Exodus 20:4-6 - Second Commandment

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Thomas S. Myers

The 2nd Commandment

Exodus 20:4-6

            The 1st commandment tell us who to worship.  The 2nd commandment tells us how to worship God.  The 1st commandment forbids false God's.  The 2nd commandment forbids false worship.  The first commandment tells us that we are to worship the right God.  The second commandment says that we are not to worship the right God in the wrong way. 

            Do you know what your most effective weapon against the devil is?  It is praise and worship.  Right now, we are at war with the devil.  Have you looked at Psalm 8:1-2 recently?  Take a good look at it. 

            God is saying when you worship Him in praise you are silencing  the avenger who is the devil. 

For centuries the church has tried to fight it's battles without praise and worship and it has been losing the battle.  Find any Christian who is discouraged and defeated and you will find a Christian who does not worship. 


Psalm 67:5-6

May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you. 6  Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us. (NIV)

            Blessings and encouragement begins with worship. 


            I can meet a total stranger, and I won't know anything about them, except one thing, they have an innate desire to worship God.  It is true of all people everywhere.  Someone will say, an atheist doesn't want to worship God.  That's not true.  First of all, people are not born atheist, and secondly, if a man 1does not worship the true God, he will worship a false God.  And third, if a man does not worship God in the right way, He will worship God in the wrong way. 


Exodus 20:4

4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. (NIV)

            When you come to this verse, some people have the idea that this verse forbids the use of art in any form.  Some even go so far and say this verse forbids even music.  We know that verse 4 does not forbid music, because even in heaven there are musical instruments (Rev 5:8; 14:2; 15:2).  If that were the case, then God Himself has broken this commandment.  And the 2nd commandment does not forbid the making of an image.  Its just that the image can not be used in worship.  Later on in this very book God will command the construction of the tabernacle, which included the building of the image of a angel called a cherubim. 

            What is God talking about here?  God is forbidding statues, or images made for worship. 

            Do you know why God forbids the making of any carved image of Him?  Because it misrepresents God.  God can not be represented by any material, physical, visible image.  Why?  Because the Bible says in John 4:24


John 4:24

24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (NIV)


            We will never be able to represent God with or visible, material creations.  Because God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and immutable.

Exodus 20:4

4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above  or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. (NIV)

            That is why Isaiah said in Isaiah 40:25

Isaiah 40:25

 25  "To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?" says the Holy One. (NIV)

            You see, an image misrepresents God.  Let me illustrate it.  Do you like to have a bad picture of yourself in circulation?  Neither does God!  Now how would you like someone to start circulating the picture on your drivers license?  Well, the worst thing about an image is that it misrepresents God. 

            All of us want a picture to at least look like us.  And if we told the truth, we would like the picture to look better than us.  But none of us wants to have the wrong view circulated around.  What's wrong with having an image of  God?  It gives the wrong view of God.  Therefore, it degrades God and distorts God.  Look at Romans 16:22-23

Romans 1:22

22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools

            Now, how did they become fools? 


23 THEY exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (NIV)


            We need to have the right view of God. 


Exodus 20:5

 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (NIV)

            Did you know that the way you worship, communicates what God is like?  For example, when we use statues as an aid in worship it teaches others that the statue is a form of God.  

            But someone may say, "But Tom, when we use an image in our worship, we're not worshipping that image.  It's just an aid to worship.  We're not stupid.  Why, we have enough sense to know that the image is not really God.  It just reminds us of  God."  That sounds good doesn't it?  Well, ladies let me ask you a question.  Suppose you entered into a restaurant  and there is your

husband with his arm around another women.  And he's kissing her.  You immediately march up to him and say, "What in the world are you doing?!!!  He says, "Honey, she just reminds me of you.  And when I hug her and kiss her, I think of you.  She's just an aid in loving you."  Now ladies, would you buy that?  Now look at verse 5 again? 


Exodus 20:5

 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, (NIV)

            Notice in verse 5, God is saying, "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God..."  God is saying, "I 'm the only God there is.  I am your God, and you belong to Me.  You are special to Me.  And I will guard that relationship. "


            God has the right to be a jealous God, for there is no other God.  So if we use an image in our worship, we are teaching the wrong lessons about God.  If I worship an image, then I'm teaching others that God is like that image. 

            Did you know we teach our children by the way we worship?  Look at Exodus 20:5  again. 

Exodus 20:5

5 for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, (NIV)

            As you look at verse 5, you might be thinking, what does that mean?  It means that when you worship God in the wrong way, it will result in teaching your children and your grandchildren and your great grandchildren to also worship God in the same wrong way.  Look at:

2 Chronicles 26:16

16 But after KING Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. (NIV)

            Now how did King Uzziah sin?  Did he cuss?  No.  Did he commit murder?  No.  Did he commit adultery? No.  He sinned by worshipping.  How?  He worshipped the right God in the wrong way.  He burned incense in the temple that only the priests were allowed to do.  Watch what happens.  Look at:


2 Chronicles 26:17-19

            He thought he had the right to worship God any old way he wanted to.  Now let's look at his son.  Look at:


2 Chronicles 27:1-2

1 Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. His mother's name was Jerusha daughter of Zadok. 2 He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, just as his father Uzziah had done...


            He was a good boy, wasn't he?  But notice the rest of the verse.

but unlike him he did not enter the temple of the LORD. The people, however, continued their corrupt practices. (NIV)

            He was a good king, he believed in God.  But, he refused to go the house of God.  He is like a man who says, "I believe in God, but I'm turned off by the church.

            Now watch the second generation, Uzziah's great grandson.  Look at:

2 Chronicles 27:9

9 Jotham rested with his fathers and was buried in the City of David. And Ahaz his son succeeded him as king. (NIV)

2 Chronicles 28:1-3

            He burned his babies to death to a pagan God. 


2 Chronicles 28:24

24 Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and took them away. He shut the doors of the LORD's temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem. (NIV)

            What else did Ahaz do?  He shut the door to the temple so that no body could enter the house of God.  It all started by a daddy worshipping the right God in the wrong way. 

Uzziah - He was a father with misguided worship.

Jothan - He was a son with neglected worship.

Ahaz - He was a grandson with corrupted worship.

Ahaz children - were the great grandchildren who

were killed by the false worship of their father.

Exodus 20:5

5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me (NIV)

            If you're not careful, your children, your grand children, and your great grandchildren will suffer because you failed to

worship God in the right way. 

You see, we reflect truth by the way we worship.

            What is the right way to worship?  I believe that the devil sneaked into the church centuries ago and he snatched praise and worship away from the church.  And from that day, praise and worship has been impotent.  We need to relearn how to praise God with unrestrained and unhindered worship according to God's Word.  Do you know what we will be doing in heaven?  Unrestrained worship to God.  But today we have praise stoppers.  Let me show you a praise stopper.  Look at 2 Samuel 6.  The context is the Ark of the Lord is coming home.  And King David in  Samuel  6:14 is excited. 

2 Samuel 6:14-15

14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets. (NIV)

            David is giving unrestrained praise to God..  But wait a minute.  There is a praise stopper. 

2 Samuel 6:20-23

            God deals with praise stoppers doesn't He?  Remember when Jesus had the triumph entry into Jerusalem?  The disciples began to clap and to cheer saying, Hosanna in the highest, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."  But the praise stoppers were called  Pharisees, they wanted Jesus to stop the unbridled praise. 

            Eight different times the Bible says to sing unto the Lord a new song.  We are to praise God with a bent knee.


Psalm 95:6

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; (NIV)

            We worship with a bowed head (Neh. 8:6).  We worship by clapping our hands (Ps. 47:1).  We are to worship God by shouting (Ps. 47:1). 


Psalm 47:1

1 Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy. (NIV)


            We worship God with up lifted hands (Neh. 8:6).  Many people have a problem with that.  But they forget that it is to God they are lifting their hands to.  Do you see why I said that the devil has stolen praise from the church.   Because in the first church they lifted up their hands.  In the first church they did not hold a hymnal.  In the first church they sang new songs.  

            Margo is my youngest daughter.   She is so excited when I come home that she runs to me with up lifted hands.  What am I to say to her? "Put those hands down you little charismatic!"  No way.  I reach my hands down to her to I give her a great big hug, and I say to her, "I love you!"  Gods loves it when we lift our hands up to Him, because he reaches His hands down to us and He says, "I love you."  

            We need to have the right view of God.  We need to have the right attitude of God.  There is something else we need.    


Exodus 20:6

6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. (NIV)

            You may not be worshipping an idol, but that does not mean you're keeping the 2nd commandment.

You do not keep the 2nd commandment until you love God.  That's all that God really wants from you.  There are some people who can give more money than you and I.  There are some people who can sing better than you and I.  But when it comes to loving God, no one can love God better than you.  You worship God by loving God.   

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