I think we all have pictures flood our minds with things of the likes Aaron and his golden calf, of Baal, that which we see in Babylon in Is. 44:9-20, of statues and such, people bowing down to man-made things such as what Paul encountered in his day, that we read about in Romans 1:18-32.
When we think of idolatry only in these ways, if we are honest, we always come away acquitted. I am guessing (and hoping) that none of us have statues and such in our homes that we are worshiping. To be sure these are and this would be idolatry. But maybe idolatry isn't always this obtuse.
Look at Ex. 20:4-5 this morning. What exactly is this commandment speaking to? That's what I want us to ponder this morning. Because here is the uncomfortable truth for all of us this morning: idolatry comes in all kinds of forms, many more subtle than we think, an we might be guilty of idolatry in ways that we did not recognize.
Let's define our terms as we think on this. For the purposes of our unity and thinking rightly, idolatry is defined as "not only the worship of false gods, but also the worship of the true God by images."
In looking to our Exodus 20 passage, we learn that this commandment not only deals with the object of our worship (as most of us recognize and think about when we think of idolatry), but it also deals with the manner of our worship, that statues and pictures are not to be used as an aid to our worship. It deals with worshiping that which is not a god, but also in worshiping the one true God wrongly.
Here is why pictures are forbidden here in Ex. 20, pictures of any kind, whether of God or of Christ, that are used to aid in our worship: they are not accurate, in that they are only as we conceive things to be. Think on this this morning and beyond as to why God would forbid this practice of using images to aid in our worship:
Images dishonor God because they obscure His true glory. Images are not totally accurate and do not capture the greatness of His glory and thus they fall short of His glory. They may in fact capture some aspect of God, or Christ, and their glory, but an image will not fully capture their glory, thus they fall short, thus they are not to be used in worship.
These things fall short, not solely due to what they show, as what they show may be accurate in some way, but more importantly they fall short because of what they do not show. Pictures will never fully display God's glory. Therefore, they are not to used in our worship.
Look at Is. 40:18 to see this illustrated. Isaiah asks "to whom, then, will you compare God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?" Isaiah asks this not expecting an answer. That's the point. There is no answer. None can compare. None capture God's likeness accurately. Jer. 10:6 declares "there is none like you O Lord ..." That's the point here we must grasp.
We are not free to dream up mental images of God nor Christ. We are not free to think of God nor Christ however we want to. Imagining God in our head is just as much a breach of the 2nd Commandment as making a molten image is. Grasp that this morning.
How many times have you said or heard someone say "I like to think of God as ....". At the very heart of this is often a denial of some characteristic or attribute of God. Thinking of God as loving rather than wrath for example. This is breaking the 2nd Commandment. Not worshiping God in His full glory.
But the 2nd Commandment has a positive side to it as well. What we learn from this commandment is the reality that God is transcendent, mysterious, beyond compare, beyond the range of our minds to totally grasp His greatness. This commandment is a summons to humility before God. To realize how great He is and how little we are. It is a summons to sit under submission to Him at all points in our lives and know that His greatness will suffice.
This is Is. 55:8-9, and Romans 11:33-34. Dwell on these verses this morning, of the greatness of our God. No matter how great you think God is, He is greater. Grasp that this morning. Be comforted with that this morning.
Here is what we must be content with: God has spoken, He has revealed Himself to us. He has spoken thru the prophets, the apostles, and most of all through Jesus Christ, recorded in the Word.
What this teaches us is that our thoughts of God must be formed by His Word alone, not anything else. We need not wonder what God is like, for He has shown us. We must allow our thoughts of God to be formed by His Word alone. Not how we might think He is, for this will always fall short because we cannot fully grasp His greatness on our own.
Let our minds be full of and consumed with the Word, thus having no room or place for our own thoughts and images of God. We are not to seek visible symbols of God, but simply obey His Word. PERIOD.
May we fully take advantage of our time to know God as His Word reveals Him to be, and to be totally satisfied with Him as He is, not as we might want or think Him to be.
There is none like Him. There is none whom compare. May this be our heart's cry today and always. May these truths of the greatness of our God bring peace and comfort this morning and every morning, no matter what we face.