Here is the scene. Over a million people are poised to take possession of the land of Canaan. Forty years previous to this time, God delivered them from slavery in Egypt.
Moses emphasized the following about this event:
— Deuteronomy 4.6 – As the people followed God’s guidance, their wisdom and discernment would be evident to the surrounding nations.
— Deuteronomy 4.7 – The loving and personal nature of God would set the Hebrew people apart from neighboring cultures.
— Deuteronomy 4.8 – The Israelites were the first nation to have God give them the kind of guidance that is found in the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments were given out of love and intended to nurture love in God’s people. The first four commandments were given to insure love between God and people.
The Second Commandment
The first commandment was short and simple: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Deuteronomy 5.7).
The second commandment prohibited making an image of God in any form.
— Deuteronomy 5.8 – You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
What is the “big deal” about making images of God? Why does God make this the second of ten principles for a good life?
Since humans are made in the image of God, a picture of God would most likely resemble a human. While Jesus has revealed the human face of God, God transcends any human image we may conceive.
The grammar may be poor, but the truth is accurate when I say, “You can’t think big enough to imagine all that God is.”
The first danger of making an image of God is that we reduce him to the size of our small minds.
The second and most important danger is that an image does not fulfill the love relationship that God desires.
I have many pictures of our family, but not a single picture is as valuable as spending time with them.
The Unseen God never wants to be reduced to an image or a statue. He wants us to relate to him in love.
If our devotion stops at an image or a work of art, no matter how beautiful, we have cheated ourselves and God out of the love we both deserve.
Idolatry and Iniquity
Rudy Ross in the YouTube videos that we produce reminds the listeners that iniquity is a way of thinking and feeling that opposes God.
When we make an idol or an image of God, we open our inside condition to being distant from God.
— Deuteronomy 5.9 – You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me.
What is the connection between idol worship and iniquity? Why does the construction and worship of an idol adversely affect our relationship with God?
If we can fashion an idol, then we can also manipulate it for our benefit. The nations who surrounded Israel did not worship idols out of love. Rather, they served them out of fear with the desire to get what they wanted for their service.
Here’s an example of idolatry from the time of the Roman Empire. The Romans had so many gods that they couldn’t count them all.
Suppose a farmer desired to clear a wooded area to plant crops. Because he believed that the gods or spirits inhabited the trees, he would first sacrifice a pig before cutting down the trees.
Love and respect had nothing to do with the farmer’s actions. Rather, he sought to manipulate or appease the god for his purposes.
Idolatry and oppression of others go hand in hand in the Bible. It makes sense that this is so.
The service of idols is manipulation for our benefit. If we attempt to use gods for our benefit, how much more will we use other people for the same.
The iniquity or inner thought process behind idolatry has been handed down from generation to generation.
Think about current idols such as money, sex, power, and our own opinions. Self-interest is at the center of these objects of devotion. We use them to get what we want and oppress other people in the pursuit of our desires.
Generations of Love
The purpose of the Ten Commandments was for love to prevail among humans. If we live in a love relationship with God, his love will be experienced by one generation after another.
This is God’s promise to those who follow his directions concerning love and idols. He promises that he will “[show] steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Deuteronomy 5.10).
Jesus related love to keeping God’s commandments. His words to us are these:
— John 14.15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
— John 14.21 – “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
— John 14.23-24 – “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
“Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.”
God’s commandments were not given to oppress humans. Instead, they were given to maintain a love relationship with God and each other.
It doesn’t make sense to say that we love God, but attempt to manipulate him with words and actions any more than it does to do the same thing to people.
On the other hand, the best life is possible when we place God first in our lives and relate to him in love.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I have a YouTube video on this subject. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel today.
I appreciate and benefit from the writings of Peter Craigie on Deuteronomy. Many of his thoughts are incorporated into the blog articles.
Please email your prayer requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.