The 10 Commandments: The 2nd Commandment

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

~ Ex 20:4-6

God wants a relationship with us. We were created in His image so we can on some level understand Him. He gave us language to convey meaning, and He uses words to transmit information to us about Him. Sometimes, though, we neglect our relationship with God. We fail to make Him the most important thing in our lives. By definition, God is elevated above us and should be most important. The respect that He deserves is to be treated as God and to not elevate other things to His level.

Often, we speak of making idols of things. In one sense, that may be true. We worship cars, money, houses, relationships and even ourselves. I would argue, however, that these things are not really idols so much as it is making gods out of material things. We are breaking the 1st Commandment by elevating material things to God’s level. This devalues our idea of God and shows disrespect towards Him.

It is also disrespectful towards Him to not acknowledge His presence by displacing Him. That’s what an idol does. It stands in between God and man. Because God is invisible (Col 1:15), we can feel the need to rely upon something that is tangible to relate to God. However, God has made it clear that we cannot just make up our own rules to honor Him (Dt 12:29-32). Instead, we are to worship in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). It would be like me creating a cardboard cut-out of you and then having a conversation with it instead of you. Our relationship would undoubtedly suffer as a result.

We are not to bow down or serve idols, whether they are supposed to represent the real God or not. Even the physical act of bowing down to an idol is offensive to God. Many claim to be Christians, but they will bow down in front of statues or the cross. This is not pleasing to God. He says He is a “jealous God”. In Exodus 34:14, He even says “Whose name is Jealous”. “Jealous” comes from “qanna’” (Strong’s H7067). It is only used of God! It means He will not bear any rival.

“Qanna'” is closely related to “qana”, which is used in the KJV for the jealousy of a human being. Both have the same root word “qana'”. It sometimes refers to the jealousy of a husband. It is that deep rooted. We must remember that God married Israel. God and Israel were in a covenant relationship. These people voluntarily agreed to God’s covenant with them. The language used was that of a marriage covenant. That’s how close God wanted to be with His people!

Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you

~ Jer 3:14

Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.

~ Jer 2:2

Let us not forget that Jesus will come back to marry His bride the Church.

Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.

~ Rev 19:7-9

God created both Adam and Eve in His image. He created 2 humans, not 1 and not 3. He created a bond in marriage between them. This is to be a type of the relationship we have with Him. It is to be a close, personal and intimate relationship. Human beings are physically and emotionally close. God, however, knows the hearts. How much closer can you get than that?

God has set up a system of checks and balances in the world. Sin has consequences. There is a cause for every effect we see in the world. There is a (singular) cause for wars, epidemics, droughts, famines, poverty and oppression. That cause is sin. Adam and Eve took it upon themselves the right to decide right from wrong and good from evil. God has intervened as necessary throughout history, but He has mostly allowed human beings to suffer the consequences of rejecting Him and His revelations. These consequences are often passed down generation to generation. In 1874, prison officials noticed that there were 6 members of the same family in prison at the same time1. They did some research and found the common ancestor born in 1720. He was the town drunk and troublemaker. Of his 1,200 descendants in 1874, 310 were homeless, 160 were prostitutes, 180 were abusers of drugs or alcohol and 150 spent time in prison.

However, this cycle of sin can be broken through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus came to save us from our sins and break the bonds of slavery. We can become new creatures in Christ. God promises through the 2nd Commandment to show us mercy if we will throw away our idols that stand between us and God and come to Him directly.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

~ Heb 4:16



  1. Greg Thomas, “Can You Break the Cycle of Generational Dysfunction?“, The Good News, November/December 2007, p 16.

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