Ten Choices That Will Change Your Life
Week 2: Exodus 20:4-6
The Ten Commandments instruct God’s people how to live life to the fullest. The Commandments are not a way to earn salvation. Rather, they show us how saved people are to live. We are our Redeemer’s treasured possession – his precious people. We are kings and priests – trophies demonstrating God’s power to transform. We have been given a purpose in our salvation – to act as bridges that connect others to God. We display his glory and goodness in every circumstance of life as a beacon of hope to a world adrift in the dark. We are a holy nation – responsible to demonstrate how our God is different from the idols of this world. In this week’s study we will look at the second Commandment – “You shall not make for yourself a carved image” (Exodus 20:4-6). Idolatry is not just a problem for ancient cultures. Our hearts can also easily be led away by idols. But through belief in Christ, we have been given a new heart and a new spirit. With God’s Spirit at work in us, we have what we need to turn away from lesser things and pursue Jesus fully.
Can you think of a time when you wanted something so badly but then you found out that it wasn’t as great as you thought?
Getting into the Text:
1. (Exodus 20:4) In ancient times, physical idols made of wood or stone or metal were a very common way to represent a god. Why do you think God did not want his people to make these as a way to represent him? See Psalm 115:1-8 and Isaiah 44:6-20 for examples of the way God contrasts himself with physical idols. Are there created things in our time that we treat as if they held god-like powers to determine the course of our lives?
2. (Exodus 20:5a) In ancient times, idols were not only a common way to represent a god, they were also often used in rituals. The rituals enabled people to manipulate or appease the god in order to gain certain benefits or blessings for themselves. How is this way of interacting with God still popular today? What does the second commandment tell us about how God wants his people to worship and interact with him?
3. Physical idols made of wood or precious metal are less common in our culture today but in general terms an idol is any lesser imitation or substitute that we might put our trust or confidence in. This could be another “god” or it could be a diminished version of the true God that includes only the parts we like. Why do you think that idol worship is such a universal problem for people throughout history? What do idols offer that is so appealing? How is the kind of relationship that God calls us to with himself intended to be different and better?
4. (Exodus 20:5b-6) What does it mean here for God to be a jealous God? What motivates this jealousy on his part and why does this make it appropriate? How might marriage be a useful example here?
5. In Jesus we have the truest visible representation of God (Hebrews 1:3) and he is the one who can free us from our idolatry. God describes this promise and process of cleansing in Ezekiel 36:25-27. How does God say he is going to accomplish this? What new resources does he provide us with to make this possible?
Two powerful idols that tempt us in our American context are the pursuit of our own Potential and pursuit of our own Pleasure or Comfort. The idol of Potential says “You will find fulfillment in life by working harder to become the best athlete, musician, parent, worker, or (fill in the blank) you can be.” The idol of Pleasure/Comfort says “You deserve _______ and you should do what will make you the most happy or comfortable.” God created us with great potential for bringing him glory in a variety of ways and in him are pleasures forevermore. But apart from God, these things become cheap substitutes for the loving relationship he calls us to. Are either or both of these idols relevant for you personally? Use the Ezekiel passage above as a prayer guide and ask God to help you pursue him instead of idols.