“You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar,
and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it,
for I am the LORD your God.”
This command obviously has application to us not worshipping a different god. But there is also application to our worship of the true God. To worship Him, not an image made to “represent” Him.
I think we often like to have things in front of us that we can see. Things we can visibly draw near to. But with this command, I wonder if perhaps God intentionally did not want to appear bound by our perceptions or defined by our understanding.
When we look at how these other (false) gods are portrayed in Scripture, they are encapsulated and defined within those man-made images. Our God, the true and living one, vibrant with life and energy, mighty in power, actively and creatively at work in all things – He is not like these. He will not be brought down to a man-made definition, created by our hands alongside items of common purpose.
He is holy. Sovereign. He is Creator. Even the most brilliant elements known to man cannot convey His glory.
God instructed His people to build not an image of Him, but an Ark to hold the stone tablets on which He carved His covenant. An ark containing tangible elements of His faithfulness and the holiness of His law, covered with the mercy seat upon which His presence would rest when He came to meet with them.
It was a meeting place.
But our God of the universe was not contained there. He is greater than that. An image cannot hold the One who upholds the universe by the word of His power and calls out each star by name, ensuring not one is lost.
So while we might look upon paintings and other artwork depicting various accounts in Scripture, our Christ at different points in His life and death, and while God might use these to stir our hearts to greater understanding of Him, we do not worship those things. And let us not assume any visual depiction can capture His fullness. The universe declares the glory of our God. The skies proclaim His majesty. That is His handiwork, spoken into existence in all its magnificent wonder – and our God surpasses it all.
May our view of Him remain expansive. Mindful that He is far beyond anything we have seen or known. Seeing Him as He reveals Himself in Scripture, seeing Him as He is perhaps conveyed through artists’ eyes (though we must be careful here – they could portray Him wrongly), and seeing Him as displayed in creation around us. Worshipping always this God who is greater and bigger than our eyes can currently behold and our minds can currently conceive. Our everlasting light, salvation, and glory.
“There is none like you, O LORD;
you are great, and your name is great in might…
Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish,
and gold from Uphaz.
They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith;
their clothing is violet and purple;
they are all the work of skilled men.
But the LORD is the true God;
he is the living God and the everlasting King.
At his wrath the earth quakes,
and the nations cannot endure his indignation…
It is he who made the earth by his power,
who established the world by his wisdom,
and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.
When he utters his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens,
and he makes the mist rise from the ends of the earth.
He makes lightning for the rain,
and he brings forth the wind from his storehouses…
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
for his images are false,
and there is no breath in them.
They are worthless, a work of delusion;
at the time of their punishment they shall perish.
Not like these is he who is the portion of Jacob,
for he is the one who formed all things,
and Israel is the tribe of his inheritance;
the LORD of hosts is his name.”