Taking the Epistle

A biblical journey through the epistles

02 – No Graven Images

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No carved images

This is a series on the “Decalogue” or “Ten Commandments” these are found in the second book of the bible Exodus in chapter 20. Moses receives these words from God on top of the mountain and he receives the commands on two tablets. The first tablet contains the instructions for man’s relationship with God. We pick up the account in the fourth verse of chapter twenty where we see the second of the Ten Commandments.

Not just idols

God continues with commandment two of the ten in verse four:

Exodus 20:4 (ESV) “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

We looked at the idea of idols in the last article, in this command God makes it plain what he means as far as idols are concerned. We are not to create anything to worship. God is monotheistic (means we have to be worshipping him and him alone) and jealous, we were created to worship him, to do so is to fulfil our purpose here on earth.

This is summed up beautifully in Exodus chapter 32, when Moses comes of the mountain and his people are worshipping a golden calf! While he was up on the mountain the children of Israel coerced Aaron into agreeing to melt all the jewelry and make an idol. (Breaking the commandment in verse four)

Does this forbid art?

This is not talking about art; I have been in art galleries in both Scotland and England and have had a decent appreciation for both the sculptures, pottery, statues, canvas artwork and all other artifacts. I have never had the compulsion to bow down and worship them though!

Like so many other contentious topics in the bible it is all about the heart of the person who is reading it. Just because I have never seen the point of giving glory, worship or honor to an inanimate object, that is not to say that others would not have that same conviction.

Really what I am trying to state is that it is how it is on the page that we should not be making things in order to worship them. They should not be in place of God, they should not be used to imitate God or images used to glorify a created being or replace God. That is simply what is being said here.

What about the Catholics?

Again I would not lump one group or denomination as a “stock lot”, whilst there are folks within that denomination who use the “holy statues” as an aid to prayer (and in some cases pray to specific ones such as the Virgin Mary and certain Saints) this is not true for all members of this denomination.

If it was a choice between going with what a denomination states and going with what is in the bible, then I would choose the inspired, infallible word of God every single time. It is important to note that the practice of statue/effigy inspired worship is so widespread in that church that the Catholics have a different ten commandments.

They omit this commandment and separate the tenth commandment into two in their canon. Personally I do not see the need for a created image to help me know who I am meant to be worshipping, or an aid that will take my heart away from the worship that is only for the deserved one.

Paul tackles this in his letter to the Roman church

 

Romans 1:21 (ESV) For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

 

There is enough in the bible to tell me to stay away from the practice and that should be enough of a warning to those who wish to follow the will of God and keep his commandments.

Are “holy statues” okay?

See above! Now, please do not get me wrong I do not usually see people in the Catholic church serving the statues, (I do see bowing and curtseying) at least there is very few outward signs such as physical gestures, but again it is about the heart and if your heart is removed from God because you are more focused on being closer to the “holy relic” than the God you are praying to then you have an issue with your heart.

God is not a God of blind ritual and empty gestures. Jesus spoke to this when he dealt with the Pharisees and religious leaders of his day when he said of them…

 

Matthew 15:7 (ESV) You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

 

You would think that the lesson would be learned from their bad example, however regrettably that is not the case.

Third and fourth generation?

God states the following at the end of this passage

“5b visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

The important words here are “Hate me” if we are wishing to seek after God and follow his commandments then verse 6 applies. You will be in for as much “steadfast love” as you can handle (and then some) that does not mean that all of your worldly desires will come true and suddenly you will have an easy life, far from it, but the God who is a God of love can show us much more love than we could ever repay.

Those who hate God, well they bring upon their own destruction. If their descendents repent and love God then they will be redeemed. If they choose the path of their fathers then they will suffer the same fate.

Generally speaking, everyone has the same choice that Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden, they can choose to obey God or rebel against him. We have that choice also, we can choose to live a Christian life or not.

With such choices comes such consequences, we have the ability to choose our eternal salvation. We are all God’s children and his salvation is free. Jesus Christ when he went to the cross at Calvary paid for the sins of the world, we have to repent of our wrongdoing and have a change of heart as well as a change in eternal destination. My prayer is to see you there in heaven.

God bless and I pray this was a blessing and please feel free to like, share or comment on here or whatever social media platforms you use as the Lord leads you to, as always I love questions about this or any other article so please feel free to fill in the form below, all comments are moderated to avoid profanity.
TTE
TGBTG
SDG

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