“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandment.” Exodus 20:3-5.
What we read above is the first and second commandments of the Bible the LORD God, the living God in heaven, gave to the people of Israel.
Let us break the first and second commandments into different parts:
• You shall not have no other gods before Me. Did you notice the ‘gods’ is not capitalized? In other words, the reference is the man-made gods. These man-made gods are not true or real because those doesn’t and cannot represent the living and only God in any form or fashion
• You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. That covers all, doesn’t it? No option left to make an image of God, period! In other words, you will not make an image of any form to represent God.
• You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. In other words, you shall not bow down or worship any other gods or any image in any form in a false imagination or thought that such images can represent the living God in heaven in any form or fashion. Why? The verse says The LORD God is a jealous God. The word jealous can be used positively or negatively. However, when this word is used for God in the Bible, the word jealous is used in a positive sense. God is jealous in the sense that He is the only LORD God and none other and no images of any form of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or in the waters below can take His place. Such action of bowing down in front of other so-called man-made gods or making an image or form to represent the living and only one God is strictly prohibted. Jealousy in the husband-wife relationship is not negative when it comes to their devotion to one another in love and service. God is jealous in the sense that He will not give His name and place for anyone else. He is the only true God and He will not tolerate people’s unfaithfulness by creating gods or by showing or portraying Him in any image or form. The LORD God want people’s full allegiance, devotion and worship. When God sees you and I are bowing down in front of an image or idol, He is jealous and will not be pleased with it.
• The first and second commandment prohibits the man from (1) having other gods before the true and one true God (2) making an image in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth or on the earth beneath or in the waters below to represent God, (3) bowing down and worshipping them with a serious reminder or reasons attached to it. What is it? For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God. What a Jealous God reminds us when He gave this commandment of not to make an image or bow down in front of them and worship them? He says, I am Jealous God “punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandment.
• In other words, this first and second commandment are attached with severe punishments and blessings. If an individual does not obey this commandment, the LORD God says He is a God who punishes the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generations. What is the sin in this context? Not obeying the first and second commandment by making images or idols and bowing down and worshipping them. The LORD God punish this sin that the parents committed even up to their third and fourth generations. In contrast, if one obeys the commandment by loving the only true and one God and consequently make up his mind not to make any idols or images nor bow down or worship in front of them, God says He will show His love to their thousand generations because they are keeping His commandment. Think about it! Our God is basically loving and merciful God. He may punish the sin of the parents of not obeying this commandment to third or fourth generations, but he will extend His love and mercy to a thousand generations if you keep this first commandment. His love, mercy, and grace far extend his wrath and punishments.
People are so careless in having gods in their lives, making idols, and bowing down before them. Do they really know they are disobeying the first and second commandment? Do you they really know the LORD God totally and completely hate this interest in images and idols and this course of action of making images of any form deserves God’s severe punishment?
Some of the excuses I heard over the years like images helps me or I have this image/picture and it helps me to remember God or Jesus and concentrate my mind to give my full attention to God doesn’t fly a bit on the basis of the above clear cut commandment of prohibition of making idols and images and bowing down before them. You may think it helps you but understand it is a violation of the commandment of the LORD God. Our feelings are good feelings only if it aligns with the commandments of the LORD. In other words, the truth is much more important than just our feelings. God says He will judge people by the truth of His word. Bible says in John 12:48, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” You see God’s judgments are based on His eternal and everlasting words that are given to us to obey not based on our good feelings. You see times changes, lifestyle changes, culture changes our thinkings and feelings changes, but the Word of God never changes. Truth is truth always no matter whatever changes we see in this world and It is the standard in which we will be measured and judged.
Do we know what is wrong with images and Idols?
First, it is wrong because the second commandment is given by God clearly states it is wrong. Let us read it again, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” (Exodus 20:4). The words in this second commandment cannot be read or interpreted in any other way. It clearly and very simply prohibits making an image in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth or in the water below as an aid to worship God.
Secondly, when God looks at it, the idols or images do not represent any of His power or attributes. They are just idols or images made by people. Whatever elegant or beautiful an image or an idol man makes of God never shows the true image of God. Noone has ever seen God (John 1:18 (a) and John 4:12 (a). God is the spirit (John 4:24). Then how is it possible to create an image of God?
Thirdly, the idols or images simply provides a lie about the creator God. Bible says in Romans 1:23-24, “And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” Then verse 25 says, “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”
Basically, it becomes a practice of lie about God because His glory, attributes, and power can never be fully represented by an idol, image or picture.
Thirdly, in the same way, the picture or image of Christ is a lie in the sense that it shows only His human side while Christ is divine and God. The images or pictures of Him does not show the full truth about Christ – his divine power, his glory or his resurrected body with all its majesty. The images and pictures are prohibited because they do not communicate the full truths about God or Jesus Christ. Bible says in Revelation 1:17 when John saw Jesus Christ after His resurrection, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last”. Read more about Christ’s appearance in verses 12-16, “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.”
When people stand in front of the picture or image of Christ, the picture reminds us only of His humanity in the form of a man. But Christ is God and who can truly make an image of Christ our Lord? No one. This is the reason for the second commandment, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.” In fact, Idols, images, and pictures made by man degrade Him because these do not truthfully portray the nature of the true God.
Fourthly, God reminds again the danger of making an idol, image/likeness of any shape in Deuteronomy 4:12, “Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form; there was only a voice.” He is reminding them when the LORD God gave all the commandments from the mount Sinai, they heard only a voice, they did not see a form.
Here again the making idols, images or any likeness of God is strictly prohibited in verses 15-19 by saying this, “You saw no form of any kind the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the Lord your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.”
What more clarity we need regarding the dangerous consequences God gave us regarding making or bowing down in front of idols, images or any likeness of God?[bctt tweet=”what is wrong with idols and images?” username=”sam2017insights”]