The Second Commandment – No False Images of God

In Audio, Sermons by Geoff Chapman

Exodus 20:4-6

The second commandment is concerned not so much with worshipping other “gods”, but of us having the right understanding of God and worshipping him correctly.  

Flourishing: God commands Israel not to make images of Him because no created thing can possibly represent him without detracting from his glory and corrupting our understanding of him.  Rather, as the living God he is known by the things he actually says and does.   Similarly worshipping God through images also corrupts our understanding of him.  If our understanding of God is corrupted, we end up enslaved to idolatry, just as with the first commandment.  The even greater danger of a false image of God however lies in the fact that we think we are worshipping the right God, making it harder for us to see our error and repent.

Fencing:  Christians mustn’t make images of God in order to worship them, that much is obvious.  But more generally, we must only get our understanding of God from what God has revealed about himself.  That means that Scripture  alone can tell us what we should believe about him.  We cannot add to or take away from the Bible, or believe things that contradict the Bible. To do so would be to make a “false image” of God.  On the positive side, we must make an effort to know what God has said about himself in Scripture.   In terms of our personal worship, we should be aware of the fact that how we worship shapes how we think of God.   We should come to church prepared to meet with him, we should give him the best parts of our day and our full attention when we pray or worship.

Freeing:  The command frees us by making us aware of just how prone we are to want God to the way we want, “There is a god we want and a God who is, and the two are not the same.”  It frees us by revealing God’s grace, knowing how weakness, fear and ignorance he gently persuades us and convinces us  that, by making him God in our lives we will not lose ourselves, be robbed or dissappointed, but rather, that we will find abundant life.

Fulfilling:  The command is fulfilled in Christ because we see that the the command against making images was not absolute, but preparatory.  It wasn’t that nothing in creation could represent God, but that only Jesus Christ can.  In seeing him, and the love he reveals, we see God’s love through all of creation and in every circumstance. (Col 1:15-17, Romans 8:31-39).  That is what we mean when we pray “Hallowed be your name”, that it would be known everywhere that God is always all-powerful, holy and good.  So we see that it’s not that God could never make himself visible, touchable or local, but that by becoming incarnate in Christ, he gives us something even more wonderful than his physical presence, the Holy Spirit, through whom we are united to Christ and have true knowledge of God.