suffering.

Idols give sanctions to our worst instincts and as described in Romans 1 we find in the world today those who claim they are wise, yet they became fools, and they exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, animals or reptiles.

Therefore, God gave them over to the lust of their hearts to impurity, to dishonoring of their bodies among themselves because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the created rather than the Creator!

Remember this; the Devil is deceptive and He seeks to devour us, he will gladly take something good God has given us and shape it to become our god.

Idolatries are built on falsehood, deception and untruthfulness; they will fail you and let you down.

But God is present among us, He is our friend, our advocate, Christ is our savior and our Master, a real God who corrects us, disciplines us, comforts us, loves us and forgives us, all the time healing us from the lies of this world!


John A Stroman “The 2nd Commandment” 1990.