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Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Ten Words (2)

The second of the Ten Words - or Ten Commandments - reads: "You shall not make for yourself a graven 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 upon 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." (Ex 20:4-6).

In the First Commandment we learned that it is wrong to allow any created thing, including a human being, to become more important to us than our Creator. The second, while related to the first, is slightly different.  It explains that, in our worship, we must not reduce God to a likeness of any physical object.  We might say that, in the Second Commandment, God tells mankind: “Don't try to tell Me what I am like. I will tell you what I am like! It is important that you correctly understand that I will accept no representations of Me.

This commandment, then, has to do with idolatry.  It has to do with our attempts to, as it were, change places with Almighty God so that He becomes what we have created!  The prophet Isaiah shows the foolishness of such an attempt when he writes, with reference to both metal and wooden images: "The idol! a workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains.  He who is impoverished chooses for an offering wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skilful craftsman to set up an image that will not move." (Isa 40:19-20).

Mankind, alone, has been created with minds that can reason, analyse, plan, and visualise the future. We are capable of creating literature, art, music, and poetry. We are able to design, and build. We can organise, manage, and supervise things, creatures and people. We are, in certain limited ways, much like God - made in His image (see Gen.1:26-27).

However, in other areas we are far from being like Him. Our character tends to weakness. Our relationships with each other leave much to be desired. Our spiritual understanding is limited; and often flawed and distorted. Our perceptions are often inaccurate. We are biased in our opinions. We harbour prejudices and are quick to engage in conflicts. In all these spiritual areas, we fall far short of being like God.

We are incapable of making any image of the creator because, quite frankly, we do not know what He looks like.  "God is Spirit" (John 4:24), and we do not know how to properly represent 'spirit'!  Of course, we do have a perfect pattern of God's character.  Jesus, the Christ, as a human being, so perfectly represented what God is like that He told His disciples, "He that has seen Me has seen the Father…" (John 14:9); while the apostle Paul describes Jesus as "the image of the invisible God, the Firstborn of every creature." (Col. 1:15).   He also describes Christians as those who “have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him.” (Col. 3:9-10).

This Second Commandment reminds us that our Almighty, Creator God, Who dwells "in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes", is far greater than anything we can see, or even imagine. We must never let that knowledge be pushed aside by the use of some image or likeness in our worship of God.

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