[CF Devotionals] 2014-09-21 - The Second Commandment

Images as Idols

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The command to not make idols follows directly on the heels of the command not to have any other gods, in the first place. Since most of the gods of the other nations were portrayed by the manufacture of idols, it seems the obedience to the second command would go a long way in helping out with obedience to the first. In fact, we will see that at the same time that Moses is receiving the Ten Commandments, that the children of Israel are down in camp, disobeying this one.

Anyway, in addition to the problem the Israelites had with idolatry, let's read what the prophet Isaiah says:

"All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.

The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, "Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!" And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!"

They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, "Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"" (Isaiah 44:9-20 ESV).

We find Paul running into the same sin in Ephesus.

"For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, "Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth. And you see and hear that not only in Ephesus but in almost all of Asia this Paul has persuaded and turned away a great many people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods. And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship."

When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel" (Acts 19:24-29 ESV).

Idol worship is not a new problem. It still exists today, in the classic form of worship of a man-made gods. There has been some feeling the images of Christ and in some churches of "saints" represent a direct violation of this command. And it well may be, depending on whether or not these images are truly worshiped.

Notice that the commandment specifies that images are not to be made to be the focus of worship. It didn't matter if the images were of "gods" or anything in Heaven or Earth - birds, animals, etc. The point was that no image was to become an object of worship. Historically, Hebrew art never included anything from nature, so they would not be violating the commandment. This was an example of excessive zeal, in that the command wasn't against art, but against art becoming an object of religious veneration. While I might argue against us having pictures that ostensibly portray the Lord, it wouldn't be because I see it as a violation of this commandment.

To be continued.

[email geoff] GKragen@aol.com
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CFD | September 2014 | Geoff's Devotions | Geoff's Studies | Devotional Topics