Q: Which is forbidden in the second commandment?
A: The second commandment forbids the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.
Leviticus 10:1-2 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.
The Scripture reference this week is absolutely chilling, and yet we need to read it. We need to be reminded of the God that we worship and serve. This holy God is jealous for his glory, and he is a God who can strike us down, and has every right to do so, should we fail to worship him as he commanded. We take it for granted, I think, that God will not strike us dead for offering up strange fire. However, we need to remember that God is not obligated to be merciful to us. We need a healthy fear of the Holy God, all the while praising him for his grace, mercy, patience, and faithfulness to us.
Why do we think we can come up with better ways to worship God than how he has commanded? Do we really believe God cares about our personal creative inventions when it comes to worshiping him? Do we really believe that fallen man can somehow create a way of worshiping God that would actually please and glorify him? Ultimately, by rejecting the God-ordained methods of worship and embracing our own inventions, we are saying we know better than God about what brings him glory and honor in our worship of him.
Worship is about giving God the glory he is due. It is not about our freedom to "worship God however we want", it's not about giving ourselves a creative outlet, it's not about pleasing the culture or entertaining our congregants. When those things become our motive, when those things become what drives us in worship, when we abandon the Biblical methods and patterns for worship, we too are guilty of offering strange fire up to God, and that is no small offense.
Let us all strive, then, to worship God as he has commanded. We all need an iconoclast in our hearts. We all need to have the idols, the graven images, the man-made attempts at worshiping God (which are, if we are honest with ourselves, really attempts at satisfying our own desires rather than God's), smashed to bits. Let our personal lives of worship and our corporate life in worship together truly be a sweet aroma of praise to our great God and King.