Summary: Idolatry is alive and well in the church today. Any time we try to make Yahweh into a manageable size we have broken the Second command.
Please turn with me to Exodus 20:1-17. As I said last week every week that we discuss the 10 laws of Grace we will begin by hearing them.
I love stories about kids so I thought I would share this one with you. Little Sara looked forward to the end of the school day. The last 30 minutes in Ms. Hunter’s kindergarten class was used for free time and she could spend some time drawing. One day Sara was intently drawing and didn’t hear the last bell ring. Ms. Hunter was walking around helping the other students get their backpacks and jackets so that they could go home for the afternoon, when she noticed that Sara hadn’t moved. “Sara what are you doing?” Ms. Hunter asked. “I’m drawing a picture of God.” was Sara’s reply. Ms. Hunter smiled and said “Sara, no one knows what God looks like.” To which Sara replied. “They will when I get through.”
When we read the second commandment today our immediate temptation is to arrogantly dismiss it. Christians today don’t have a problem with little wooden or stone idols so why not move on to something a bit more relevant. Technology and scientific explanation have made idol worship something you read about in History books.
We know better than to worship the Egyptian sun god, we can flip a switch and get all the light we need.
We now know that rain is caused by the evaporation of water. Winds blow these clouds of water vapor over Scufflegrit where the vapor condenses and falls to the earth. The storm god, no longer gets credit or blame for the weather.
So at first look the second command seems unnecessary. Of all the temptations we struggle with, having little idols is well down the list if it makes the list at all. And yet the Bible seems to obsess on this subject. Biblical writers mentioned idolatry more than they mentioned any other commandment.
Why does the Bible spend so much ink condemning such an apparently weak sin?
One answer to that question is that the Old Testament is a cycle of the Children of God following God, prospering, turning to idols, being captured, following God, …
But the appeal of idols wasn’t the only reason the Bible worries so much about idolatry. Perhaps more than any other commandment, the second law of God illustrates the powerful connection between what we believe about God, and how we live. What people think about God shapes their behavior. If we reduce God down to a manageable form, we not only diminish His stature, we shrink ourselves. No one explains the connection between bad theology and bad living better than Paul in Romans 1: 18 - 32. (Read)
According to Paul, failure to obey the second command leads to a lifestyle that violates every other command. Because people worshipped created things rather than the creator, because they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and animals and reptiles, they became people who were incapable of keeping any of the other commandments.
Did you notice that Paul touches on most of the Ten Commandments in this passage?
He says that those who worshipped idols were disobedient to their parents.
He mentions murder and he describes in uncomfortable detail the sexual promiscuity that idolatry caused.
The eighth command forbids theft, Paul mentions deceit and ruthlessness, which is a disregard for the property and rights of others.
Paul described the gossip and slander that resulted from lives steeped in dishonesty, and says that yet another result of idolatry was greed and envy "
The Bible spends so much time condemning idolatry because not only is it our favorite sin, it is the Pandora’s box which unleashes every other sin.
You are probably thinking right now, "This is not our problem. We know better. Our sins are much more sophisticated, much less superstitious." That’s what we would like to think. Today let’s talk about the Second Commandment itself. What did it actually forbid?
The first commandment forbids worshipping anything other than God. The second commandment takes that one step further by forbidding us to worship God under any false form. Which is exactly what the Israelites did when they manipulated Aaron into fashioning the golden calf.
Turn over to Exodus 32: 1 - 4 and see the whole story.
Notice that they said, "These are your gods who brought you out of Egypt." In vs. 5 Aaron said, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord."
It isn’t that they were not giving God the credit for their Egyptian deliverance. Their sin was in reducing god to the form of a calf. For four hundred years the only authority they had known was an authority they could see.