Dec 10

The Ten Commandments: Part 4 — The Right Way to Worship the Right God Exodus 20:1-6

I the Lord your God am a jealous God.

The Second Commandment forbids the worship of images. It is comprehensive in that it forbids the making of images of anything at all for the purpose of worship. Of course that forbids the making of any images of God. For most of us it is rather easy to understand why we should not make idols or bow down to them. That follows naturally from the First Commandment. But some may wonder why God would forbid making any images of Him. Why is it wrong to make images of the right God?

To answer that question we first need to understand something of the nature of God. We know from Jesus that “God is spirit” (John 4:24). God is, to use a great word, “non-corporeal.” That is, He is not possessed of a physical body. This is hard for us to imagine without reducing God to some sort of impersonal universal intelligence or ethereal apparition. But God is truly personal. He is an objective being; the only being that is eternal and entirely self-existent. He is indivisible in essence yet existing eternally in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Simply put, there is nothing like God. He is unique. While God created His human creatures in His image and they therefore share His likeness in some ways, it is not true that God is like His creatures. There is no one and no thing like God. Therefore any effort to depict God will inevitably misrepresent Him. So the Second Commandment guards against dishonoring God through misrepresentation.

Second, we must understand the nature of the human heart. The heart of man is perpetually making idols. Therefore, any image of God will surely become an idol and we will treat Him the way we treat all our idols. We would reduce Him to something that exists to satisfy our own selfish appetites. We would exercise sovereignty over Him. Idols are moved about at the whims of the idolater. But God is sovereign and He determines the movements and destiny of His human creatures (Acts 17). An image on a shelf exercises no such sovereignty.

Pagans have always believed that their idols give them some sort of access to their gods. But when God made the way for His sinful people to have access to Him He did not give them idols. He “sent forth his Son born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).