Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Second Commandment of God

Man, am I ever glad that I am saved by grace and grace alone. Just the very thought of trying not to sin in any way is in a way a sin…for that would make us as God, rather than praising His sinlessness. My latest revelation is that I have been sinning simultaneous while praising him! 

In almost every room of my house I have an image of my Savior. Daily I feast my eyes on them. They remind me who I am. They keep my mind focused on Him and his ever-loving presence. They comfort me when fear slips it's sneaky self through the cracks of my faith. They inform my visitors immediately upon arrival who's in charge of my home. How could these representations of pure love possible be wrong? 

The Lord thy God clearly pronounces in His second commandment He gave to Moses, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God" (Exodus 20: 4&5) First of all, If God Himself says he's jealous, I'm going to give Him the exclusive worship He so demands, and look into this further.

At first I thought 'graven' meant having to do with the grave, or after death, so, I thought it may be ok to have a joyful, living image of our Lord. However, the word graven refers to an engraving, or inscription of an image on a surface, and has nothing to do with death at all. The Hebrew root words of 'image' translate to an outline or shape of a shadow, a resemblance and/or a carving. In addition, God states that he doesn't want any likeness of anything that is in heaven. In Acts 17:29 Paul says, "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." Later on he tells the Romans that they have "become vain in their imaginations…and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man." (Romans 1)  Simply yet sadly put, it looks like absolutely no images are to be made of our God or His beautiful Son, whether it was before he died for us or after. But why?!

Maybe it is as elementary as the fact that we keep getting it wrong. Quite wrong, actually. Does anyone remember Gilda Radner's skit on Saturday Night Live where she admits to having a crush on Jesus, because He is soooo handsome. I actually laughed real hard when I saw that, because I too had a crush on Jesus.  They always paint him up to be quite the looker. Isaiah, one of the chief profits of redemption, writes, "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2) In addition I believe that Jesus of Nazareth's hair would have been black not brown, and given that he grew up under Mosaic law that his beard would have been untrimmed. "His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven." (Song of Solomon 5:11) I also doubt that God looks like an old man, or the Holy Spirit a dove.

In all seriousness, how could we mere humans possibly capture the divinity of our God.  John Owen conveyed this beautifully in 1679…
"The true beauty and amiableness of the person of Christ, which is the formal object and cause of divine love, is so far from being represented herein, as that the mind is thereby wholly diverted from the contemplation of it. For no more can be so pictured unto us but what may belong unto a mere man, and what is arbitrarily referred unto Christ, not by faith, but by corrupt imagination. The beauty of the person of Christ, as represented in the Scripture, consists in things invisible unto the eyes of flesh. They are such as no hand of man can represent or shadow. It is the eye of faith alone that can see this King in his beauty. Can his condescension, his love, his grace, his power, his compassion, his offices, his fitness and ability to save sinners, be deciphered on a tablet, or engraven on wood or stone? However such pictures may be adorned, however beautified and enriched, they are not that Christ which the soul of the spouse does love;­ they are not any means of representing his love unto us, or of conveying our love unto him."

I did an experiment before I wrote this post. I removed all the images of Jesus I had in my studio. (Yes, I have more than one image in several rooms in my home!) Not long after, I sat at my desk in a time of need to pray. I looked up and saw that my smiling Jesus was missing. So was my suffering Jesus. So was my hope Jesus. I closed my eyes in an attempt to see the memory of them. Instead of visualizing something that probably looked nothing like my Lord and Savior, I instantly felt God's loving presence and charity. There was no delay. It was as if I had upgraded my access speed. Interesting isn't it?

Here is how I have to look at some of God's rules: He wouldn't have made them if they weren't good for us. I often tell my kids, "You may not understand my rules now, but someday you will, and you will thank me for them." Jesus told His disciples before He left them, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you." (John 16:7) Ah, my newfound comfort! - not a misrepresentation of my Lord, but His actual Holy Spirit inside my very being, in an instant. Try it for yourself…close your eyes, and enjoy! 

Please remember, BIBLE BAIT is written by a novice Bible study student, not a Bible scholar. If something doesn't look quite right to you, dig into God's word. The one thing I promise you is that you won't get bored! Many thanks to my friend Renee Driscoll, who helps me keep Bible Bait Biblically correct.

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