2016-4-17 You Shall Not Make an Idol

EXODUS 20:4-6                                                                                        APRIL 17, 2016


Most people today are not in the habit of making an idol to worship. When we think of making idols we think of carving an image out of stone, wood, or clay. As a result many people overlook the second commandment as being irrelevant for a modern Christian. I think we would be wise to look more closely at this commandment.

What does the commandment say? Exodus 20:4-6 (NIV) 4 “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. 5 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 fathers 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 commandments.” When God appeared to Moses he did so through a burning bush which was not consumed by the fire. Moses only heard the voice of God.

When we describe God we should always first mention that God is a Spirit. “Because God has no visible form, any idol intended to resemble him would be a sinful misrepresentation of him.” (ESV study notes) There is no object that could ever adequately do justice in representing God. This commandment also prohibits any use of visual images. Have you ever heard someone say “I imagine God to be”? I have always wondered why the Roman Catholic Church allowed Michelangelo to paint an image of God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. He is painted as being a white-haired man extending his finger outward Adam whom he has just created.

We, humans have active imaginations. But we humans also have severe limitations. Our imaginations are warped by our sinfulness and our finiteness. I hope you recall the Westminster Confession of Faith description of God. “God is a spirit, whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal, and unchangeable.” Because we are sinful human beings we are not infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. As a result, even our imagining falls drastically short.

The Israelites got into trouble very quickly in the wilderness after having been delivered from bondage in Egypt. The Israelites became very impatient when God took a long time instructing Moses on the mountain. They persuaded Aaron to make an idol they could worship in the meantime. Exodus 32:7-8 (NIV) “7 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” Aaron imagined God to be strong like cattle and he fashioned an idol in the form of a golden calf. This sinful image does not picture God as God has described himself. An imagined God will always be unreal and misleading.

In the PCUSA twenty years ago a group of women feminists had a conference on Sophia. Sophia is the Greek word for wisdom. At this conference, it was suggested that women should worship a more feminine image of God. They incorporated many traditions from pagan religions which involved using milk instead of the communion elements of bread and wine. What does God think of such modern updates?  Exodus 20:5 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.”God has given us the Ten Commandments to protect and guide us as we seek to be his faithful servants. God desires that we worship him correctly and not get lost in the briar patch. We must be careful to not fall into the trap of the Catholics and worship the Virgin Mary or pray to the saints. Jesus is our mediator!

God has shown us how to worship him correctly and it through his Son Jesus. The disciples were confused and Jesus sought to clear up their misperceptions. John 14:9-10 (NIV) 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

We are called to worship the Risen Lord, the Son of God. Colossians 1:15-20 (NIV) 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”We do not have pictures of Jesus, but it is his teaching, his words that we are to use to guide us in our worship. Hebrews 1:3 (NIV) 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Jesus is the exact representation of his father. We honor the LORD by worshiping the Son, our Savior. When I was a boy I learned the boundaries that my parents set before me. I knew that if I crossed those boundaries I would have to face my father. When I was in the seventh grade I heard some gossip about a girl classmate which I passed on. I knew the information was possibly wrong but I chose to spread the gossip anyway. The father of that classmate called my father. He called me in and questioned me. I admitted my error to my father and I was ashamed of what I had done. I still recall my father looking at me and saying how he was disappointed in me. I apologized for my actions in gossiping, which hurt the young woman.

God has given us these boundaries, these guidelines, to protect us and our relationships. We must be careful to be guided by the scriptural commands of God. We are not to worship images, even those we have crafted by our thoughts of what we imagine God to be. God has given us the Son through whom we can approach the living God! God has given us his son Jesus. Jesus is all we need!

Let us pray.