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The 10 Commandments #2 - Take God as He is

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Text: Exodus 20:4-6


Thesis: To note that there are no substitutes for God.




(1)  Illustration – There is a temple in Kyoto, Japan, called “The Temple of the Thousand Buddhas.” Inside, there are 1,000 statues of Buddha, each one slightly different than any of the others in the temple so that the worshiper can go in, find the image of Buddha that looks most like himself, and worship that one.

(2)  The “first command insists on God’s preeminence over everything else in our lives … the second command goes a step further to command us not to degrade God by comparing Him to anything that exists” (L. Lawson, The Ten Commandments 33).




I.                   The Command

A.   Text: “You shall not make for yourself an idol” (v. 4)

1.     “Make” comes from a Hebrew word (asah) that means to “cut or shape” (WBC).

2.     “Two common words for ‘idol’ appear: pesel (here ‘idol’) and tĕmûnāh (here ‘likeness’), the use of the two synonyms suggesting ‘any sort of idol’” (NAC).

3.     “Similarly, ‘any sort of thing’ is prohibited from being depicted—thus the somewhat elaborate and obviously comprehensive delineation of prohibited sources for copying: ‘heaven above, earth beneath, waters below.’ In other words, nothing from anywhere can be copied and used as an object of veneration” (NAC).

4.     “Nothing created can serve to represent him, not even in the whole range of the created order, from top to bottom, and even in the realms of the mythopoeic creatures, in the heavens above and in the waters below the earth, because Yahweh has made everything and every being. He is in a way in them all, but, what is more important, he is beyond them all” (WBC).

5.     “In the Israelite view any symbolic representation of God must necessarily be both inadequate and a distortion, for an image becomes identified with what it represents and is soon looked upon as the place and presence of the Deity. In the end the image itself will become the locus of reverence and an object of worship, all of which constitutes the complete nullification of the singular essence of Israelite monotheism” (JPSTC).

6.     Idolatry is “worshiping anything that ought to be used or using anything that ought to be worshiped” (Augustine).

a.     This may be practiced by worship of false gods.

b.     Also, this may be practiced by false worship of the true God.

B.   Application:

1.     There is no substitute for God.

2.     However, people have and will continue to attempt to replace God with their perceptions and desires.

3.     Further, consider the folly of idols:

a.     Isaiah described a person who cut down a tree and made an idol only then to bow before it saying, “Deliver me, for you are my God” (Isa. 44:17).

b.     Jeremiah correctly observed: “There is none like You, O Lord, You are great and great is Your name in might” (Jer. 10:6).

II.                The Reason

A.   Text: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” (v. 5a.)

1.     “Jealous” comes from a Hebrew word (qanna) that carries a meaning of becoming “intensely red” (BDB).

2.     The same word is used referring to God in other passages:

a.     Exod. 34:14 – “Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”

b.     Deut. 4:24 – “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

c.      Deut. 5:9 – Restating the 10 commandments

d.     Deut. 6:15 – “For the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and He will destroy you from the face of the land.”

3.     The LXX uses a Greek word (zelotes), which means “one who is earnestly committed to a side or cause” (BDAG).

4.     Kittel’s observes: “This jealous zeal is not a mood but belongs to God's very essence. It turns against Israel in case of disobedience (Dt. 32:19) but may also work in her favor (Ezek. 39:25). It is bound up with the manifestation of God's omnipotent reality (Ezek. 39:28).”

B.   Application:

1.     God is crazy about us.

2.     He will not settle for second place.

III.             The Consequence

A.   Text: “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me” (v. 5b.)

1.     What this does not mean = Inherited Sin

a.     Deut. 24:16 – “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.”

b.     Ezek. 18:20 – “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.”

2.     What this does mean = Continual Consequence

a.     Note: “to the third and fourth generation” = “idiomatic in Hb. for ‘whatever number’ or ‘plenty of’; cf. Amos 1:3, 6, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6; Prov 30:15, 18, 21, 29” (NAC).

b.     “God will indeed punish generation after generation if they keep doing the same sorts of sins that prior generations did. If the children continue to do the sins their parents did, they will receive the same punishments as their parents” (NAC).

c.      We know that Israel was eventually punished for idolatry by Babylonian Captivity because she continued to persist in it.

d.     Also, God “can permit the sad consequences of those sins to affect future generations, physically, mentally, and spiritually” (Wiersbe).

B.   Application:

1.     We will also be punished one day if we turn to idols.

2.     However, if we stay true to God we will be blessed forever.

a.     “The rabbis were quick to point out the contrast between God’s boundless beneficence and the limited extent of His punishment” (JPSTC).

b.     “‘Thousands’ might better be read ‘an innumerable descendancy,’ as the emphasis is upon the progeny of faithfulness and Yahweh’s unending goodness to them all” (WBC).




(1)  In Exodus 32, the Israelites made a golden calve while Moses was gone because they wanted a visual representation of God.

(2)  Will we learn to take God as He is?

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