The Second Commandment
The preamble to the Law tells us why God has chosen us and why he loves us. The first commandment defines how much God actually loves us. Now it is time to move on to the second commandment.
- There are some branches of the Church who leave the second commandment out of their list of the Ten Commandments. They go straight from “You shall have not other gods before me” to “You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain.” However the second commandment is still in all the critically accepted versions of the Bible. This is the most misunderstood of the commandments. Many people assume that pagans who worship idols are breaking the second commandment but they are, in fact, breaking the first commandment by worshipping other gods.
- Have you ever wondered why the universe is so big when we don’t really need that much space to live our lives? Any individual, even a king or a president, is insignificant next to the entire population of the earth. The entire population of the earth, added together is insignificant when compared to the land on earth and there is more water than land. The earth is a small planet in the solar system and is tiny when compared to the sun. Our sun is a small stare in the Milky Way galaxy and out galaxy is a small galaxy when compared to the thousands of galaxies in the universe. Yet the Lord from heaven created this entire universe in just six days just by giving commands. When the six days were over the Lord rested because there was nothing left to do, not because he was tired. The only reason He took six days to create the world was to give us a chance to have a day of rest on the seventh day. In this context, the entire universe is extremely small when compared to the Lord Himself. The reason we have a large universe is to give us an inadequate understanding of the greatness of our God. We can never overestimate God or his majesty. A person could spend their entire lives trying to understand God and they would only scratch the surface of God’s greatness.
- The second commandment is about reducing God in our own minds. When Moses was meeting God on the mountain Aaron made an idol for the people. He took their gold and formed it into a molten calf and told the people, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt.” He was breaking the second commandment at this stage, not the first. However, it doesn’t take a long time after breaking the second commandment to breaking the first commandment. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, did the same thing soon after the division of the kingdom. He built two golden calves because he was afraid that the people would not be loyal to him if they went up to Jerusalem to worship. He made two golden calves, on at Bethel and the other at Dan. He told Israel that these golden calves were the gods that brought them up from the Land of Egypt.
- It didn’t take long for Israel to worship other gods but at first they broke the second commandment rather than the first commandment.
- The idea behind the second commandment is reducing the size of our God (see 2 Chron 2: 6). God is all powerful and absolutely majestic so it is important that we don’t consider God to be less than He is.
- The two examples of breaking the second commandment show how this is the beginning of a slide away from following the Lord to complete disobedience. The Israelis who worshipped the idols at the foot of Sinai were the same people who refused to go into the Land because they were afraid of the giants who were in the Land. If they had kept a proper view of God they would not have been so quick to sin against the Lord. In the second case Jeroboam was always associated with causing Israel to sin. He reduced God to someone who could be manipulated to ensure that he could keep the kingdom that he had been given by God. If this king had chosen to trust the Lord instead of his own ability to scheme and manipulate he may well have kept the kingdom for his descendants.
- This commandment tells Israel that there is nothing in heaven or on the earth or under the water under the earth that is remotely like God and could be made into an image of God. The Lord reminds Israel of His jealous nature. Again, this is not a matter of God being human, weak and sinless but God loving Israel with a deep and abiding love. If God loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31: 3) then we need to appreciate the extent of that love. If we reduce God in our minds then we reduce our appreciation of His love and we lose respect for God.
- There is a contrast to the two examples of breaking the second commandment: there are many great heroes of the OT who had visions of the Lord, High and Mighty and Lifted Up. In each case these men and women were useful in God’s kingdom because they understood that our relationship with God is not a matter of being great men or women for God but simply being men and women of the Great God.
This commandment is simply a given for Christians. Even though we don’t have to obey the Law, we still need to observe the preamble. Why would anyone want to come to the Lord and accept the Salvation that He offers if He isn’t able to do much for us. All the other religions of the world are based on earning our own eternal life so if we just come to a god who tells us it is a matter of doing what everyone else does then we really have no reason to follow this God. Wouldn’t it be better for us to define what is important ourselves than trusting someone else to tell us what to do? However, the Lord offers us something that carries on beyond the grave (Matt 10: 28).
The early disciples met and talked to the risen Lord Jesus. This made a huge difference to their lives because they were impressed by His Majesty. Not long after the Risen Lord returned to heaven the Holy Spirit came to live within the early Christians. The Holy Spirit worked in their lives but there was a synergy associated with their vision of the Lord’s majesty. The Holy Spirit brought everything the Lord taught them to their minds so that they were able to see the Holy Spirit do a mighty work in the early Church.
The first chapter of Romans has something to say about people who don’t respect God as God and give Him the honour he deserves. Men suppress the truth about God, even though there is plenty of information available to tell us Who God is in God’s creation. Everything about God’s nature is there for us to see. However, there are many people who don’t honour God as God or thank Him for His goodness and love. These people say that they are wise but as soon as they break the second commandment and reduce God to something less that God they actually becomes fools. When a person decided to reduce God in their own minds the Lord abandons them to the lusts of their hearts and their bodies are dishonoured. After this they become degraded.
It is vitally important for every Christian to understand and submit themselves to the True God Who rules the universe in power and love. The Lord Jesus told his disciples, and us, that if any person wants to be one of His followers they must first deny themselves and take up their crosses. The Lord Jesus doesn’t ask us to do anything that He wasn’t willing to do Himself. He humiliated Himself more than any of us will ever understand. He came from His position as the Lord of heaven to take the form of a servant. This humiliation was so great but he was dedicated to saving sinners.
There are many people in the church today who have got the idea that our wants and desires are the most important issue but the real issue is the fact that Christ has done everything for us and we don’t need anything else. In spite of this, He still loves us.