No idols

the commandments. today.

Welcome to our second instalment of looking at the 10 Commandments of Deuteronomy, and what it means to live by them today. Today, the second commandment:

‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth below, or that is in the water under the earth.’ (Deuteronomy 5:8)

The Big Idea

This commandment can seem a strange one coming straight after the first commandment which is all about not having other gods. Isn’t this one just saying the same thing with different words? No gods and no idols sounds pretty similar… But there is a difference!

Unlike the first commandment, the idols that this one talks about are meant to point people to the one true God. It was very common practice at that time for nations to consider their gods so far off and unfathomable that they would create physical representations they could bow down to physically. They weren’t the real thing; they pointed to the real thing.

But God said no to that practice. Not to make things to use in place of Him. Just go straight to Him, no inbetweener.

For us today, that same temptation can occur. We know that we shouldn’t put anything in God’s place – money, sex, power and all those things that distract us from God. But what about the things that are meant to help us draw near to God? Church. The Bible. Prayer. Our spiritual or religious activities. The danger can be that these start off as means to draw near to God and then we end up bowing down to them, making them the main thing, and things get out of kilter. To obey the second commandment now is to avoid that attitude in the way we approach God and the things that draw us to Him.

Obeying it Today

How then do we put this commandment into practice?

Don't let religion trump God

Bible reading is a crucial part of Christian discipleship. But the Bible is not God. Being part of a church family, rooted in Christian community, is a command for those who follow Jesus, but church is not God. Our spiritual disciplines, like prayer and fasting, are beautiful, and exercising spiritual gifts is essential for the building up of us all, but none of these practices is an end in themself.

God alone is the end we must be pursuing. Sometimes we let the means that we use to seek Him become the non-negotiables. So what would you not be willing to let go of? Why do you do the ‘spiritual’ things you do? Where would you most be in danger of elevating something from the means to the end? We can all be guilty of this sometimes, and it’s good to examine ourselves.

Don't put your theology on the throne

Without knowing your theology at all, there’s one thing that is certain: you aren’t right about everything! None of us has the complete picture, and we will never have our understanding of God complete this side of heaven. That is not to say we should not passionately pursue what is good and right and true – we must! But we must also recognise the dangers. It is possible to enthrone our theology when it should only ever point us to the One sat on the throne.

So when was the last time you changed your mind? When was the last time you examined your beliefs? How open are you to God shaping and shifting your view of Him to make it more pure?

Some things we can do…

  • Deliberately change our habits. If you have been used to doing things in a certain way for a long time, stretch yourself and shake it up. It could be as simple as sitting somewhere different in a church service! Make sure it is the Lord that you are seeking, not the habit that you are keeping.
  • Learn from those who are different. Whether different theology or different traditions and practices, look for the good. It won’t necessarily change your theology or practices, but looking for the good in others is a great way to remind ourselves that how we understand and mediate God isn’t the perfect way.
  • Take ourselves a little less seriously! There’s nothing wrong with recognising our limitations and be ok with not having everything neatly sewn up.