“THE SECOND COMMANDMENT
In the generations after the first couple’s reimaging of God, man’s perceptions of Him were further assailed by the influences of false religions and idolatry, which were literally perfected to an art form. That is why when God gave the Ten Commandments, first and foremost He established what was most important to us-the true knowledge of Himself.
It is no coincidence that the revered law of Moses begins with the imperative to protect our thoughts of God and to keep them worthy of Him. Revealing His holy character, God commanded, “You shall have no other gods before Me. 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 20:3-4).
In these first two commandments, God revealed what is most important to us; namely, our supreme commitment to the true knowledge of who He is. They are like interconnecting links in an unbreakable chain. In the first commandment, God prohibits us from worshiping other gods; in the second, He forbids us to distort the true picture of God by any physical or mental representations of Him.
Any man-made likeness of God inevitably falls short of His infinite perfection, and so distorts His glorious being. Anything man makes to represent God, whether it is an inanimate idol or other visual representation of deity, will always defile the true knowledge of God. A departure from these commandments-truly the pivotal, watershed commandments-only leads down the destructive path of dishonoring God.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER
This sin of creating man-made likenesses of God is not limited to making physical idols or representations of Him. It also includes the ones we can so easily and sometimes unknowingly set up in our hearts and minds. We can violate the second commandment not only with our hands, but worse, with our hearts and minds.
This is true with each of the Ten Commandments. God tells us through the Scriptures that the inner life-the condition of our hearts- is more important than the outer life. The Bible tells us:
For from it flow the springs of life.
The heart is most important because it controls everything about us.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated that each of the Ten Commandments was menat to be a matter of our hearts (Matthew 5:21-30). The Lord taught that murder can be committed not only by taking another life, but also by hating another person (vv.21-24). Likewise, He pointed out that adultery can be committed not only through unlawful overt sexual activity, but also within one’s own heart (vv. 27-30).
In similar fashion, while the second commandment directly prohibits fabricating a physical idol with one’s hands, it also prohibits crafting unworthy thoughts of God in our hearts and minds. The former implies the latter, and the external implies the internal. Therefore, whenever we think untrue thoughts of God, whenever we allow unscriptural pictures of God to hang in our hearts, we forge idols on the anvils of our minds, resulting in demeaning caricatures of the divine.
Low thoughts of God are as blasphemous as wooden, man-made idols. They are deadly poison to our faith and destroy our true knowledge of God. The distorting of the true deity is a serious sin, so serious in the Old Testament economy that it brought God’s curse (Deuteronomy 27:15).
THE “NEW” IDOLATRY
This sin is not one that is limited to the Old Testament times. In fact, I believe we see the second commandment violated in many ways today. As God’s people, it is our job to safeguard the true knowledge of Him; but in many ways we have let down our guard and allowed wrong views of God to be hung in the corridors of our minds. Instead of protecting our hearts and minds, we have allowed every influence imaginable to alter our picture of God, resulting in distorted, dishonoring images of Him. This has a devastating effect on the church today.”
(Steven Lawson, Made in Our Image: The Fallacy of the User-Friendly God, Chapter 3, Reducing the Irreducible: The Distortion of God, Part 2, pp. 47-49)