Exodus 20:4-6 ďThou 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: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.Ē
Many worship the right God, but the wrong way. God has given instruction of how we are to worship Him. Those who worship Him, His way, are called True Worshippers and therefore all others are false worshippers. We canít come to God our way or on our own terms, we must come to God by the only way He has provided, which is Christ. We cannot serve God our way, but must humble ourselves to serve Him according to His will. Nothing else is acceptable to God. He doesnít accept those who try to come without coming through Christ. He doesnít accept worship that is not as He desires it. He doesnít reward service that is not according to His will. What we do that is religious or that we think is for Him is meaningless and will bring no benefit or reward for it is not His way. With God it is truly ďMy Way (His) or no way at all.Ē
Exodus 20 tells us about the second commandment God gave His people. First there is the precept or the rule, the premise or reason for the rule, the premonition and then a promise.
The precept is ďDo NOT create any representation of God, by hand or in your imagination.Ē Nothing that would replace God in your mind and heart. Many donít understand that idolatry is a spiritual thing and it begins in and with the heart and not in bowing before an image, tree, piece of wood or metal or picture representation. The physical bowing would not be there if the spirit of idolatry were not in the heart. And because idolatry begins with the attitude of the heart, anything or anyone can become an idol in our heart. A parent can be an idol. Many people worship and pray to dead ancestors and it is even called ancestor worship. Others worship a spouse or child and yet others worship an idea, their status or education, their job, their possession, literally anything that keeps us from making God first and giving Him first place in our lives, He calls an idol and our god. Most gods are made like unto men and beasts. Hosea 13:2 ďAnd now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding.Ē Romans 1:22-25 ďProfessing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, Ö Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.Ē The idol is self, self-worship.
There is a great difference between a design that is art and worshipping that work of art. There is a great difference between artistry and idolatry. Whether the bowing is physically, or in the mind and heart, both are forbidden by God.
Some make idols out of ministers, priests or men like the Pope or Billy Graham. Men are only conduits and representors of God and not to take his place. No man is god, no man is like god, no man can be a replacement for or Vicar of Christ, only tell us of Him and lead us to Christ. Others make an idol of tradition and worship at the shrine of tradition, as the Jewish Pharisees in Jesus day and as many religious people do today as they worship their church, their church doctrines or their church traditions or denominations.
Charles Wesley, D.L. Moody, C.H. Spurgeon and Isaac Wyatt were writing to their generation as some are today. There is no difference between a preacher called by God a hundred years or two thousand years ago and today. Donít make an idol of anything.
Some make an idol out of anything religious, crosses, rosaries, images on a chain of some long dead person they call a saint, or even a false representation of Jesus, since none of their representation are real or what He really looks like. False representations keep people from seeking and worshipping God. Men make idols out of institutions, men, denominations and anything you can think of. That is what this commandment is all about. God is saying, I am the Lord, I am the only God, there is none other and donít make gods of anything else in creation or in your mind.
Exodus 34:14 ďFor thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:Ē Isaiah 44:6 ďI am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.Ē (Verse 8) ďIs there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.Ē Matthew 4:10 ďThen saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.Ē
When the children of Israel made the bull they thought they were worshipping a representation of God, of who He is. To them the bull represented power and God brought them out with power and glory. God said make no idol or any representation of me that stands in my place. That is a precept. The idol, then become the representative of God and replacement for God. Exodus 32:4 ďÖ after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.Ē
What is the reason behind this commandment? The reason is simply, Godís love. God forbids idolatry because He is a jealous God. Wait, isnít jealousy bad, so then how is this good. In the truest sense of the word, jealous is good. Jealousy is not envy in reality or covetousness. Actually the word zeal better shows what this kind of jealousy is. Jealousy in the pure sense means to guard what is rightfully yours. That is how God feels about His people. He is jealous when He sees you and I in the grip of something or someone else and it makes Him jealous. Whether religious tradition, churchianity, self-worship, material possessions, ideas and opinions, only you know what they are to you, God is jealous over you because Godís commitment to His children is full and total because His love for His children is an exclusive love. God is passionate about you. That is why He is jealous when you are more concerned about what you like and in love with yourself or your possessions or a person or something in this life more than with Him. Human jealousy can be insecurity and possessive, but Godís jealousy is pure, holy and righteous, a protective jealousy. It is godís love protecting itself. What kind of husband or wife would not be jealous when seeing their spouse in the arms of another, unless there is no real love? Think about it. You want to protect and keep to yourself that which is yours.
The premonition. The warning is this. If we persist, though God is so loving and patient, but if you persist in breaking the commandment, no only will you suffer, but the next generation will suffer. Idolatry takes that which is good and twists it. It takes something that belongs to God and then uses it against God.
Many churches reject the ten commandments, because they say, how can a loving God punish the children of the parents. The assumption is that the parents have sinned and the children are innocent. That is the wrong assumption. The general principle is this. Children usually imitate and do what their parents do, not what they say do. Do what I say, not what I do has never worked and will never work. Children from a very early age are imitators of their parents and others. They are impacted by their parentís lies, their parentís dishonesty, their parentís profanity, their parentís anger or whatever. What God wants them to be influenced to imitate is godliness and their love of and serving of Him, that they too might love and serve Him.
One generation sets the spiritual tone for the next generation, only the next generation takes and does things with more passion, with greater rebellion or whatever it is. The parents smoked cigarettes, the children then smoke marijuana and on it goes. Whatever sin the parentís were guilty of and lived before their children, the children will do more so.
Also, God holds families responsibile for their actions. No, God does hold the individuals responsible for the actions of others, but their own actions, but there is more to this warning. He said he will judge them up to the 3rd and 4th generation and people donít like this warning for they think God shouldnít punish the children for what the parents did. But what they are ignoring is the reality that usually parents who hate God produce children who hate God. Parents who are rebels in society produce children who are rebels and it normally takes several generations for that bent to be broken and the direction of the family changed.
Years ago there were two men, Jonathan Edwards and Max Jukes. These two men lived contemporarily and their family history was traced for a certain number of generations. Max was a drunken criminal. Max had 1,026 descendants. 300 were in prison. 190 were prostitutes, and 680 were alcoholics. Jonathan Edwards had 929 descendants by contrast and 430 were ministers of the gospel. 86 university professors, 13 university presidents, 75 wrote good books, 7 elected to congress and 1 a vice-president of the United States. Tell me that generations are not affected by what we do. The father who curses God will produce a son that curses God. A woman who worships herself will produce a daughter who worships herself. If you have one godly parental example and one ungodly parental example, then children will usually side with one and either be godly or ungodly, following the traits of the on they chose to imitate.
This doesnít mean for a moment that Godís grace canít invade the most destructive families and change them and bring people out of such family backgrounds, but the rule is simply this. Parents who hate God produce children who hate God. Parents who worship and serve Satan or are in witchcraft, produce and train children to do the same, only worse. So God gives us a rule, a reason and a warning, but then he gives us a promise.
The Promise. Consider three & four generations versus 1,000 generations. What good odds for a mathematician. Judgment is only to the 3rd or 4th generation by his mercy to 1,000 generations. Why such a contrast. It is a contrast of the judgment of God versus the mercy of God. Why? Judgment is not Godís desire or nature. He judges after He has exhausted his grace, patience and mercy and then finally He has no choice. Not because He rejoices in it or loves it, no, never! But grace and mercy is His nature and that is why the stark contrast. That is why God was so merciful to descendants of King David, even when they greatly sinned against Him.
This promise would make you far more concerned about leaving a spiritual legacy rather than a diversified portfolio for your natural children. This should give us the passion to live a legacy of passion for God more than for profit; it should compel us to leave a role model for Jesus and not a love of money, to treasure the promises of God for our children rather than all earthly treasures.
When Muslims invaded India, they did so under a general that as he led them into India and came upon the Hindu temples, they destroyed idol after idol, and the Hindu priests came to this general and pleaded with him, please donít destroy this one idol whatever you do, donít touch this particular idol. We donít know why, but we beg you, donít touch this idol. He didnít listen and struck the idol repeatedly, then all of a sudden its center burst open and streams of precious stones cascaded out of its hollow interior. They didnít know why? Now they do!
Every time you strike a blow at one of the idols you are cherishing in your life, your blessing will be greater than you can imagine. Every idol in your life that you destroy will bring to you untold treasures of grace and blessing from the hand of God. Every idol that you treasure that you strike with blows until it is broken down and destroyed, will bring answers to prayer that you have long desired and waited for because in some cases God delays His answers to prayer until you deal with those idols in your life. Only you know what they are and only you can say, Lord Jesus Christ, with your strength and by faith, I strike a blow at this idol in my life. I will not let it rule and dominate my life, my thoughts and keep me from your blessings that which you have for me.
As the Israelites made this calf and didnít think they were worshipping it literally, but that it just symbolized God, in the same way some will do things like say, I am going to build a great estate and finances, so that when I am rich I can give it away for the gospel. That in itself is a self deception. God said, those who are faithful with little will be faithful with much. If you are not faithful in giving to God when you have little, then when you have much you will just hoard it, as most all wealthy men do, storing up treasures on earth, while having none for eternity, because as the rich young ruler who came to Jesus, their money and possessions are an idol in their heart. Oh, how we try to convince ourselves that we are doing something for Him when we are in actuality doing it for ourselves. But if we sit still before God and really consider truth, we will have to admit or idolatries and repent.
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