Summary: #2 in 10 Commandment Series

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TEXT: Ex. 20:4-6; 24-25; Num. 21:8-9; II Kings 18:3-5

INTRO: Strangely enough, the 2nd commandment is probably one of the most violated commandments today! That may seem strange since it is a prohibition against making idols, but there are many ways to “make an idol”.

The second commandment attempts to prevent us from making any kind of image of God, either out of wood or stone, or even out of our own ideas or concepts! It is a prohibition against trying to define God by any kind of image that would seek to restrict Him to that image or symbol and thus make Him less than He is.

While symbols or ideas can help us understand God, they must not become the actual image of God that we worship. Too often the concept of God gets lost in the image used to understand Him. Far too often God ends up looking more like us than like Himself!

ILLUS: ... you can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. -- Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird. Christianity Today, Vol. 41, no. 8.

Egypt had many symbols of God, and each one became its own god. Israel too learned about God through many different symbols, and like Egypt they often found themselves worshipping the image more than God Himself. If we are not careful we can begin to worship an image of God in our own mind that may be quite different from the real God of the Bible.

PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that any attempt at limiting God to an image of our own creation will only give us a small god, and when we have a small god we will have big problems. But if we worship the God of the Bible we will have a big God, and when we have a big God we have small problems!

I. SYMBOLS AS TOOLS Ex. 20:4-6; Num. 21:8-9

A. Defining Principles Num. 21:8-9

1. Many symbols have been used throughout Scripture to teach us about God’s character:

a. Ark of the Covenant with the lid as a mercy seat – taught God’s presence with His people and His willingness to forgive when sprinkled with blood.

b. Much of the tabernacle contained symbolic things that represented truths about God and His work of salvation.

(1. Altar of incense – prayers

(2. Table of show bread – His provisions

(3. Candlestick – His light in darkness

(4. The bronze basin – cleansing of the walk of the believer

(5. The bronze altar – place of sacrifice for sins

2. In the desert when Israel disobeyed God snakes were sent to punish them. God had Moses make a bronze serpent and lift it up so that all who looked upon it would be healed, an act of faith required by looking at it…

a. From this Israel learned that God was a healer.

b. From this Israel also learned that God was a God of judgment.

3. The problem begins when we confuse the images that help us understand God with God!

ILLUS: Let’s--all of us--decide to stop trying to convince the world that Christianity is true because Jesus makes us prettier, happier, thinner, wealthier, bigger, more successful, more popular, healthier, stronger, and more influential than everyone else. Do we actually believe that the world is impressed with our fancy new churches, 12,000 in Sunday School, five services each morning, the "millions" who are watching on television, converted beauty queens and professional athletes, our book sales, or our crusades? The world is laughing at us--mocking us and the Jesus we supposedly are serving. -- Mike Yaconelli in The Door (Sept,/Oct.l989). Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 2.

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