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2nd Commandment

2nd Commandment

July 14, 2024 by Pastor David Hubbard
Passages:Exodus 20:4

Sermon Synopsis

Exodus 20:4
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.
RE-IMAGINING
The conference that was held was called “Re-Imagining,
” and it
certainly lived up to its name. The people gathered in Minneapolis
Minnesota to re-imagine nearly every aspect of the Christian faith.
Billed as “A Global Theological Conference for Women,
” it was
linked with the World Council of Churches and received funding
from several major denominations.
Prayer was re-imagined. Instead of prayer in the name of Jesus
Christ, a group prayer ended with the words,
“through the power
and guidance of the spirit of wisdom, whom we name Sophia.”
The Lord’s Supper was re-imagined. Instead of serving bread and
wine as tokens of Jesus’ body and blood, they served milk and
honey in celebration of Sophia. They praised and thanked Sophia
for “the nourishment of your milk and honey” and “the sharing of
this holy manna.”
Jesus was also re-imagined, obviously. He became a she. God was to
be found not in a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth, but in a vaguely
feminine entity called Sophia, the Greek word for wisdom which
conveniently happens to be a feminine name.
At other times, Jesus was re-imagined not so much as a goddess,
but as a part of nature. A Chinese feminist claimed,
“If we cannot
imagine Jesus as a tree, as a river, as wind, and as rain, we are
doomed together.” Another speaker advised: If you feel very tired
and you don’t have any energy to give, what you do is … go to a big
tree and ask it to,
‘give me some of your life energy.’” (Ironically,
though, there was one tree you shouldn’t go to for help: the cross of
Calvary.)
Salvation through Jesus’ death was re-imagined. A womanist
professor of theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York,
said,
“I don’t think we need a theory of atonement at all.
Atonement has to do so much with death. I don’t think we need
folks hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff. We do
not need atonement, we just need to listen to the god within.”
The name and nature of God were re-imagined. A female Lutheran
pastor, openly said,
“Some would call our worship of last night
verging on heresy… We did not last night, name the name of Jesus.
Nor have we done anything in the name of the Father, and of the
Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Her statement reportedly was followed
by laughter and cheers.
Christian sexual morals were re-imagined. A Lesbian theologian
said,
“Imagine sex among friends as the norm… Imagine, just
imagine… Pleasure is our birthright of which we have been robbed
in religious patriarchy. It is time to claim it anew with our friends.”
Another lesbian minister said that her theology is first of all
informed by having intimate relations with her lesbian partner. She
said,
“Sexuality and spirituality have to come together—and
Church, we’re going to teach you.” The co-founder of Christian
Lesbians Out Together (CLOUT), asked for a time to celebrate “the
miracle of being lesbian, out, and Christian.” Then she invited all
other lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual women to join hands and
encircle the stage. Many in the audience stood to applaud.
In all of this, divine revelation was re-imagined. Leaders of Church
Women United reacted to criticism of the conference by insisting on
“the absolute right of women to develop theological
understandings rooted in their own realities and experiences.”
Apparently, a book inspired by God won’t tell us as much about
God as “the realities and experiences” of women committed to the
agenda of radical feminism.
When news of all this re-imagining got back to the grassroots
members of the denominations that helped pay for it, there was an
uproar. So how did supporters of the conference respond to the
criticism? They rushed to claim victim status. When members of the
Presbyterian Church USA protested that their denomination had
given $66,000 to support an event that contradicted everything the
Bible teaches, one of the staffers said of the protest,
“It is spiritual
rape.”
When Christians protest attacks on their God, their Savior, their
Bible, and their faith, the re-imaginers called the protest spiritual
rape. But the Bible calls it spiritual prostitution when people
abandon God’s revelation and offer themselves to a re-imagined
deity.
One confusing thing about all this is that the re-imaginers still
want to be considered part of Christianity. Instead of candidly
saying they want to replace Christianity, they try to redefine
Christianity, and they feel insulted and violated by those who say
this kind of reimagining has no place in the church. But if people
want to speak of Sophia instead of Christ, why call it Christianity?
Why not call it Sophistry?
Redefining God
The second of God’s Ten Commandments is found in Exodus 20:4,
“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.” What this
commandment prohibits is making images of God, or to put it
another way, it prohibits re-imagining God. The Lord commands us
to worship him as he’s revealed himself, not as we re-imagine him.
Christians throughout history have believed in a God who reveals
himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not everyone shares this
belief, of course. There have always been people who rejected the
God of Christianity to worship other gods. When people worshiped
Baal or Ishtar or Zeus, they made it pretty obvious that they had no
loyalty to the God revealed in the Bible.
Likewise, Hindus and Buddhists and Muslims make no secret of it
that they aren’t Christians and don’t claim to be. We who are
Christians hope they will yet come to know the triune God and
eternal life in Jesus Christ, but meanwhile, different religions know
where they stand in relation to each other.
The Bible condemns the worship of other gods in the first of the
Ten Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
God commands his people not to get involved in other religions or
cross the boundary from faith in him to faith in something else.
It gets trickier, however, when the temptation is not so much to
cross a boundary and join another religion, but to reshape the faith
and re-imagine God right within the boundaries of God’s people.
This is what the second commandment addresses.
People with a Christian background decide they don’t like the
historic Christian faith, but they still want to call themselves
Christians, and they want the Christian church to accommodate
their views. There are people who deny the Holy Trinity, defy the
Scriptures, denounce the church, deride forgiveness in Jesus’ blood,
delight in sin, and yet demand to be considered part of Christianity.
They don’t say the Christian God should be rejected. They just say
God must be re-imagined.
Why would anyone want to hang onto some association with God,
and yet make up a new image to represent him? Well, let’s consider
a notorious example from the Bible.
Right while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten
Commandments, the people at the bottom of the mountain were
getting impatient. Exodus 32:1 says “And when the people saw that
Moses delayed to come down out of the mount, the people
gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, Up,
make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the
man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what
is become of him.”
They wanted to get moving, and they needed a god who would go
with them. There’s nothing handier than a deity you can push along
in front of you. He gives you power, and you give him orders—sort
of like having a genie who does your bidding. Why trust an invisible
God who has his own timing and his own plans, when you can
manufacture something that will follow your agenda and empower
you?
People are sometimes reluctant to make an idol on their own,
however. They want a religious authority figure to do it for them. It
usually takes a pastor or seminary professor or priest to produce a
new version of God with that extra touch of professional quality.
That’s why the Israelites wanted Aaron to make their idol for them.
Aaron the priest was second in authority only to his brother Moses.
If Aaron made a new image of God, it would be good for sure. So
Aaron took a collection of gold jewelry from the people, melted it
down, and fashioned a calf out of it.
Now, notice very carefully what happened next. Once the people
had their golden calf, they didn’t say,
“Now we have a new god to
replace the one that rescued us from Egypt.” No, they said,
“These
are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” Aaron
“built an altar in front of the calf and announced,
‘Tomorrow
there will be a festival to the Lord‘”.
To the Lord! They wanted to worship a portable god of fertility and
wealth, and they were wildly enthusiastic about their golden calf,
but they still wanted to identify it with the Lord who made Mount
Sinai tremble, the God whose power had broken the grip of Egypt
and set them free.
They didn’t want to dispense entirely with the mighty God of their
past; not at all! They just wanted to re-imagine him as one who
would follow their agenda rather than setting their agenda for
them.
But just as the Israelites were worshiping their new image, just
when they were really getting into their orgy of celebration, Moses
came back, and the party was over. The Lord was so enraged by
these people who re-imagined him as a golden calf, as a god of
fertility and sex and gold, that he threatened to wipe them all out.
Only when Moses interceded for the people did God relent from
destroying them, and even then, a number were killed.
Re-imagining is not something that God takes lightly. In the second
commandment, the Lord says in Exodus 20:4-6 “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.
5Thou 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;
6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them
that love me, and keep my commandments.”
Re-imagining God has devastating consequences, not only for
ourselves but also for our children and grandchildren. It’s not just a
personal choice. When one generation abandons God’s revelation of
himself, the children and grandchildren often suffer as well. Once
God is re-imagined, succeeding generations are taught to hate the
great God revealed in Scripture and in Christ.
They learn to think of him as a deity fit only for freaks and fanatics
and fundamentalists. But each generation that hates the Lord finds
itself under punishment. As people make up their own religion and
do their own thing, their lives and families and communities
disintegrate more and more, providing a taste of even greater
agony to come in eternity.
Feminizing God
However, this isn’t the whole picture, thank God. His revelation has
far more staying power than our re-imagining. The Lord who
speaks in the Bible and embodies himself in Jesus Christ continues
to reign long after each new heresy and re-imagining has been
discarded as obsolete. The havoc of the re-imaginers may last three
or four generations, but the historic Christian faith has embraced
people in the love of God for a thousand generations.
We looked earlier at some of the ways that ultra-feminists in
Minneapolis tried to improve on the Bible and re-imagine God.
They felt more comfortable worshiping an abstract projection of
their own femaleness than the living God, whose supreme
revelation of himself was a carpenter from Nazareth who died to
take away the sins of the world.
The “Re-Imagining” conference may sound like an extreme
example, but the whole project of feminizing God as much as
possible—praying to our Mother in heaven, calling God “she,
” and
so forth—is a sacred cow (or should I say, a golden calf) in some
very influential circles.
Remember, the “Re-imagining” conference wasn’t just a fringe
group of women doing their own thing. It was funded by several
major denominations who later defended what occurred there. It
was supported by the World Council of Churches, and featured
professors from prominent seminaries.
In some divinity schools and seminaries, it is considered more
important to be committed to the feminist agenda than to the
historic Christian faith. One professor who is devoted to Judaism,
tells of a conversation he had with some professors of Christian
theology at a major divinity school. He asked them if there were any
doctrinal standards they were expected to uphold in their teaching.
The theologians around the table all said: no, they had complete
academic freedom and could teach anything they wanted. Then one
of them added,
“Well, there is one requirement. We have to use
inclusive language.”
This professor, a Jew, found it ironic that supposedly Christian
professors of theology could contradict historic Christianity, they
could promote any novel idea of God they wanted, but if they said
the Christian God reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
they might get in trouble since that kind of language might not be
considered gender-inclusive enough. All too often, theology need
not be orthodox or biblical, but it had better be politically correct.
A Different Jesus
Another example of professional re-imaginers are those who reject
the Bible’s portrait of Jesus and try to define “the real Jesus.”
Maybe you’ve heard of the Jesus Seminar, where scholars get
together and decide which words of Jesus in the gospels Jesus
actually said.
Using color-coding and other media-friendly gimmicks, these
self-proclaimed experts mark what Jesus could not possibly have
said, what he probably didn’t say, what he perhaps could have said,
and what he probably said. It turns out Jesus didn’t say most of
what the gospels claim he said.
One national magazine said that although the Jesus Seminar upsets
many devout Christians, it presents a Jesus that some people find
more human and believable. But when Jesus is whittled down to the
point where he’s more believable, he’s no longer worth believing in.
Amazing, isn’t it, how scholars 2000 years later are so smart that
they know the historical Jesus better than those who actually saw
and heard and touched him. Even more amazing, the Jesus
produced by the Jesus Seminar turns out to sound and act
remarkably like skeptical twentieth century scholars would want
him to look. I’m afraid the Jesus Seminar tells us more about
members of the Seminar than it tells us about Jesus.
God’s Self-Revelation
The moment we think we’re smarter than the Word of God, we are
fashioning our own image of God. When the Lord commands,
“You
shall not make an idol in the form of anything,
” what is he saying?
“What is God’s will for us in the second commandment? That we in
no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way
than he has commanded us in his Word”. The basic issue is this: Are
we going to worship God as he reveals himself, or as a projection of
what we would like him to be? Are we going to trust in Jesus Christ,
“the same yesterday and today and forever,
” or in a
new-and-improved version of God?
The Lord prohibits making images of him. He condemns
re-imagining him. Why? Because when we do that, we’re trying to
dictate who God can be and what he can do. We’re trying to take
control of him. When the living God is too independent of our
wishes, when the Jesus of the gospels doesn’t suit what we think he
should be like, when the Bible says things that are too awkward to
suit our agenda, we’re tempted to fashion a new image of God that
suits us better.
Rather than accepting God’s revelation of himself, we define God to
fit our own ideas and preferences. Our image can’t be anything we
don’t want it to be. It can’t do anything we don’t want it to do. It
serves our goals and advances our agenda. We control it.
But in the process, we lose the living and true God, and we’re left
with our own powerless projections. Whether it’s Aaron making a
golden calf, or some religious authority today re-imagining the God
of the Bible, it’s still a lot of bull.
In the second commandment, God declares his own sovereign
freedom and independence. He insists that we worship him as he
reveals himself to be, not as we simply imagine him to be. He
commands this for the sake of his own honor but also for the sake
of our salvation.
When individuals re-imagine God in a way that contradicts the holy
Scriptures, they are committing spiritual suicide. When
denominations and divinity schools become idol-factories and
promote their idols to others, they are committing spiritual
homicide. Our souls cannot survive if they are deprived of God’s
life-giving words. As Moses said,
“They are not just idle words for
you—they are your life”. Jesus himself said,
“The words I have
spoken to you are spirit and they are life”.
When you re-imagine Jesus to be a projection of feminist ideology,
you cut yourself off from the Son of the living God, the supreme gift
of love that God gave to a perishing world. When you say you don’t
need Jesus’ cross or his blood to be right with God, that all you need
to do is contact the god or goddess inside you, you refuse the only
way God has provided to remove your sin. When you reject God’s
commandments for your sexuality and all the other areas of your
life and instead re-imagine God to suit your most corrupt and
perverted instincts, you condemn yourself to a life of wallowing in
wickedness and an eternity of separation from God.
CLOSING
God gives the second commandment so that we will recognize all
our attempts at re-imagining for what they are: offensive to him
and destructive to ourselves. We cannot define God according to our
own ideas, or control God according to our own agenda. God is God,
and we can only know him insofar as he chooses to reveal himself
in his Word. God is God, and we can have a relationship with him
only on his terms, and because of his great love revealed in Jesus
Christ. God gives us the second commandment to drive us away
from our sin and draw us to the Savior, to drive us away from our
phony re-imaginings and draw us to his glorious revelation, to
drive us away from idols that bring curses on us and our children
and draw us into his everlasting love.

Exodus 20:4

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

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