“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, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6)

Worship demands an object. Faith must have a focus. Prayer needs an address. Worship what? Faith in what? Pray to whom? You’ve got to have something. We are sensory creatures. We are uncomfortable with invisible.

We use images and idols to ease our discontent with intangible. We try to package what we can’t understand. Shapes and colors not only make things tangible, but controllable, and explainable. And it is here that things can go horribly wrong. Fabricated gods are limited to the creator’s design and intellect. Statues are the imagination in concrete. In the Roman and Greek pantheons the gods were magnifications of human infidelity. They were the filthy fantasies of men. The God of Israel will have no part of this. If He is different than the rest, He cannot be subject to the design of mortals.

Israel would struggle with this idea. Worshipping a real God without a packaged presentation was unprecedented. Egyptian gods have faces. The God of Israel was to be first (20:3) and faceless (20:4-6). The God of Israel has no image. It would be difficult for them to bridle their imaginations and let God define Himself.

When it comes to God, if we get it wrong, it can go very wrong for a very long time. Whether material or mental, false representations of God are dangerous. The error of one generation becomes the truth of the next. Be very careful. God is aggressive about defining Himself and will not hold guiltless those who do not heed His command. For those who come to Him as He is, who desire Him as Himself, free of any human corruption or imagination, they will set a precedent that will be a blessing for generations to come. The true God is as aggressive to bless as He is to remain imageless.

Do not create anything and call it God. It will be full of you and none of Him. Accept no substitutes. Don’t sell out to lies. He has a right to define Himself. He can be known as He is. We have an opportunity to worship the real thing.  Commandment two is freedom from what is fake.  It is an invitation to authenticity.


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