Monday, June 23, 2014

No Graven Images -- Exodus 20:4


You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.”
 
This verse speaks for itself.  It’s clear – “no idols”.  An idol is generally defined as an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship.  A secondary definition is a person or thing that is greatly admired, loved, or revered.  Some newer Christians that come from an eastern religious tradition may well still fall within the first definition.  I remember growing up that my parents had lots of friends who had almost all but left their Greek Orthodox faith and moved towards Protestantism but still hung on to their icons of various religious figures and saints.  Most of us, however, who are guilty of having idols, would clearly fall under the secondary definition these days.
But here in this verse, God is focusing on the first and main definition we use to describe the meaning of ‘idol’ today.  The second, He leaves for later in Scripture (the Psalms, Proverbs, etc.) and especially to the New Testament.
One of the issues with us making for ourselves an idol, is that we would fashion it in our own man-limited image that we have in our heads as to what a god or God Himself should be like.  That’s a no starter to begin with in the Great Artist’s school of faith.  God says “don’t go there; you’ll fail”.
God goes on to say we are to have no “images or likenesses” made of anything that we end up worshipping.  That includes both two-dimensional and three-dimensional concrete objects.  It covers pictures of heroes and heroines, lovers and leaders, rebels and revolutionists.  Nada and no one.
But it seems that the all-knowledgeable Creator also knew that some of us would turn to the very ‘nature’ He Himself created for us and look for idols there.  So He said, “no idol likeness of anything that is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth”.  To me the reference to the heavens above means no pictures of old Christian saints or even Fathers of the Faith as found in the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, if the purpose of having them is to worship them.  No pictures of angels or archangels or the earthly mother (or father) of Jesus if their purpose is that we worship them.
And the reference to the earth and the sea means that we are not to make gods of any creature that exists on earth or in the depths of the oceans.  And I believe that includes the elements of nature that God uses to keep His creation in balance – wind, water, fire, and earth (dirt) itself.  Religions of both old global aboriginal traditions before the revelation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of new-age religions that incorporate any of these aspects of worship, are to be avoided.  This is idol worship as clearly identified by God in Exodus 20:4.
So what do you and I have to rethink with respect to any graven images we may be worshipping today?
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