Imagine with me what it would be like if you had been born in Egypt back when the Israelites were slaves there. Suppose your parents were slaves who every day had to make bricks for the Pharaoh’s pyramids. Suppose you never got to go to school and learn to read or write because for as long as you can remember, you have been collecting sticks under the watchful eye of one very stern looking master.
Then one day you hear your father telling your mother about a crazy man who used to be a prince of Egypt and had started causing trouble for all the slaves. He had gone to Pharaoh and said something that made him so mad, now all the slaves had to work twice as hard! The next days were filled with all kinds of strange happenings. The Egyptians complained of overwhelming frogs, flies, blood, disease, and all kinds of nasty things, but you saw nothing unusual in the slaves’ quarter.
Finally, it happened. Something you did not really think was possible. Pharaoh ordered all the slaves to get out of his country! Everybody grabbed what they could, and even took gifts from the Egyptians, and started walking out of the country. What a sight! There were slaves – but not slaves anymore – for miles around, just walking, walking toward freedom.
But something else terrible happened. Pharaoh changed his mind! The soldiers were coming for you again! Just when you were sure everybody was going to die, God jerked back the Red Sea and you and your family and all the other former slaves walked across to freedom. Finally safe from Pharaoh and his soldiers!
When God told Moses that the people of Israel should never make a “graven image,” He was talking about the statues and such that the Egyptians had worshiped. God wanted to make sure no one ever forgot that He had saved the slaves from Egypt. He had conquered Pharaoh and his army. Why would you ever want to bow down to anything else?