The Second Commandment
Bible Facts Newspaper Article (Ian C. Kurylyk)
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4)
This is the essence of the second of the 10 commandments. In the first commandment God made it clear that only He is God, and it is forbidden to serve idols. But idolatry can happen in some subtle ways, so God has given this second commandment to expose what might otherwise pass as true worship.
This commandment shows us that worship must not only be directed toward the true God, it must also be in an acceptable manner. God cannot accept everything that is religious simply because it is done in His name. Israel was forbidden to use graven images or physical likenesses to represent Him in their worship. That was the stuff of idolatrous religion. That kind of worship is in fundamental disagreement with His revealed person.
The words of Jesus to a person from Samaria, a region rife with idolatry, help us to understand the message behind this second commandment. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God must not be thought of or honoured in terms of created beings of a fallen creation. Rendering homage to Him by way of a likeness of a bull, or a fish, or a monster, or even a man is a great offense. It fails to acknowledge His perfections as a supernatural God who transcends the things He has made. It also ignores the problems of sin and its curse that have entered the creation through man.
Violation of this law takes place today in “unofficial” worship carried on outside of organized religion. Any physical thing that becomes loved or served the way only God should be is just like the ancient idols of gold, or stone or wood. The lifestyle of materialism which serves material things, money, or the pleasure it offers is in principle the same as the worship of gravens in God’s sight. The unbounded longing after things of this world was reproved by Paul in Colossians 3:5 by the words “covetousness which is idolatry”. The philosophy of secular humanism also comes into sharp conflict with the teachings of the Bible as it gives the honour due to God unto mankind instead.
God is a pure Spirit, and is called in Colossians 1:15 the “Invisible God”. He is only faithfully represented and made known through the revelation He has made of Himself in the Bible. This is why Jesus says worship must be “in spirit and in truth”. This is why historic Christianity insists upon the centrality of the Bible in its worship services. God must be honoured by believing in Him and professing Him in the terms of the revelation He has given in His own Word.
Further, the Bible reveals that there is a person that is the truth incarnate. “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). That is, God must be worshipped in the truth, and this can only be done when we approach God through a person, His own Son. Worship to God is only through Him. He is the one who came from heaven and was born miraculously into this world for the purpose of dying to pay for our sins. He rose again and offers to bring worshippers unto an infinitely Holy God if they will but receive Him personally by faith as Lord and Saviour.