Idol Making is not an Idle Matter

Bible Book: Exodus  20 : 04-06
Subject: Idols; Worship, True; Ten Commandments; God, Worship of
Series: Ten Commandments - God's Way, The Right Way

Idol Making Is Not An Idle Matter - Commandment 2

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Exodus 20:4-6

Today we look at the second sermon in a series entitled "God's Way, The Right Way." Our title is "Idol Making Is Not An Idle Matter." In other words, the idea of idols in our lives is not a trivial issue. In fact, it ranks near the top of the Ten Commandments. Yet, many people do not consider this commandment seriously. Very few of us would even consider the possibility that we might be guilty of breaking this commandment.

One pastor I read about preached on the all ten of the commandments in a single message. As people were leaving the church, he overheard one man say to his wife, "Well, at least I have never made any graven images!" That man must have felt he had broken all the other commandments, but not this one. But I read where one great theologian said that this might be the commandment violated by more Christians, and more often by them, than any other commandment. You might protest and say that you have never made a graven image to worship, and indeed you might be correct. But this commandment involves much more than bowing down to an idol god made of wood or stone. Let's consider the serious nature of the fact that "Idol Making is not an Idle Matter."

One day in Sunday School the teacher was not prepared to teach, so she asked the children to draw a religious picture. They were to draw whatever reminded them of a Bible story or event. The teacher walked around the class commenting on each child’s attempt at the assignment. She came to a girl whose drawing seemed a bit odd. She asked, “Honey, what exactly are you drawing?” The little girl looked up with a confident smile and said, “I am drawing a picture of God.” The teacher corrected her, “Darling, nobody knows what God looks like.” The little girl turned back to her crayons and said, “They will when I get through!”

It is important for us to take a look at this issue. First, we need to establish what this commandment is all about. The first commandment told us "Who" we are to worship, but the second commandment tells us "How" we are to worship. The first commandment dealt with the "Person of God," but the second commandment deals with our "Practice Before God." The first commandment told us that "God is Lord," but the second commandment tells us that "God is Living." We must not come before Him as if He is an artifact of antiquity, some relic of the past, some object to venerate. He is alive! He is to be worshipped as a living Lord.

To consider this subject correctly, we need to see five factors related to the proper worship of God. Each of these is critical.

I. The Resistance Factor

The second commandment is directly related to the way we are to react to the world around us. The Israelites had departed from Egypt where the Pharaoh was like a god to the people. The people of Egypt also had other gods, such as the sun god. As the Israelites departed Egypt and moved on toward the Promised Land, God told them to get them ready to put up a barrier to the many idols and false gods they would confront in Canaan. God knew that the Hebrews would discover a people bowing down to many different gods. Their gods would often be made of stone, wood or precious metals. The true and living God wanted those who trusted Him to know that they were to resist all attempts to portray Him in some physical manner. This called for a high level of resistance since the pressure would be on them to conform to the entire surrounding society.

Why was this so important to God? Because God is a Spirit and those who worship Him must do so in spirit and in truth. Matthew Henry stated that this command revealed the importance of faith. We worship God by faith and not by sight, and certainly not by imagination.

When the Hebrews arrived in Canaan, they did not find a society without religion; no, they found a people permeated with religion - false religion abundant with idols of all kinds. Idols were everywhere. In fact, when the Canaanites heard the people speak of Yahweh, the one true God, they asked to see Him. That reminds me of an incident that took place a few years ago. Some years ago a mine disaster took place in Cokesville, Pennsylvania. A young reporter was sent to cover the story. He sent in a colorful description of the event. In his wire about the story he forwarded the following words to the editor, "Cokesville, Pennsylvania, casualties number 300 tonight, God sits in the hills around Cokesville.” The editor, attacking the abuse of the language the young writer was using, stopped the transmission and said, “Forget the story. Interview God, and get a picture."

Well, the Hebrews had to tell the Canaanites that God was Spirit and it was forbidden for them to make a representation of Him to be used in worship. Turn to Psalm 115:1-13 and see an ancient record of this kind of thing actually happening, "Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. Why do the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. O house of Israel, trust in the LORD - he is their help and shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD - he is their help and shield. You who fear him, trust in the LORD - he is their help and shield. The LORD remembers us and will bless us: He will bless the house of Israel, he will bless the house of Aaron, he will bless those who fear the LORD - small and great alike."

II. The Reflection Factor

This brings me to yet another important factor related to this commandment. Note a very important part of the passage from Psalm 115. See verse 8, "Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them." We become like the one we worship. If we worship the things of this world, we become cold, hardhearted, indifferent, selfish and ruthless. A god with no heart will cause a man to act as one without a heart. But the living God conveys to the believer a godly heart.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 reads, "But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit."

We become like the One we worship. We reflect the world and its ways, or we reflect the Lord and His ways. We are to discover Him through the Spirit and the Word. Then God can change us into the image of His Son, which is His desire. We are to reflect the Savior whom we have received into our lives. No icon, picture or image can ever do that for us. God is working in us to perfect us and to accomplish all that he planned beforehand that we were to do. As believers, we must always ask if we are reflecting the image of Christ in our lives!

III. The Reliance Factor

Jeremiah 18:12-15, "But they will reply, 'It's no use. We will continue with our own plans; each of us will follow the stubbornness of his evil heart.' Therefore this is what the LORD says: ‘Inquire among the nations: Who has ever heard anything like this? A most horrible thing has been done by Virgin Israel. Does the snow of Lebanon ever vanish from its rocky slopes? Do its cool waters from distant sources ever cease to flow? Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths. They made them walk in bypaths and on roads not built up.’"

The root word translated "heart" in this passage is the word also translated in the Old Testament as imagination. It is not the idol that is the problem; it is the imagination which produces the idol that is the problem. It is not the idol that is significant, it is the heart of the idol maker that is significant. So, when we get right down to the nitty-gritty of idolatry, the problem is in the human heart. Your heart is where affection rests. Remember what Jesus said to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation. He said He had something against them because they had left their "first love”. The question is, upon what are we depending? Or, to put it another way, who is most important to us?

You can make an idol of your job. You can feel that your total security is in your job. In fact, you can feel that God's demands upon you cramp your style when it comes to your work. You can resist serving God so that you can make advancements in your career.

Your money can be your idol. You can resent God asking for His tithe and calling for your offerings. You can depend upon your money for your security. Jesus told of such a man in the New Testament. He said there was a man who said, "Soul, take thine ease, for your have much goods laid up for many years." But Jesus went on to say that the man who spoke those very words died that night and had his soul required of him. What good was his money in the hour of his death? Could it save him? Could it give him passage into God's gates in glory? Could it ease his conscience for the sins he had committed in his lifetime? Could it cleanse his old, wicked heart? The answer is, “No,” to all these questions.

You can make an idol of almost anything. Your fishing gear, your golf clubs, your home, your looks, your health, and other things can be your idol. Whatever is most important to you in this life is the thing or object of your affection and the thing which gives meaning to your life. Anything but the Lord in that place of significance in your heart is an idol!

Be sure that life and Satan will tempt you to turn to something other than God. Listen to David in Psalm 42:10-11, "My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long ,'Where is your God?' Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." Note that David would not be moved from trusting in the Living God! The world taunted him in his difficulties. It is believed that David wrote these words while across the Jordan, having been thrown out of Jerusalem by the insurrection of his son, Absalom. David thirsted for God. He thirsted for the Living God. He longed to go up to the House of God with the people of God. Yet, even as some would taunt him because of his miseries, David still believed God would deliver him. Where is your hope? Where is your faith? In the economy? In the military? In your health? In your friends? Our hope is in God, who made the heavens and the earth.

If you believe you will get by without being taunted and tried, remember Jesus. When He was in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, Satan came to Him and tempted Him saying, "If you be the Son of God, turn these stones into bread." Note that Satan taunted Jesus with the "if" issue. That is what he will do to you. "If" God is real, why are you having the problems you are having? "If" God can do anything, why doesn't He do for you what you need right now? God states that we are to trust Him in everything - in every situation. We must never turn our faith over to anything, any image, any imagination of our heart or mind.

IV. The Repercussion Factor

Another factor involved in this commandment is the danger which is inherent in it. Note that the sin of idolatry leads to the suffering of sons and daughters to the third and fourth generation. To see this firsthand, turn to 2 Chronicles 26:16. Uzziah decided to go the House of God and burn incense upon the altar. This, of course, was the duty of the priests and the king was not to take their position. But, he did so anyway. Why? Perhaps because he saw that other religions allowed the kings to burn incense to their gods, why should he not do the same to his God? The results were a judgment from God. Uzziah was smitten with leprosy and remained so till he died. His pride had caused him to act in a way, which was contrary to God's design. He was copying the world around him rather than obeying the Word of God. It was, in essence, an idolatrous act. Look at 2 Chronicles 27, and 28 (especially verse 3). Here we see the results in this family.

  • The father practiced Incorrect Worship!
  • The son practiced Indifference Worship!
  • The grandson practiced Infernal Worship!

The grandson's worship was hellish, satanic, demonic, diabolical, fiendish, evil, wicked and damned! It all started with a grandfather who got his feelings hurt at church because he wanted to worship God in his own way. It began by copying the world's idolatrous ways, and ended with a grandson who threw his children into the arms of the fire god, Moloch. It began with pride, and ended with paganism!

God knows that it is important for us not to become involved in the religion of the world. It is a form of idolatry, which leads to debauchery.

V. The Relationship Factor

God states that He is a jealous God. Is jealously a bad thing? Well, in reality there is a bad kind of jealously and a good kind of jealously. Let me give you an example. Let's say that a woman comes home and finds her husband hugging the woman from next door in a warm, close embrace. He begins to explain by saying, “Honey, this is not what you think. You see, this woman reminded me of you so much that I was just holding her close and thinking about you!” How any wives here would buy that line? That's what I thought! None of you would believe that!

A church member went to his pastor, Phillips Brooks, to tell him he was going to the Holy Land. He said that it was his intention to visit Mount Sinai. "In fact," the man told the minister, "I plan to climb to the top of that mountain and when I get there to read aloud the Ten Commandments."

Thinking this would please Dr. Brooks, the church member was surprised to hear his pastor say, "You know, I can think of something even better than that. Instead of traveling thousands of miles to read the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, why not stay right here at home and keep them?"

I read somewhere about a person who was once reading to a lady out of the Bible about what God said that He would do to those who were guilty of sin and who did not repent. She responded by saying, "Oh, my God would never do that!"

He replied, "Madam, you are right! Your god would never do that. The problem is that your god doesn't exist, except in your mind. You have created a god in your own image, according to your own liking, and now you have fallen down and worshipped him instead of the God of the Bible. Your problem is that you have committed idolatry!"

"Lord Jesus, I long to be perfectly whole

I want Thee forever to live in my soul;

Break down every idol, Cast out every foe!

NOW wash me, and I shall be Whiter than snow!”


Mike Yconelli penned these words: “Let’s - all of us - decide to stop trying to convince the world that Christianity is true because Jesus makes us prettier, happier, thinner, wealthier, bigger, more successful, more popular, healthier, stronger, and more influential than everyone else. Do we actually believe that the world is impressed with our fancy new churches, 12,000 in Sunday School, five services each morning, the "millions" who are watching on television, converted beauty queens and professional athletes, our book sales, or our crusades? The world is laughing at us--mocking us and the Jesus we supposedly are serving." -- Mike Yaconelli in The Door (Sept,/Oct.l989). Christianity Today, Vol. 34.

Note how David concludes Psalm 42, which we observed earlier. He calls the Lord, "My God." Is He your God? He can be, and He will be, if you will submit to Him right now!

To come to the true God, you cannot go by what you “think” He is or who you “image” Him to be. He is the God of the Bible. What He says, He means! He calls us to repentance that we might be saved and secure in His Son, Jesus Christ. Your sin separates you from God – come to Him now. Receive Jesus Christ into your life.