Summary: Coca-Cola had an advertizing campaign where its slogan introduced the beverage as the real thing. It's understood that by describing itself as "the real thing" it implied that its competitors are merely impostors and of a lower quality. The real thing is better.
THE REAL THING (part one)
Coca-Cola had an advertizing campaign where its slogan introduced the beverage as the real thing. It's understood that by describing itself as "the real thing" it implied that its competitors are merely impostors and of a lower quality. So, you have the real thing and then you have the pretenders, the counterfeits, the wannabes. The real thing is better.
1) The real God.
In Deut. 4, Moses warned the people to not engage in idol worship. Duet. 4:15-19, "You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven."
It's hard for people to worship something intangible. We can't see God, we can't see Jesus so we come up with what we consider the next best thing. We create an image that represents God so we can have something tangible to look to. At various times in scripture God is given an element of a physical description but there is no description of his face. Jesus isn't given a physical description of what he looks like either.
But that hasn't stopped artists from creating images of him. Many people grew up seeing the pictures of Jesus on someone's wall. Unfortunately, many have come to believe that's what Jesus really looks like. This white, blond haired blue eyed Jesus. So, to try to get away from that typical image, people started depicting Jesus differently. Black artists began painting a black Jesus, some created an image closer to what someone who came from Jewish or middle eastern decent looked like.
But all we have accomplished is a fulfillment of the original problem-a focus on, and in some cases an obsession with, what Jesus looked like. There's a reason why we're not told the physical characteristics of Jesus-we're not meant to focus on that. We're to focus on what he said and did, not what he may have looked like.
But we are visual people who depend on being able to see something in order to better relate to it; we feel better if we can put a face to the name. Therefore, in some cases, a person doesn't just have a picture of Jesus on the wall, they find themselves talking to it; maybe even praying to it. Remember when you were about to do something wrong you would turn the picture around so Jesus wasn't 'looking'.
This goes beyond pictures to statues. Think of any of the churches you've been in where there were statues of Jesus. You may have looked at it as if it were almost alive. Think of any of the other statues or figurines depicting Mary or some other church figure. What do some people do with them? They pray to them or they look to them for guidance. You need to put a saint Christopher figurine in your car to protect you from an accident.
Think beyond these things into the practices of religious people. Religions from all over have objects of worship. There are Greek gods, Roman gods, and many other gods and goddesses in our world today. So it wasn't just in biblical times that people worshiped foreign gods. We too, right here in America, are guilty of idol worship. We place a value on created things as if they held a power of their own.
And it all points to the same problem-we are shifting our attention and focus from God to something else. We look to something or someone else to help us with our problems instead of relying on God. There are people who worship creation itself. There are different gods over the wind and rain and meanwhile they neglect the worship of the God over all creation. People look to and settle for false gods and with that come a dependence and trust in something that has no real power.
Later in Deut. 4, God gave them a proclamation if they were to turn from his covenant. Duet. 4:27-29, "The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and only a few of you will survive among the nations to which the LORD will drive you. There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell. But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul."