Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, May 12, 2011 2:30 pm
The Messenger, May 12, 2011
The One True God
By SAM RICHARDSON
Special to The Messenger
The second commandment states: “You shall not make for yourself a carved 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. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God …” (Exodus 20:4-5 ESV)
What comes to mind when you read this commandment? Do you think of Babylonian idol worship, or some primitive culture bowing down to a six-inch spirit god?
If this commandment stood alone, you might naturally summon up images of that kind of idolatry. But it comes after the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) Wouldn’t that seem to make the second commandment redundant?
J.I Packer claims in the fourth chapter of his book, “Knowing God,” that because the second commandment does not stand in a vacuum, it must have a different connotation. Yes, as Christians we are not supposed to create images of other gods and worship them — but that is covered in the first commandment. Packer claims the second commandment indicates that we also should not create images of God Himself.
God did not choose to reveal Himself through a visible symbol, but rather to reveal Himself through His Word. Therefore, all images of God are manmade and are borrowed from a sinful and ungodly world. To make an image of God is to take one’s thoughts of Him from a human source rather than from God Himself. This is precisely the problem with image-making.
When Aaron constructed the golden calf, it was meant to be an image of Jehovah, represented in what the people of Israel believed was a very powerful image. But no matter how powerful the representation we sinful beings imagine, it can never reveal the true greatness of God. As Paul states in Romans, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:22-25)
So how are we to understand the second commandment with Jesus in mind? As a church, we have been far more accepting of images of the Son than of the Father. This is probably due to Jesus having a human nature and the Father being pure spirit. Great works of art illustrate Jesus as a child as well as an adult. Many of our churches are adorned with crucifixes and stained glass windows bearing Jesus’s image. How are we as Christians supposed to react to these images?
Truthfully, nobody knows what Jesus looked like. Jesus Christ is a real person who lived during a real time and place in human history, but every image of Him comes from someone’s imagination. Jesus is also God. He said in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” When we create an image of Jesus, we are creating an incorrect image of God?
You may ask, “What harm is there in the worshipper surrounding himself with statues and pictures, if they help him to lift his heart to God?” The problem arises when those images become representational instead of symbolic. They end up corrupting the worship, misleading and conveying false ideas about God.
Who hasn’t seen a movie based on a book before reading the book? When you read the book itself, images from the movie pop into your head and you are seeing the movie maker’s vision of the book. This can also happen in worship. Are you worshiping the true living God, or some image that you have seen?
We all need to confront idolatry in our lives. An idol of God does not necessarily have to be an image or statue. It can also be an idea of who we want God to be. We try to fit Him into our own emotions and world view.
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?,’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”(Exodus 3:13-14)
When God told Moses, “I AM WHO I AM” — He meant it. He is not who we think He is, no matter how lofty our image. He is who He says He is. God reveals who He is in His Word. Read His Word and get to know the one true God.
Editor’s note: Sam Richardson serves as a deacon at Grace Community Church (PCA) in Troy.