Summary: We build idols all of the time -- not out of wood, but out of our thoughts. We want to re-create God in our own image.

Ten Commandments Series

Second Commandment -- January 23, 2000

"Re-creating God in Our Own Image"

By the Rev. Dr. Maynard Pittendreigh

Sunrise Presbyterian Church

Miami Florida

Exod 20:1-17

1 And God spoke all these words:

2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 "You shall have no other gods before me.

4 "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 of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.

9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.

11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

13 "You shall not murder.

14 "You shall not commit adultery.

15 "You shall not steal.

16 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 "You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."


Some time ago, there was an article in the newspaper listing several strange laws that had been written years ago, that meant nothing today, but that were still on the books.

There was, for example, the South Carolina state law that required, and still requires, adult men to carry swords to church. Anyone caught in church without a sword was subject to being fined. I suspect that is one law that any of us who have worshipped in church in SC have broken. Or at least I HOPE it is one we have all broken.

Another law in Vermont required a driver of an automobile to stop at every intersection, turn off his car, get out and look to see if there were any horse back riders, then push the car across the road, get in, start it, and drive off until he reached the next intersection he would have to go through the entire process all over again.

In all probability, these archaic laws had some legitimate reasons for their adoption, but the reason no longer exists, so for us, they seem ridiculous.

Take for example the New York Law that was adopted in 1918, and that is still on the books. It makes it illegal for anyone to sneeze in public. That sound silly until one realizes that in 1918, the entire world was in the grip of a flu epidemic that, in the end, claimed more lives than all of the battles fought in the first World War.

It became imperative in that year to keep the sick at home and isolated, thus the law that

prohibited sneezing in public.

There are countless other laws that may have sounded logical at one time, but that now have lost their meaning and relevancy.

Many of us might be inclined to list the second commandment among those irrelevant laws. It forbids the making and worshipping of idols


I’m almost tempted to ask for a show of hands

to see how many people here struggle to keep that commandment. We may struggle with the one about observing the Sabbath, or with the one about coveting, or bearing false witness, but not many of us have to struggle with the temptation to make an idol and worship it.

I suspect that many of us have never even seen an idol, and those of us who have, have merely seen them in museums and considered them interesting works of art.

It would be so easy to say that this is an irrelevant commandment. It may have had value for a Christian in some tribal community on some isolated Pacific Island, but it is without

meaning for the sophisticated 20th century resident of America.

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