Friday, April 26, 2019

No Images

"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below" (Exodus 20:4).

The first commandment forbids covenantal idolatry, which means anything in our lives before God. The second commandment forbids liturgical idolatry which involves using any created thing in worship as a medium between God and us. The first commandment deals with the object of worship while the second concerns the method of worship.

In some forms of Judaism, in Islam (which uses the Old Testament selectively), and in some Christian churches, the second commandment is mistakenly interpreted as forbidding any representation of biblical scenes or any representational art (Islam). Actually, the commandment forbids pictures of anything, including Jesus, if used for the purpose of worship. It does not forbid having stained glass windows or pictures in the church, but it does forbid bowing down to them or seeking to worship God through them. After all, God decorated the Tabernacle with cherubim and other pictures, so simply having decorative or illustrative pictures in church is not the issue.

Nobody directly worships idols of wood and stone or bronze and paint. Those who bow to images maintain that they are rendering service to the invisible person represented by the image. Thus the golden calf made by Aaron was to represent the LORD (Exodus 32:4–5). In the second commandment, however, God completely forbade any such worship. He declared that He was not to be worshipped through icons, images or any other artifact or medium.

There is only one Mediator between God and man, one True Image of God, and it is through Him only that we are to worship. That one, Jesus Christ, is presently in heaven and is no longer visible.

The second commandment states that God is jealous. Like a husband, God insists that His bride be faithful to Him. He is infuriated when she is faithless or when she renders to statues or icons the worship due Him alone. This jealousy of God is not a vice but a virtue. God commands us to worship Him alone not because He needs our worship, but for our good. He is jealous because He loves us and does not want us to defile or harm ourselves through false worship.

Since God is so concerned that worship is done the right way, where do we go to find His standards of proper worship? What aspects of worship commanded in the Bible need to be rediscovered and reinstituted in today’s Church?