Exodus 20:4-6 God rewards those who do not corrupt His image but worship Him as He is
Exodus 20:4-6 God rewards those who do not corrupt His image but worship Him as He is
Then God spoke all these words, saying,
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…
“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. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
God wrote this commandment not to unbelievers, but to the believers who came out of Egypt with Moses. God prohibits them to make a visible image of Him because His essence is not physical but Spiritual. And the people saw His manifestations in Horeb. In the last days, it is through Jesus, the Spirit of truth and grace that He reveals Himself to the world. Therefore, we must worship God with the desire to love Him and live according to His ways. However, many worship God to satisfy their fleshly desires. Even though they do not have idols in their houses, they worship a false image of God in their hearts. Such deceive themselves and bring destruction to the generations after them. But those who worship God in Spirit and in truth, their descendants will be blessed forever. Today’s devotion teaches us: God rewards those who do not corrupt His image but worship Him as He is.
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.
The second commandment prohibits the making of images to be worshipped. This prohibition applies to foreign gods, man or spirit, as well as to Yahweh Himself. Although the second commandment is incorporated within the framework of the first commandment, it must be treated as independent, having a function distinct from the first.
The process of making an idol begins by conceiving an image which is then translated into a physical idol. The idol maker conjures up this image according to his ideals, hopes and desires. In Chinese religions, the god of wealth takes the form of an obese and prosperous looking statesman. And expectedly, the god of war takes the form of an ancient military general with a blackened face and flowing moustache. Men worship them to gain wealth and power. Because the idol worshipper winds up serving himself, God prohibits people from making idols even of God.
Another reason God prohibits people from making images of Him is: No man-made image can adequately and accurately represent God in all His glory. One who attempts to create an image of God invariably injects his interpretation of God. Inevitably, he deceives himself and corrupts the people around him. Throughout history, God reveals Himself directly whenever, and to whomever He chooses. And His dealings with men were recorded in the bible. Moses reminded the people to remember what they saw at the mountain when God appeared to them (see Deuteronomy 4:9-11). In the days of the gospels, God reveals Himself through Jesus (see 1 John 1:1-2). And when Jesus ascended to the Father, God reveals Himself to man through the Holy Spirit (see John 14:16-17).
What is the theological significance of this commandment? We must purify our hearts to seek God and God alone. And the truth of who God is is revealed in the gospels. We must not corrupt His image by conjuring up an idol to suit our ideals and desires.
for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children…
The consequence for breaking this commandment is divine retribution not just for the perpetrator, but for the generations that follow: visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations. Why does God jealously guard His image by introducing harsh measures with far-reaching consequences? Because it is through His holy nature (divine power, righteousness and love) that He draws man to Himself (see John 12:32). That is why the devil is working to corrupt God’s image through idolatry. And in idolatry, man manipulates God’s image to suit his fleshly desires. Once God’s image is corrupted through false teachings, multiple generations will be lost forever.
That said, the severity of judgment is contrasted with the generosity of God’s mercies towards those who love God: but showing lovingkindness to thousands. Indeed, ”those who love Me and keep My commandments” are the ones who seek Him with a pure heart.
God rewards those who do not corrupt His image but worship Him as He is
We see all things through the heart’s glasses
Biblical knowledge and traditions cannot help us see God more clearly. But Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” It is through the glasses of our hearts that we perceive all things, including God. And those who are pure in heart see all things clearly. However, those who are self-serving see all things through the dark glasses of their hearts. Titus 1:15 said,
To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. – Titus 1:15
Those who love darkness idolise Jesus as the launderer of their sins. Those who love money idolise Jesus as the giver of wealth. Those who love power idolise Jesus as the giver of spiritual gifts and power. Those who are wilful idolise Jesus as a permissive god who approves of them unconditionally. Those who are angry and violent idolise Jesus as the punisher of sinners. Those who desire a place of prominence idolise Jesus as the god of religion. But those who love the truth worship God as He is!
The danger of idolising Jesus
Yet many Christians are bordering on idolatry. Although they do not have idols of foreign gods in their houses, their hearts are worldly and filled with envy. They worship Jesus hoping He will fulfil their wishes. They do not read the bible but will believe what they want to believe. We see many of such flocking to churches that preach blessings, but not Jesus’s way of life. Aaron capitulated to the people’s demands by making a golden calf and sacrificing to the Lord (see Exodus 32:1-6). Like Aaron, these church leaders conjure up an image of God according to the people’s desires. They fashion an idol of Jesus bringing manna from heaven, healing thousands and exonerating them from eternal torment. Week after week, masses flock to these churches singing praises of Jesus while they continue to lust after money and the pleasures of life. But those who desire the truth search the scriptures extensively. They want to know God to serve Him and Him alone.
Regrettably, many who are knowledgeable, who have spent many years in the church are blind to God. Their image of God is tainted by traditions, by their ideals and desires. The Jews were full of knowledge, but they accused Jesus of breaking the law when He healed a man on Sabbath day. They read the scriptures to elevate themselves. Jesus rebuked the Jews,
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. – John 5:39-40
Many Christians are likened to the Jews; they read the bible but will not follow what it says. For they are bent on worshipping an image of Jesus they have created for themselves.
How should we worship God?
Firstly, we must harbour a true and accurate image of who God is. The gospels tell us who God is and guard against false representations of God. Jesus is the Law incarnate, who came in the flesh to show us what God is like. By observing how Jesus lived, we understand who God is. According to John 1:14,
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14.
Through Jesus, we know that God is gracious, who gives without reservation. And He gave His own life so that humanity may be forgiven. He is also the God of truth, who is perfectly righteous in all His ways.
Secondly, we must worship God by loving Him supremely and living according to His truth and directives. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman,
But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:23-24
Because God in essence is Spirit and does not have a physical form, He cares not for the form of worship. But He seeks true worshippers, who worship Him with pure hearts. God rewards those who does not corrupt His image but worship Him as He is. Hebrews 11:6 says,
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. – Hebrews 11:6
From a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you know God by head knowledge?
From a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you know Him personally and experientially?
It is one thing to know Jesus through the scripture and quite another through personal interaction with Him. Many have been Christians for many years, but they did not know God personally and neither did God know them. Make it this year’s resolution to know Him intimately, and to reverent Him by deferring to Him our decisions of life.
Dear Lord, forgive me for my blindness and in thinking that I am righteous before you. I admit that I do not know you and have been worshipping an inaccurate image of you. Heal the eyes of my heart so that I may see you. Cause me to see who I am so that I may repent. I receive your gift of grace to become righteous and perfect as you are. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.