You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to the or worship them; for I the LORD you God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
There is too much in this second commandment to engage with in one brief devotional so a few comments will have to suffice in the hope that they will cause us to reflect on an area we might easily dismiss, because ‘we don’t make idols’, or do we?”
God having declared that he is the one who redeemed his people from Egypt and warned then that they should have no other gods before him, now forbids images of created things. Why? The answer is in the second sentence, namely that once an image is made it quickly becomes a focus of worship, and God alone is worthy of worship. Indeed God is jealous for his name, and jealous for his people who were to bear his name before the world, not with the human jealousy which wants what others have got, for he is all in all, but that he should be known and worshipped for who he is and that his people uplift him before the world.
That is probably self-evident to those who read this but it is all too easily forgotten as other things easily take precedence in our lives. I recall something said by a Christian from Kenya, to a brother in the west, which has probably been often repeated. “You have Jesus and things, we just have Jesus!”
It’s telling isn’t it? When we have Jesus and things (things that can quickly assume an over important place in our lives) we are potentially on dangerous ground for the pressures as John puts it in his first letter
… everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.
1 John 2.16,
and thus risks pushing God into second place in our lives.
Obedience to this command brings great blessing (to a thousand generations) while going after other gods brings punishment. Both obedience and disobedience have generational impact and this should be a cause for sober reflection for we cannot ignore God’s instruction manual for living, with impunity.
(For a comment on the absurdity of putting other, created things before God read Isaiah 44.9-20 and for idol substitute any man made or created thing that is important in your life.)