A Certain Trumpet — Second Commandment: Encounter God as He really is through worshipcomment (0)
February 13, 2014
By Darryl Wood
Have you played the ever popular “Ten Commandments Game”? When you’ve obeyed one of the 10 sufficiently, you can mark it off your scorecard. For most people the Second Commandment — “make no graven images” — is an automatic check mark. No carved idols or likenesses of God sit on your shelves. So obedience to that command is a “no brainer.” But wait. The Second Commandment deserves a closer look. See Exodus 20:4–7.
The Israelites also knew better than to make an image that represented God. Throughout their history, however, the sin of idolatry received more attention than any other. Even though the people knew better they still broke this commandment consistently.
The ancients used graven images, shaped from stone or wood (and later metal) to help them connect with their deity and its power. These idols often took the form of created things that already existed like animals or heavenly bodies. The Second Commandment prohibits portrayal of the Creator using things He created. They are inferior representations of the Almighty.
God cannot be reproduced in physical form. Nor can misguided human ideas of God suffice to explain Him. God is more than a kindly old man watching over us from above. He is not waiting patiently to follow our selfish orders. Nor is He lurking in the shadows ready to “get” us when we sin. Those images contrived by humans fail to characterize God in all His glory. They are sinful attempts to control or manipulate a God we do not understand. That is idolatry.
Like the other commandments, the prohibition against making graven images serves a higher purpose than simply being an item to check off a list as “obeyed” or “not obeyed.” Instead it helps believers to connect with our mysterious, loving and worthy God through worship. The Second Commandment directs the faithful to get to know God as He really is, not as we wish Him to be or how someone else perceives Him. Human minds cannot grasp the fullness of God, nor can human hands recreate Him (Isa. 55:8–9). The Second Commandment guides us to encounter God through single-minded worship. What can you expect from worshipful interaction with a living God?
Encounter a nearby God — I searched on my hands and knees for a dropped key. After covering the room, I called for a better pair of eyes. As my wife entered, she said, “There it is. Right under your nose.” The key lay touching my shoe. Often we search high and low for God only to find Him right there under our nose — near as He promised.
Ancient worshippers fabricated idols because they believed their gods to be distant. An image they handled convinced them of their god’s nearness. Yahweh God, however, is Spirit. He draws close to His people as they call on Him (Deut. 4:7; Ps. 73:28). No need exists for artificial props to unite you with God. He stands ready to respond to you. The Second Commandment directs God’s people to revel in His presence.
Encounter an adequate God — A carved block of wood, a crisp new $100 bill or a long-awaited smartphone may attract your attention. Those things fill an immediate longing but their value fades with time. Then another longing begs to be addressed.
Every person has a need to relate to the One greater than us. Only God Himself can fill that emptiness within the human spirit. The Bible reveals God as One who acts (Isa. 64:4). He is no passive bystander. From the beginning He has been at work. And God labors tirelessly and effectively to benefit humankind.
God attained the pinnacle of His activity through the saving work of Jesus. He proved how far He will go, even to death, to provide forgiveness and a new way of life for you. The Second Commandment aims you toward the exaltation of God, who stands ready to assist you in meeting your biggest challenges.
Encounter a merciful God — As “jealous” or “zealous,” God demands your attention. He holds to those who are for Him. He judges those who are against Him. God desires every person to declare allegiance to Him. A failure to do so carries the consequences of judgment as far as “the third and the fourth generations.” In other words, when sin becomes a way of life, future generations tend to adopt it after the example of those who have gone before.
God values you. That’s why He requires exclusive devotion. Your heart’s focus on Him above all allows God to protect your relationship at all times. The advantage of this bond with God is His “mercy,” or kind, compassionate love bestowed on you. And the effect of that mercy extended to you enables you to influence others to seek God as well. If the results of God’s judgment trickle down three or four generations, His mercy flows freely to thousands of generations (Ps. 136). The Second Commandment appeals to you to receive God’s grace humbly and extend it to others.
So you want to know what God looks like? Just ask any 5-year-old to draw you a picture. She’ll know exactly how God looks. It will be a cute image, for sure. But the Second Commandment insists that believers move beyond the cute, oversimplifications of God that we manufacture. Alternatively we are to worship a God who blows our minds and thrills our hearts with His boundless power, love and creativity.
God rewards loyalty expressed through adoring worship. When you honor Him in worship, you get to know personally the One who is near at all times, able to do all things and on your side all the way to eternity.
You hold an advantage over the original recipients of the Ten Commandments. God revealed Himself perfectly in Christ. He explains your one-of-a-kind God as no contrived image could. He is worthy of worship characterized by joyful praise, contrite confession, heartfelt thanksgiving and the humble offering of yourself to Him.