Exploring the 10 Commandments: The Second Command

Contributing Writer
Exploring the 10 Commandments: The Second Command

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth” (Exodus 20:4).

The word idol in this verse is pesel. In the Hebrew it is translated, “A graven image, or a carved image.”

There are still cultures and religions around the world today that worship physical idols. This was absolutely seen in Exodus 32 when the Israelites became weary of waiting on Moses to return from the Mountain, and decided to create their own god out of their golden jewelry. Sadly, verse 4 says, “Then they said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’”

As we approach the second commandment, may we remember that even if we are not physically fashioning an idol to worship, that our hearts can quickly turn towards other gods to fill spaces where we neglect to trust Jesus. As we come with confession and repentance, we know that Christ’s love leads us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.

Today we will study the second commandment: You shall not make for yourself an idol.

The Difference Between the 1st and 2nd Commandment

You might be asking the question, “What is the difference between having no other gods and not making for yourself an idol?” The first and second commandments go hand in hand. John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” Jesus is the I Am. He is the only way to heaven. He is the only one worthy of our worship.

However, the second commandment builds upon the first. The Gospel Coalition shares, “The second commandment is similar and tells us that we are not to worship God according to our own conception of God, what the Bible calls idolatry. We must worship God according to who he is and not according to what we want him to be. In other words, do not worship false gods, and do not worship God falsely.”

This is a wonderful definition. We have to be extremely careful not to use God’s name to fit a god that we want Him to be. We have to be very cautious not to create our own savior and say that it is based on Jesus and the Bible. Only God defines Himself. We also have to recognize if there are other false gods we are worshiping in our lives.

What Is an Idol?

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become  corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt’’” (Exodus 32:7-8).

The Israelites were trying to apply God’s work and power to a golden calf. We notice that they were quick to turn away. They made an image and tried to apply the Lord to it. They bowed to it, sacrificed to it, and said that it brought them up out of Egypt. Is this not just like the enemy? He leads us to doubt God, become impatient with Him, and then try to redefine Him.

I cannot help but be burdened by the many people who claim to follow Jesus today, yet they have said that He says things He never said, or believe that He supports sins that He has never supported. It can be so discouraging to live in a culture that truly does not worship Jesus, the Word and the Way. But we cannot lose heart.

I was reminded today in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 that it says “we are perplexed, but not in despair.” God is still on the throne. He sees the evil that the enemy is working in the world through people. He knows the truth. He still has the victory and He still is returning one day to make all things new.

Until then though, we know that we too are susceptible to the enemy’s tactics. We can easily doubt, become impatient and try to redefine God.

A Real-World Example

Doubt: Did God ever actually say…

Impatience: I’m tired of not fitting in or holding back how I actually feel…

Redefine: This specific thing was never written in the Bible and plus Jesus hung out with sinners… (Making Jesus who we want Him to be)

The Answer: Does this show love and honor to God and other people? Our greatest commandments are to love God and love people. Even if someone said that something is a “gray topic,” I would always lean on the side of holiness to honor Christ than to push the limits to do what I want. Because let’s face it, I am a sinner.

4 Ways to be Guarded against Idols

1. Be on high alert with the help of the Holy Spirit. Social media profiles for example, can quickly become idol worship platforms for ourselves or others.

2. Take our questions to God before doubting Him leads to impatience. The Lord cares about our thoughts and emotions. He wants to hear from us. The best decision that we can make is to call out to Him in our struggles and questions.

3. Notice any lies that you believe about the Lord or yourself. Ask the Spirit to help protect you from believing those lies that lead you into sin.

4. Live a life of repentance. Be humble always. Remain faithful to confess your sins and thank Jesus for what He has done for you. This will help you avoid making yourself into your own “god.”

Possible idols to think through include:

  • Phone
  • TV
  • Popularity/Fame
  • Social Media
  • Ministries
  • Family
  • Friends
  • Hobbies/Sports
  • Celebrities
  • Food
  • Comfort
  • Fashion
  • Cars
  • Prestige/Money
  • Grades/Awards

The Ten Commandments List

Commandments 1-4

Thou shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images. (Exodus 20:4-6)\Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Commandments 5-10

Honor your father and mother. (Exodus 20:12)

Thou shalt not murder. (Exodus 20:13)

Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)

Thou shalt not steal. (Exodus 20:15)

Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

Thou shall not covet your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17)

Jesus summed up all of the 10 Commandments. As we look at commandments 1-4 they are vertical, about our relationship with God. (Love the Lord your God.) As we look at commandments 5-10, they are horizontal, about our relationship with others. (Love your neighbor as yourself.)

This week, may we live in His power to trust Him, ask Him any questions we are wrestling through, and turn away from any idols in our lives. This can often take more than a moment of prayer. Sometimes we need accountability and an action plan. Consider seeking help from a trusted mentor or friend to break free of any idol-making in your life.

Related article:
Exploring the 10 Commandments: The First Command

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/sakchai vongsasiripat

Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and mom to Graham. Emma serves alongside her husband in ministry, she focuses most of her time in the home, but loves to provide articles on the Bible, life questions, and Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 on Crosswalk in 2021. Most recently, Emma released Treasures for Tots, (Scripture memory songs) and multiple books and devotionals for young children. During her ministry career, Emma has released Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness, two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, and ran the Refined Magazine. You can view her articles on her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com and check out her Instagram @Emmadanzey.