Summary: Dominant Thought: God is beyond being captured in a work of art or mental image
If you’re from a Catholic or Lutheran background this morning, you may have been wondering why I’m going to preach about commandment #1 twice and about #9 and 10 together. That’s because those 2 particular religious systems split the Top 10 up differently, making the “no other gods” command and the “no idols” command one and the same. All we know for certain is that there are 10 commandments, and God means every one of them. So, this morning, we’re going to look at commandment #2 or #1a, whatever you’re “in the mood” for.
The Eastern Orthodox Church, which split from the Roman Catholic church in the 11th cent., has a way around this command. They actually use what they call “icons” as a very important part of their worship services – pictures of Jesus, of God, of Bible characters, saints, even angels. But they never have them in 3D – they’re always just pictures so that they’re not carved. And, if you look at them, you’ll notice these works of art that never quite look “right.” They’re not photo quality realistic. That’s on purpose. The faces are elongated because they’re not intended to be a replica, only a representation. That way, they feel they’re not worshiping graven images.
Graven. There’s an old-sounding word. In fact, have you ever heard that word used for anything else? It comes from a word that means “to carve,” so it came to refer to anything that was made by hand.
God clearly has hand-made idols in mind when He commands
Exodus 20:4-5 "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. 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,
We’re going to see that idols can actually be 2 things:
1. representations of false gods
2. false representations of the one True God.
What about it? And what about the little “icons” we all seem accustomed to – the cross, empty or not, that we put up? The pictures of Jesus we hang around? The entire world of Christian art that is continually growing?
On Interstate 44, as you drive east from Joplin to Springfield, MO, if you watch on the right, you’ll read a billboard message brought to you by one group that says those are all an abomination.
Just how can we apply this 2nd command? Let me attempt to this morning by simply saying there are some problems when we try to make an image of God…
1. No one knows what He looks like!
Ill – 4-year old boy coloring in SS. Teacher asks him, “What are you coloring?” “A picture of God.” “But no one knows what God looks like!” “They will when I’m done!”
We have a problem when it comes to “coloring God”: No one has seen Him.
1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
Read through the Bible this year, and if you get to Exodus 33 soon, you’ll be reading 33:11 “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” Didn’t Moses see God?
And then there’s Isaiah 6:1 “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.”
So, can you imagine having Isaiah come and color us a picture of what God looks like? Or having Moses come and draw us a sketch of God? Moses is credited with writing the 1st 5 books of the Bible, including this passage. So where does he talk about the color of God’s eyes or whether or not God has a cleft dimple in His chin which would qualify Him to be a male model? Is His hair really long and white? Does He have a beard? About the best description Moses does write is
Exodus 24:9-11 Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.
“They saw the God of Israel…they saw God” – so what does Moses describe? The pavement under His feet!
The very people who have “seen God” don’t seem to be able, or willing, to tell us what He looks like! What? Were they disappointed?