A fourth and final homily on the Second Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image – nor bow down to them nor serve them.”
That’s an abbreviated version of the Second Commandment. In Exodus 20, the LORD our God gives us the reason for this commandment in these words: “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
The Westminster Larger Catechism (110) explains that these words are given by God all the more to enforce and impress upon us the importance of this commandment. Again, this commandment addresses true worship versus false worship. God is sovereign. He alone has the right to say how we are to worship Him. And so Westminster reminds us of God’s “fervent zeal for His own worship.”
We see this zeal in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. God commanded Israel to destroy all the pagan altars in the Land of Promise He gave them. They were to smash their idols. Why? Because the LORD your God is a JEALOUS God. And in the New Testament, we see Jesus’ zeal for His Father’s house, the Temple, which had been perverted from a house of prayer for all nations to a den of thieves and robbers. And so with holy zeal, He cleanses the Temple courts of the money-changers. God has a zeal for His own glory – and He will not share His glory and praise with any false god of human invention. He will not tolerate the corruption of His worship.
In fact, God likens false worship to a spiritual adultery. False worship is also an expression of hatred for God [Ex 20:5b]. And yet we shrug. “Some people like this kind of worship. Others like that kind of worship. To each his own. Some like smells & bells, some like multi-media worship. And besides we need to reach different people with worship that’s relevant.” Really? Relevant to whom? Obviously not to God!
In fact, God is so zealous for His own worship that He seeks out His own true worshipers. This is what Jesus says to the Samaritan woman in John 4. First He rebukes the Samaritans for embracing false worship. “You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
And there is our hope. The Father Himself seeks and saves His own worshipers. We are FALSE worshipers by nature. But the Father, through His Son, by His Word and Spirit, makes us true worshipers. To worship in spirit and in truth, is to worship as those born of His Spirit, to worship according to His Word of grace, the Gospel. And that is entirely by His grace, and to His glory.
So let us repent of provoking God’s jealousy with our indifference to false worship. And let us rejoice that He has sought US out; that He has saved us and made us to be true worshipers, by His Word and Spirit.