This is the second in a 10-part series that focuses on the covenant law of Yah which was inscribed on tablets of stone at Mount Sinai. What do these laws really mean and how are we to keep them?
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While the first commandment focuses on our loyalty to Yah, requiring us to place him first and foremost in our lives in all aspects, the second commandment focuses on worship, and specifically the worship of inanimate objects, or idols that can be made by our own hands. Both the first and second commandment would fall into the category of idolatry. Let’s start with the first part of the second commandment:
4 You shall not make unto yourself 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. . . .
If we stop here at the first clause in this commandment, it would seem that no physical object can be made whatsoever, be it artistic, practical, or what have you. Since this part of the commandment stresses that no graven image can be made, and the type of image isn’t specified, this covers a broad range of items, not just representations of beings in heaven, or animals and plant life on earth and in the sea.
But when we read farther into the sentence, we see specifics regarding these objects:
5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them . . . .
We are not to serve these objects. We have to fully understand this point before moving on, because some will take this sentence and add requirements to it. The commandment does not tell us that we are forbidden from making objects, or depictions of what can be found in heaven or in nature; we are simply told not to worship these things.
If we were commanded to not make any such thing, then Yah’s instructions to Moses concerning items that were to be made and placed in the tabernacle would have had those items made and placed there in violation of his own law. One example is the order to make two images of heavenly messengers to be placed above the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant:
18 And you shall make two cherubim of gold, of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat.
That being said, the children of Israel fell into the habit of worshipping objects, which was the practice of many heathen nations at the time. And of course our ancestors were quick to adopt heathen customs.
16 (For you know how we have dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the nations which you passed by; 17 And you have seen their abominations, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were among them:)
The children of Israel, our ancestors, caused their hearts to turn away from Yah by reason of the idols they worshipped. But this wasn’t something they snatched out of the air and started practicing; it came from observing the actions of the nations around them. This is something we are guilty of today, but this kind of worship doesn’t involve bowing down physically, and the idols have been updated to fit modern times.
While this law still pertains to age-old bowing down and worshipping statues, and so forth, the worship of idols also involves much more. It is really a heart condition; the worship of any kind of idol turns the heart away from Yah. This is what Yeshua was referring to when he spoke of storing up treasure.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Objects in and of themselves are harmless; it is the value we place upon them that makes them dangerous to us. That is when we allow our hearts to stray from Yah. In the parable of the sower, Yeshua used the third seed circumstance to represent the condition of the heart that applies to the idolater.
3 And he spoke many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow . . . 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them . . .
18 Hear you therefore the parable of the sower. . . .
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that hears the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches block us from experiencing Yah. These things create a heart condition in us that bears no righteous fruit. This is also highlighted by the encounter with the rich young man:
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why do you call me good? there is none good but one, that is, Elohim: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He said unto him, Which? Yeshua said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
20 The young man said unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Yeshua said unto him, If you will be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 Then said Yeshua unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
A few points have to be made with regard to this encounter. For one thing, having riches is not in and of itself a problem, if the riches do not consume the heart of the one who is rich. King Solomon himself was rich beyond compare:
23 So king Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.
—1 Kings 10
But his riches are not counted as the thing that turned his heart away from Yah:
1 But king Solomon loved many foreign women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites;
2 Of the nations concerning which Yah said unto the children of Israel, You shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their deities: Solomon clung unto these in love.
3 And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart.
4 For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other deities: and his heart was not perfect with Yah his Elohim, as was the heart of David his father.
—1 Kings 11
So again, the worship of idols comes down to a heart condition. One’s heart is essentially filled with adoration and desire and longing for these things, and this in effect takes the place of Yah. This is true of any item that we might hold near and dear: vehicles, houses, toys, electronic devices, wealth, land, and any and all possible possessions we might come upon in this world.
We have to be ready to give it up and go when he says go. And in the case of money, which allows us to accumulate all these possessions, if one allows money itself to consume them, they in effect become a servant of money, and Yah cannot be served along with money.
24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve Elohim and money.
And the more money people have, the more possessions they will gather for themselves. In the encounter with the rich young man, we are told that “he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” This is where the problem lies for all those who cling to their possessions. Their possessions become their crutch; their deity.
They see the things around them as a safeguard, and it stems from the cares of this world. Because of our fear of going hungry, we store up food beyond measure. We have bigger houses than we need, more clothes and shoes than we need, and the same can be said of most any possessions. This being the rich young man’s one weakness, he was asked to give them up.
One does not have to be rich to worship money or possessions. The cares of this world lead to the love and worship of money and possessions, and Matthew 6 verse 25 tells us how to guard against this:
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?
This teaches us to trust in Yah and not possessions, or money.
28 He that trusts in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.
In fact there is great danger in chasing wealth:
20 A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that makes haste to be rich shall not go unpunished.
4 Labor not to be rich: cease from your own wisdom.
In one of the letters of John we read:
15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
—1 John 2
Then John describes what is in the world:
16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
—1 John 2
The lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes: these all stem from the heart. We see and we instantly want. This is what Israel did when they looked around at the heathen nations with their beautiful gold and silver idols. This is what we do today when we envy those around us and we long for their lifestyle. This is primarily what leads to idolatry.
Repeatedly Israel was warned to not follow after the heathen nations around them and adopt their practices. Here is one such warning:
29 When Yah your Elohim shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you displace them, and dwell in their land;
30 Take heed to yourself that you are not snared by following them, after they are destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their deities, saying, How did these nations serve their deities? even so will I do likewise.
31 You shall not do so unto Yah your Elohim: for every abomination to Yah, which he hates, have they done unto their deities; for even their sons and their daughters they have burned in the fire to their deities.
32 Whatsoever thing I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor take away from it.
Despite these warnings, Israel still followed after the practices of the nations around them.
34 They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom Yah commanded them:
35 But were mixed among the nations, and learned their works. 36 And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. 37 Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons. . . .
And since we have been in the land of our captors, the descendants of our slave masters, we have been copying their heathen practices as well. We long for unnecessary possessions, wealth, and fame. And we idolize the very items they create, and we give many of those items to our children and teach them to idolize these things as well. And they too grow up longing for many possessions.
But Yeshua warned against this:
15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses.
So in closing, we will reiterate the full commandment that relates to idol worship:
4 You shall not make unto yourself 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:
5 You shall not bow down yourself to them, nor serve them: for I Yah your Elohim am a jealous Elohim, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Whatever possessions you feel you cannot live without, the ones you find hard to walk away from, those are the idols you are bowing down to.
Keywords: the ten commandments, 10 commandments , the second commandment, covenant law, understanding the covenant, putting yah first, idolatry, the idolator, idol worship, the rich young man