The Command to Worship the Lord Spiritually
What is prohibited by this command?
The Lord had already made this very plain to
We sometimes think of this as something that only occurs in uncivilized places with ignorant people, but such is not the case. There are other ways of violating the 2nd commandment.
Since God is who he is, not only may we not try to represent him physically, we may not make any kind of physical representation to help us worship him. Paintings, statues, sculptures, and such things should never be used to get us to worship the infinite, eternal God. The greatest violation of this in Western history is the Roman Catholic Church, with its crucifixes, statues, and icons. Here is how they justify this:
The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new ‘economy’ of images: “Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God…and contemplate the glory of the Lord, his face unveiled” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1159).
Is this biblical thinking? Notice what the apostle Paul preached after the coming of Christ. Acts 17:29 says, “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.” You see, Jesus Christ was an exclusive representation of God. He was not a human creation. He was God in the flesh. He was God revealing himself. Any other representation of God was idolatrous then, and is still so today.
Yet we still need to be on our guard as Protestants against this kind of thing. It is for this reason that I discourage paintings and statues of Jesus hanging in our homes or especially our churches. I do not believe that it is inherently wrong to make a painting of Jesus in the same way that it is inherently wrong to make a painting of God (ex: Last Supper, The Creation of Adam on Sistine Chapel Ceiling). But I do believe that it is very unwise. Why? Jesus is supposed to be worshiped, and it is very natural for us to begin to use representations of Christ in worshipful ways. That would be a violation of the 2nd commandment.
There is one more way that I believe we can violate this command.
This really takes us back to the first commandment and what we talked about there.
The absolute foolishness of idolatry
But Isaiah isn’t done yet. In chapter 44:18-20 he says, “They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’” Idolatry takes away all the sense of those who practice it. “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Sin makes you stupid. We have husbands and wives who can’t figure out why their marriage won’t work, and parents who have no idea in the world how to train up children, etc., etc. I’m not trying to bash everybody here this morning, but I am trying to get you to see that idolatry is totally foolish. It makes you senseless.
God’s zeal for his glory
But on the other hand, we who are his people should rejoice at God’s jealousy. That really is what gives us confidence in him. He will not quit, he will not fail, he will not stop until his covenant promises are fulfilled. He will not let us go! He will be faithful both now and forever!
So how are you doing today? Next week we will dig deeper by considering what this commandment positively commands. But don’t ever think that we are free from the temptations to idolatry or to making God into something that we can see, feel, touch – and ultimately, control.