Most people when they read the second commandment think, “I have no problem with that one.” They read it to mean we should not have any idols, like the carved statues of Bible times. We even go into understanding the concept of what our idols are of today, like worldly things, money, or even ourselves, plus a potential plethora of other items that we can easily place as an “idol” over our love for God. While this is all true it is not the whole of what the second commandment means.
Here is the text of the second commandment as seen in the ESV version of Exodus 20:4-6 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
It is curious that the first commandment is simple and straightforward, yet the second commandment needed 3 distinct directives. It is almost as if we wouldn’t get it and need a little extra explanation. He knows we are dust and in that I find great relief in His mercy, however we are to be good Bereans (Acts 17:11) and study the Word of God by searching for answers and understanding. Read the above verses from Exodus 20 again and ask yourself, “What could I be missing?”
God tells us not to create idols or symbols that we would worship such as worshiping a cross or praying to a statue in a church as a method to help us get in the “mood” to worship. However God also tells us to not make any likeness of who we may think God looks like. There is a great deal to learn about our own salvation based on how the significant full meaning of this commandment plays out in our lives. While this may not be a salvific issue in and of itself, I often consider that the number one issue when it comes to why people may think they are saved when in fact they may not be is their view of God.
Ask yourself these questions: When you think of God, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Who has He been to you over the years? Daddy? Friend? Helper? Disciplinary? Do you think of him as your Co-pilot? When you imagine seeing Him for the first time what is it like in your mind’s eye? Is He a big Santa Claus type that you imagine yourself crawling up into His lap and having Him hold you tight?
Everyone has a different “picture” of who God is and what He looks like. Naturally they are based on who we are and what we have learned and experienced God to be. Interestingly enough our views are not right at all. They are offensively wrong. Consider this: if you asked me to show you a picture of my husband and I showed you a picture of a snail, you might laugh or think I was nuts. What if I was serious and said to you “Isn’t he the most gorgeous man on the planet?” You might start to feel sad for me. You might pity me. But more importantly it would be an offense to my actual husband. He would surely ask me to stop representing him in that way.
This is how it is to God when we conjure up images in our mind of what God looks like. When we see him for the first time we won’t be cuddling in his lap, we will assuredly be in shock and awe at how wrong we were and we will forever be amazed at the glory that is his alone. Consider that the homecoming you have imagined will more likely start with your body swiftly slamming to the ground with your face firmly planted as low as you can get in the presence of your Maker as a form of humble worship so humiliating that we will only but desire to worship and adore him like never before. Oh the day! As you study the Bible and learn of any account where a human sees God, or fully sees the Deity of Jesus, you see statements such as “I am ruined.” or “Woe to me!” or “Depart from me, I am not worthy!”
All of these statements used to utterly confuse me. Why were they so ruined? Because in the presence of a holy God their wretchedness was made fully and overwhelmingly crystal clear. They understood, at that moment, that they were wrong, dead wrong, in there original assessment of who God was. In his excellent work “Knowing God” J. I. Packer states, “We were made in his image, but we must not think of him as existing in ours. To think of God in such terms is to be ignorant of him, not to know him.” With that in mind, we may then conclude that it could be salvific. If our view of God is so low then we may be worshiping something fully and wholly NOT God at all.
After all, in the second part of the second commandment God states, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,” That is a very harsh reality and one I would surmise is not something he is saying about those whom are saved. The last part of that sentence is: “but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” As Christians we consider us to be part of that last part and not the former.
When you fall in love with someone the very first desire we all have is to find out everything we can about that person. We want to know their soul. We want to know their passion. We even want to know their mundanity. Every little thing, no matter how frivolous it may be. If you consider yourself a Christian but perhaps find yourself not knowing that much about God, I encourage you to start your study today. Research his attributes. Discover who He is based on what He has revealed to us and not what you feel He is like based on your own ideas. Search Him out and if it is at all possible that you are not saved then perhaps in your study of God and the heightening of your view of Him, He may be gracious and merciful to you by drawing you closer to Him and bless you with an unquenchable thirst to know everything you can about Him as he has revealed in the Scriptures.
“a true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence that His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form…Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is.” ~ John Calvin in his Commentaries of Exodus 20