The Ten Commandments (2): “Thou shalt not make any graven image … ” (Exodus 20:4-6).

The ten commandments don’t begin with “Thou shalt … “. They begin with a statement concerning who God is – “I am the Lord your God” – and what God has done for his people – “I  … brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exodus 20:1). It is in this context – the God of salvation and his mighty work of salvation – that we’re to understand the ten commandments.

When we read the first commandment – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”, we must understand that there can be no other gods before him, for he, alone, is the God of salvation. Similarly, when we read the claim that the New Testament makes for Jesus Christ – God has given him “the Name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9), we, gladly, acknowledge that no name can be exalted above the Name of Jesus Christ, for this Name, alone, is the Name of our salvation. We worship Jesus Christ as the Lord, whose “Name is above every name” because we rejoice in this Good News – “There is salvation in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

This is the great context in which we move from the first commandment – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” – to the second commandment – “Thou shalt not make any graven images.”

Once you acknowledge that God, alone, is the God of salvation, that he is the only God whom you will worship and serve, you must learn what God is like. Who is this God, in whom we believe? It is vital that we turn to the Scriptures to learn of God – who he is and all that he has done for us. If you do not allow God’s Word to teach to teach you the truth concerning God, you will be led astray, drawn away from the true God, the God of salvation. It is so important that you learn what God is like, building your life on the truth, which is found in God’s Word.

Once you’ve received the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour, you must seek to grow in your knowledge of him. You must let the teaching of the Bible – God’s written Word, concerning Jesus Christ, form the solid foundation for your life. What is the alternative to building on Jesus Christ? What is the alternative to building on God’s Word? What was the alternative which faced God’s people, Israel, as they travelled from Egypt to the promised land? – false gods, graven images. What happens when we take our eyes off Jesus Christ, when we stop learning of him, as we read the Word of God? Something else takes the place of Jesus Christ. Our way of thinking and our way of living will not be grounded in the written Word of God. We may continue to have our own ideas about God and Christ, but they will not be based on the teaching of God’s Word. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We must continue to feed our faith, as we read God’s written Word.

When we’re thinking about “graven images”, we should also think about mental images – misleading ideas about God and Jesus, ideas that are not grounded in the teaching of the Bible – God’s written Word. When we allow false views of God to get into our minds and influence our way of living, we will be led away from the Lord. We must not allow this to happen.

We must guard against the idea that God is like a heavenly Santa Claus, and we must, also, guard against the idea that he is like a heavenly policeman.

What are we to say about these ideas of God? How are we to guard against them?

* a heavenly Santa Claus

We rejoice in the fact that God loves us. He is “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4). He saves us by his grace (Ephesians 2:5,8). We must never doubt that God loves us, but we must be clear about what we mean when we say, “God loves us.” Once we accept that God loves us, we must ask, “What does the Bible teach us about God’s love?” We should not imagine that God is like a heavenly Santa Claus, a wonderful old grandfather who always gives us exactly what we want at exactly the time we want it. Plenty of people would like to think that this is what God is like – but this is not what the Word of God teaches us to believe. God loves us. We should never doubt this – but there is something else that needs to be said: his love calls for our response. We are called to follow Jesus – to live as his disciples.

* a heavenly policeman

Is God like a heavenly policeman? – someone who is always watching us to see if we’re doing something wrong. We know that God see what we’re really like – but we should, also, emphasize that he’s more concerned with doing us good than catching us out. A good illustration is found in John 8:1-11, where the Pharisees concern themselves with catching out the woman, who was caught in adultery – but Jesus was very different – he forgave her and gave her a new start in life, When we think of God as a heavenly policeman, who’s trying to catch us out, we will complain when things aren’t going well for us. We will say, “It’s all God’s fault.” This is the way some people think about God. The Bible encourages us to believe that, when we turn to the Lord, he can make things so much better for us. He can turn burdens into blessings, obstacles into opportunities, problems into possibilities and tragedies into triumphs. Life can be so much better when we stop blaming God and start trusting him to do great things in and through us.

If you are going to have a true image of God, you must keep your eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). As you look to Jesus, you will discover that he loves you and he calls for your love. As you receive his love and give your love to him, you will discover his wonderful purpose for you life; “Let go and let god have his wonderful way. Let go and let God have his way. Forsake all the idols and pleasures that sway. Let go and let God have his wonderful way”    (Baylus Benjamin McKinney).

If you let go and let God, your life will be transformed – renewed in the image of your Creator (Colossians 3:10) and conformed to the image of Christ, your Saviour (Romans 8:29).

Let your thinking about God be changed as you learn from his Word – and your life will be changed, as you learn to love your Saviour.

6 thoughts on “The Ten Commandments (2): “Thou shalt not make any graven image … ” (Exodus 20:4-6).

  1. Pingback: The Ten Commandments (2): “Thou shalt not make any graven image … ” (Exodus 20:4-6). — Learning From God’s Word – Averagechristiannet

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