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Bible Study Sixteen: The Second and Third Commandment

As we learned in our previous study, the first table of the Ten Commandments, refer to our loving relationship with God. The Law of God is the law of love. To break them would be to manifest enmity against God and our fellowmen. Therefore, let us continue our study with the second and third commandments.

1. How does the second commandment read? Exodus 20:4-6

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven 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: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, or 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; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:4-6

It is clear that the second commandment forbids the worship of God through relics, images, statues, or any material objects. Individuals may claim that the object represents the true God, but nonetheless, God knows better, and He forbids it.

When we bow ourselves down to objects, we lower our concept of God. After all, how can you represent God who is all-knowing, all-loving, ever-present, and all-powerful by some material object? It is simply not possible.

The first commandment taught us to worship the only true God, and the second teaches us how to worship Him. In fact, it says a great deal about false forms of worship.

“I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”

Often the word “jealousy” is used in a negative sense, but in this commandment we are speaking about a godly jealousy. While envy is the foundation of a selfish jealousy, love is the foundation of a godly jealousy.

God likens our relationship with Him as a marriage. Therefore, He is jealous for us. He wants what is best for us. He knows that idol worship will destroy us spiritually, so He tells not to set up these false idols, statues, and relics.

God wants us to become holy, but how can we become holy if we worship objects? Our striving for holiness is directly related to our experiential knowledge of Him. Hence, our relationship with God is depicted as a marriage.

“Visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me. Showing mercy unto thousands of them that love Me, and keep My commandments.”

Children often follow in the footsteps of their parents religiously, morally, politically, and socially. By the law of heredity our children can take on many characteristics. Some of these characteristics are positive and some negative.

If a child inherits a quick temper, the child will not be punished for the parent’s sin of giving in to that quick temper. We are never punished for our parents’ sins, but only as we participate in them. See Ezekiel 18:20; Jeremiah 31:30; 2 Chronicles 25:4. So by inheritance and the home environment a child may take on many tendencies to sin. This fearful truth should challenge us to make better decisions in life that we do not lead our children astray.

Inherited and cultivated disobedience can be easily seen in the third and fourth generation. In many cases, you will have three generations living all at the same time. There are the children, parents, and grandparents. But the results of disobedience often extend to the fourth generation. We might hear someone, “I am doing it this way, because my father, grandfather, and great grandfather did it this way.”

But when God says to “the third and fourth generation,” it indicates that sin will not continue forever. It will come to an end. On the other hand, the blessed results of obedience extend to a thousand generations. See Deuteronomy 7:9. This is because God’s love is limitless. Righteousness or right doing is eternal.

2. What do we learn about true worship according to the second commandment? Exodus 20:4-6

While the second commandment begins with the prohibition to worship false gods, it encourages us to worship the true God by keeping His commandments. This would teach us that true worship is found upon our willingness obey His will.

Since God’s will is based upon truth, we are to worship Him in “spirit and in truth.” As Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24.

This places true worship far beyond mere religious ceremonies. We even look beyond the physical to worship “Him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:27. However, we can see God. Jesus said, “. . . he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” John 14:9.

Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23. He is “the image of the invisible God.” Colossians 1:15. He is the “express image” of His Father. Hebrews 1:3.
As we beholding Jesus we are changed into His image, as Paul wrote, “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18.

We are predestined “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Romans 8:29. Therefore, true worship has to do with being changed. The worship of the true God will make us more like Him in thoughts and feelings.

3. What is one of the great dangers of worshiping relics? Leviticus 17:7

Some might be wondering why worshiping material objects are so bad. We have mentioned that it lowers man’s conception of God. But there is more! The worship of all graven images is a form of demon worship.

For example, these relics, statues, and figurines represent those who have died, whether they are heroes, ancestors, or saints. Since the dead are (1) unconscious and “know not anything” and have nothing whatever to do with “anything that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5, 6), and (2) the pretended spirits of the dead are really the spirits of devils, or evil angels, impersonating the dead for the purpose to deceive, then (3) the worship of idols constitutes demon worship.

Moses told the Israelites that they “shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring.” Leviticus 17:7.

“They provoked Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations provoke they Him to anger. They sacrificed unto devils, not to God; to gods whom they know not, to new gods that came newly up, whom your fathers feared not. Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee.” Deuteronomy 32:16-18.

We are told that the children of Israel “served their idols: which were a snare unto them” and “they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils” when they “sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan.” Psalms 106:36-38. In verse 28 we are told that the Israelites “joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.”

The apostle Paul declared that the pagan Gentiles “sacrifice to devils, and not to God.” 1 Corinthians 10:20.

This would explain why idol worship is such an abomination to God. The foundation of this demon worship is the belief in the immortality of the soul. Satan’s first lie in Eden is almost universally believed. And this belief forms the basis of demon worship. Satan told Eve that she would not or could not die. God told her that she would die if she ate of the forbidden fruit. Who was right, Satan or God? Satan teaches that we have an immortal soul that cannot die. God tells us that He alone possesses immortality. As Paul wrote, “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:16.

Paul teaches us to seek for immortality, saying, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:” Romans 2:7. If we already have immortality, then why do we need to seek for it?

At the Second Coming of Christ, we will put on immortality as a gift from God, as it is written, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53

It seems instinctive for man to worship what he can see. But we must understand that “the things which are seen are temporal: but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18. Faith is said to be “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.

4. Is idol worship more than worshiping relics and images? 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Idolatry is defined as worshiping an object. It is worshiping a person or object excessively that has no substance. For example, a person may excessively worship a celebrity. They spend more time thinking about the celebrity than they do about God. There is of course no redeeming value in worshiping a mere person or object. There is only redeeming value in worshiping God. But let us consider some of the idols of our day.

Worshipers of Worship: From the grand cathedrals to the charismatic church services, it is possible for individuals to focus more on their form of worship than in truly worshiping God.

Worshiping Others: Jesus said, “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:37. Anyone that we put above God is an idol. These individuals could be sports celebrities, movie stars, or even our own children.

Worshiping Our Opinions: Millions idolize their opinions. Paul declared that idolaters “became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” Romans 1:21, 22

Self-worship: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, . . . lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Paul brings out many idols in these verses, but one in particular is being “lovers of. . . own selves.” This happens when we choose to live a life where everyone serves me, instead of me serving them. Life simply revolves around our own selfish desires.

Worshipers of Pleasure: Character building activities are appropriate. But we live in an entertainment world, where pleasure has become the object in life and is therefore an idol. Paul describes the “foolish” who are “serving divers lusts and pleasures.” Titus 3:3. In the parable of the sower, the “pleasures of this life” are said to be “the thorns” that “choke the Word” so that it “becometh unfruitful” and can “therefore bring no fruit to perfection.” See Matthew 13.

Worshipers of Appetite: Paul wrote, “Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” Philippians 3:18, 19. Many live to eat instead of eat to live, and there is a difference.

Worshipers of Fashion: James wrote, “Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” James 4:4. According to James, any form of worldliness would be considered a form of idolatry. Worldly fashion tends to draw attention to ourselves, in particular, our outward appearance. But what we need is the beauty of holiness. We have to be so ever careful not to exhibit pride by assimilating to the fashions of the world. As Paul wrote, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array. But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” 1 Timothy 2:8, 9. See also 1 Peter 3:3-5.

Worshipers of Money: Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24.

It is not money, but the love of money that “is the root of all evil.” Paul declares that a “covetous man” is an “idolater.” Ephesians 5:5. He declares that “covetousness” is “idolatry” in Colossians 3:5.

There is truly only one safe way of worship. According to the first commandment always put God first. Second, refuse to be part of idol worship. Steer clear of graven images and relics. After all, God forbids it. And third, seek to worship God in spirit and truth. We do this by receive the Holy Spirit every day to have a spiritual mind. With this spiritual mind we study the truths found in God’s Word. If we follow this simple plan we will learn to love God more.

5. How does the Third Commandment read? Exodus 20:7

“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

We know that this commandment would prohibit common cursing and swearing, but it also forbids the careless or flippant use of God’s name. It could even include carelessness in spiritual things. As a whole, the third commandment would speak out against profanity, irreverence, and hypocrisy.


It is by reverencing God that we enter into His presence. Since God is holy, His name is holy, and we are to approach Him in holiness. If people use God’s name in a careless way it is because they do not know Him. For to know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to honor Him. To honor Him is to reverence Him. Those closest to the throne of God “rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8. Those closest to the throne reverence Him the most, because they know Him the best.

6. How can I come to know God that I might love, honor, and reverence Him? 1 John 1:2

John wrote, “For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us.” 1 John 1:2.

Jesus manifested in our flesh and blood “that eternal life, which was with the Father.” Jesus manifested His Father perfectly because He loved His Father with His whole heart. He knew His Father’s will. He loved to commune with His heavenly Father.

We too can manifest the beautiful character of God by growing in our knowledge and faith in Him every day. As we grow we will love Him more. We will choose to honor Him with our life. We will reverence His holy name. Remember, those who reverence God the most will be those that manifest Him the most.

When we use the name of God we are on holy ground. There should be no vain repetitions. In the Lord’s prayer, God’s name is used but once, “Our Father which art in heaven.” Matthew 6:9.

“Reverend” is used but once in the Bible, and it is applied to God’s name. “Holy and reverend is His name.” Psalms 111:9. Since “reverend” is used only in reference to God, it should never be used in reference to anyone else.


It is said of the 144,000, that “in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God.” Revelation 14:5. Their speech is pure. There is no flippant use of God’s name. There is no careless reference to spiritual things.

Profanity comes from two words. “Pro” means “in front of,” and “fane” means “the temple.” Together it means irreverence for holy things. When we use crude speech, we dishonor God who gave us the gift of speech. Our thoughts are to be noble and our speech edifying. Hence, there is no use of slang terms, especially in relation to spiritual things.

False Swearing

The Bible says, “Ye shall not swear by My name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God.” Leviticus 19:12. This does not forbid taking the judicial oath in a court room. The point is that God’s name should never be linked with falsehoods. A Christian’s word should be as good as his oath.

If a person did lie under oath, then he would receive the penalty that he sought to falsely accuse against another. See Deuteronomy 19:18-20. If the penalty for the crime was death, then the false accuser himself would face the death penalty.


Hypocrisy is when we lie with our lives. Jesus said, “Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophecy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoreth Me with their lips; but their heart is far from Me. But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:7-9.

We can honor God’s name as professed followers of Christ by obeying His commands. Jesus said, “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? and in Thy name done many wonderful works? and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23.